Enjoy festive food without guilt

Spinach and cheese quiche.
PHOTO: Health Promotion Board

Take every opportunity to be with precious friends and family during this festive season and indulge yourself: A big Christmas feast will not hurt the average, healthy person, so do not feel the need to deprive yourself entirely.

However, do control your portion sizes, eat in moderation and go for the healthier choices in order to stave off any festive weight gain.

If you have children, this is a time when you can set a good example for healthy eating.

Parents play a critical role in inculcating good eating habits. Helping your child make better food choices now will have a big impact on their health and quality of life in the future.

Here are some healthy eating tips for the festive season:


Do not starve yourself in anticipation of a bigger meal or buffet as you will tend to eat more than you intended, advises a spokesman for the Health Promotion Board (HPB). You will also find it harder to make healthier food choices if you are very hungry.


Instead of going for large amounts of food, take the time to savour every bite. This is a much more sustainable way of surviving the festive feasting than going on a binge, famine or diet cycle, said Mr Derrick Ong, director of nutrition consultancy Eat Right.

Mr Lim Kiat, a senior nutritionist with the Singapore Heart Foundation, suggested that you pay attention to the appearance, taste, aroma, texture and even the sound of munching of food. This gives your body enough time to send the message to your brain that you are satiated and prevent you from overeating, he said.


You do not have to eat everything at a party. Just choose three to five of the most appealing items, said the HPB spokesman. And go for smaller portions as many festive food items are likely to be laden with calories.

Studies suggest that using a smaller dining plate can reduce your food intake by up to 22 per cent, said Mr Lim.


Vegetables and wholegrains are good for your health and will add bulk to your diet. This can give the feeling of fullness for a longer period of time and prevent overeating, said the HPB spokesman.


Wherever possible, choose water over sweet drinks, which are a source of empty calories, said the spokesman.

Alcoholic drinks, which are often served during this period, are also a concentrated source of calories.


Here are some pointers on festive feasting for people with diabetes or high blood pressure.

1. If you have diabetes, watch your carb intake

Among the many nutrients in food, carbohydrates have the greatest and most immediate impact on your blood glucose level.

This is because carbohydrates are digested to form glucose (sugar), which is then absorbed into the bloodstream.

As half of our daily calorie intake should come from carbohydrates, you should not avoid rice.

Focus instead on improving the quality of your carbohydrate intake and aim to partially replace refined white rice with wholegrains.

Wholegrains contain fibre, vitamins and minerals and they help to regulate blood glucose levels. Start by replacing 20 per cent of a typical bowl of white rice with brown rice to manage diabetes.

Apart from wholegrains, go for fibre-rich starches such as vegetables, fruit and beans for a well- balanced diet. They are usually nutrient-dense and will also help with blood glucose control.

As it takes the body at least two hours after a meal to bring your sugar level back to the pre-meal level, try to space out your meals and snack times.

However, you should not eat so infrequently that your blood glucose drops below the normal level.

Common symptoms of low blood glucose include tiredness, headache and irritability.

Many festive food and beverages are high in sugar and typically low in nutrients or high in fat. Limit your consumption of these food items.

If your diabetes is well managed, you may be able to fit small amounts of food with added sugars into your diet. You should always check back with your doctor.

2. If you have high blood pressure or hypertension, watch your salt intake

Salt contains 40 per cent sodium.

Sodium is essential for the normal functioning of the body. However, when eaten in excess, sodium raises blood pressure, especially in people who are sodium-sensitive.

There is strong evidence that lowering your sodium intake will help to reduce your blood pressure.

High salt intake is associated with high blood pressure, which may lead to an increased risk of kidney disease, stroke and heart disease.

Source: Health Promotion Board

This article was first published on Dec 20, 2016. Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.