Healthy Eating Tips for the Christmas Season

 by Cherice Bronte-Tinkew & Alecia Surujlal, Registered Dietitians


There is nothing like a true Trini Christmas… ham, turkey, black cake, pastelle, ginger beer, sorrel…and the list goes on. So how can ‘healthy eating’ be part of these activities? Here are some tips to help you navigate through your seasonal festivities. Remember we don’t want to go into the New Year with unwanted weight gain and out of control blood pressure and blood sugar!




  1. Plan Ahead And Pace Yourself

Try not to pile your plate with too many dishes. Instead plan out your meals. Your plate can be used for portion control. Here’s how, select a staple (starch) such as roasted potatoes or vegetable rice, if you would like more than one of these options, then add smaller amounts of each onto a section of your plate. Next add your protein item such as a slice of turkey, ham or fish, you can also include peas which is the protein choice for our vegetarian friends. The larger portion of your plate should be filled with your veggies such as fresh salads, roasted vegetables or coleslaw. Remember dishes such as potato salad and macaroni salad are starch based so they must be considered when selecting your staple choice.

Try also alternating different dishes at each event or family lime instead of stacking the plate with all the various dishes. For example a rice dish can be chosen at one event and a ground provision dish at another.


  1. Prepare With Less Fat

You can replace butter, margarine and lard with cooking oils to reduce the saturated fat and increase healthy fats. Some good options are soybean oil, canola oil and olive oil. These can also form the base for salad dressings.

When selecting meats choose lean cuts such as turkey, chicken or fish and trim off the visible fat.  To reduce the calorie content of your milk based beverages and desserts such as Ponche De Crème or Egg Nog, use low fat milk to replace full cream in your recipes.


  1. Add More Fibre

Switch it up! Swap some of the traditional starchy dishes such as macaroni pie or shepherd’s pie with tasty ground provision pie or green fig salad, as these contain more fibre.

There’s nothing like the smell of freshly baked homemade bread…so let’s add a few extra ingredients to make it even better. Ingredients like oats, bran, crushed pumpkin seeds, chia seed and flaxseed can be added not only to bread but also to dinner rolls and muffins.

Adding more fibre helps you too feel fuller for longer, this can help control blood sugar levels and help to manage weight better.


  1. Reduce The Salt

Trinis love flavourful food, so let’s take advantage of some of our fresh herbs and seasonings to reduce the salt and packaged flavouring aids yet keep that wonderful flavor we enjoy. Here’s how- marinate your meats with blends of chadon beni, chive, thyme, rosemary and oregano. If fresh is not available then you can use the dried options. Herbs and seasonings compliment different dishes, so you can definitely do an online search to find the right blend for your recipe, such as using rosemary and paprika for giving roasted potatoes an added kick.

Whenever possible substitute those canned items which contain additional sodium, with fresh, dried or frozen options such as in the case of peas or beans. If you do have to use them, then place contents in a strainer and rinse under running water.

For persons that have problems with controlling their blood pressure, you can still enjoy a tasty meat treat with the family by using fresh cuts of meat such as lean pork or beef, then marinating them with your fresh or dried herb blends, baking and slicing thinly. This is a good option to replace salted or cured meat products.


  1. Reduce The Added Sugar

Oh the sweets…how can we resist… here’s how: start by looking at the recipe, these can be altered to reduce the sugar. For example 100% fruit juices or dried fruits, applesauce or banana as substitutes for cane sugar, molasses or syrups. Substituting 100% grape juice to soak fruits for Black Cake is also a good option. Other flavor options that can be used to increase that sweet intensity include adding cinnamon, cardamom and nutmeg.


Remember we can still enjoy eating during this season and yet still take care of our health.