Christmas is wonderful. Sure, Christmas carols are pleasant and presents under the tree are nice surprises, but a mention of Christmas food is what excites the senses the most—our hands reach for the cutleries, eyes seeking for the said spread of festive menu, mouth watering and stomach rumbling in hunger, nose sniffing for the smell of cinnamon, meat, wine—where is the roast turkey, mince pies, puddings and trifles, eggnog and mulled wine?
Christmas, like all good things, has to come to an end. Indulgence, unfortunately, has consequences. January has rolled around and suddenly the jeans don’t fit anymore, it’s harder to buckle the belt and not only do you have a muffin top—it’s volcanic.
Slowing down on the rich foods after the New Year will benefit you in multiple ways aside from vanity’s sake. All the excess salt, sugar, fat and alcohol is going to result in more than clogged artery; if you are writing your New Year resolutions now, it’s time to pen down an extra one: a healthy diet.
Good Fat Bad Fat
Not all fats are bad—there is good fat and bad fat, so don’t throw away the chocolate bar just yet. Just like carbohydrates and protein, fat is needed by the body to function properly as it is an essential energy source and absorbs fat-soluble vitamins like vitamins A, D, E and K.
Two types of fats to keep in mind: Monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA). MUFAs are found in plant foods such as nuts, avocados and olive oil, in poultry and even dark chocolate (you can now take out your hidden stash); it is recommended that 10 to 15 percent of one’s daily calories come from these fats as they reduce bad cholesterol (LDL) and instead raise the levels of good cholesterol (HDL).
PUFAs, found in oils like sunflower, corn and soybean as well as oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and tuna contain essential fatty acids that the body cannot produce. These fats can also lower LDL cholesterol—if you are not really in the mood for red meat, go for fish instead.
Saturated fat found in meat and dairy products should be consumed in moderation—no more than 10 percent of your daily calories intake, as it can raise LDL cholesterol levels. Red meat should be limited to only once or twice a week, and substitute olive oil for butter when possible.
Trans fatty acids, which are found in many processed foods, biscuits and pastries are what you have to be aware of. Not only do trans fats raise LDL cholesterol levels but they lower the HDL cholesterol as well, which can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.
The Skinny On Carbs
As with fats, there are two sides to carbohydrates as well. Don’t run away at the mention of carbs—studies have shown that resistant starch is the Good Guy. It will satiate you more in order to eat less, burn more calories and will not cause you to feel sleepy at the office desk after lunch. According to a research conducted at the University of Surry in the UK, consuming resistant starch in meals can result in less consumption of calories due to the feeling of satiety. Satiety is important for curbing hunger and food cravings, which is why choosing food that can satisfy you longer is always better than a hearty helping of steak.
Another reason to love carbs? Resistant starch can speed up your metabolism: it releases fatty acids that encourage fat burning as it passes through your digestive system. These fatty acids help preserve muscle mass, which will fuel your metabolism.
Dairy products, as mentioned before, shouldn’t be banned completely from your diet. Cheese, milk and yoghurt are where you will get your protein, zinc, vitamin B and calcium intake.
According to a study published in The Journal of Nutrition, a high protein, high dairy diet (along with a regular exercise routine) could result in greater “whole body” weight loss, especially in the most common problem area for women—the tummy. In fact, fresh goat cheese or feta contains linoleic acid (CLA) which will burn fat and satiate you at the same time. Flavoured milk, which usually has the addition of sugar or a sugar substitute, adds about 60 calories per cup, so be sure to opt for fat-free, low-fat or even whole milk, all of which are sugar-free.
Bangsar coffee haven Antipodean, always packed during the weekends, has something for breakfast that is better than the panettones and stollens you had last month. Their muesli with honey and yoghurt fruit salad comes packed with generous amounts of fresh fruits: apples, grapes, strawberries, papayas, kiwis…. What’s more, in addition to the dose of healthy plain yogurt it comes with a dash of milk on the side.
For more quick fixes at home with easy-to-burn calorific numbers, try popping some corn kernels and toss in some grated parmesan and garlic powder.
Something to impress your guests with: sweat and roast red pepper on the stovetop, then remove the charred bits. Slice into small pieces and arrange on top of slice of baguette with brie cheese.
The next time you go grocery shopping and feel a craving for something creamy, pick skimmed instead of whole milk, low-fat yoghurts and reduced-fat cheeses.
Fish is a great source of omega-3 fats—essential fatty acids which the body cannot produce, but are vital for brain function and normal growth and development. An additional plus point on consuming fish is that the fats also keep the stomach satiated for hours, which is good for curbing snacking habits.
Experts recommend eating fish at least twice a week, especially fatty fish like mackerel, herring and sardines. A flip through a recipe book will also give you countless choices for simple seafood meals. When eating out, salmon, tuna and halibut can easily be found in restaurant menus. Salmon especially, as a lean source of protein and MUFA is an excellent choice for weight loss.
At brunch hotspot Red Beanbag, the Trouty Mouth, comprised of smoked salmon with capers, lightly scrambled eggs and smashed avocado on toasted sourdough will keep you satiated for hours without feeling the crave for a bag of chips.
To replicate a similar brunch at home, mash one avocado and season it with salt and pepper, then spread it on four slices of whole meal bread. Arrange 4 ounces of thinly sliced smoked salmon on top of a bed of scrambled eggs (six large ones). This is going to clock you under 400 calories.
Fiber is your friend. Besides being an important of digestion, it can also reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, colon cancer and diabetes. Piling up oats, vegetables, beans, nuts, whole-wheat flour, apples, citrus fruits, green beans and potatoes will ensure you a healthy high-fiber diet.
There are soluble and insoluble fibers, and some foods have both. Insoluble fiber helps the movement of food through the digestive system and promotes regularity; whole-grain foods, wheat bran, cauliflower and potatoes are sources of insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber dissolves when mixed with water and slows down the movement of food through the small intenstine; sources of soluble fiber include barley, citrus fruits and beans.
Real and Wholesome (RAW), a vegetarian diner that is redefining the health food scene in town, offers a selection of potato rosti under their all-day breakfast menu. Choose to have your rosti with sunny free range egg, field mushroom and house-made balsamic ketchup; sautéed spinach and herb cheese sauce or creamy thyme mushrooms with creamy cashew, soy and lemon sauce.
Other than fiber, potatoes are also full of vitamin C, potassium and resistant starch. To make something similar at home, but with a different twist, try this healthy potato rosti recipe.
20 Jalan Telawi 2, Bangsar Baru, KL
Tel: 03-2282 0411
A4-1-08, Solaris Dutamas, KL
Tel: 03-6211 5116
Real and Wholesome
Wisma Equity, 150 Jalan Ampang, KL
Tel: 019-313 8978