This Christmas you'll be faced with loads of tasty food options. Our wellness team share some tips to not only make your festive treats healthier, but turn your menu into a genetically-guided masterpiece.
The end of year celebrations are already in full swing and it wouldn’t be Christmas time without our favourite holiday foods. Unfortunately, all of the holiday indulging can result in gaining a few unwanted extra pounds. We’re hoping to help you enjoy your Christmas - without having to feel guilty in the new year.
Amy Wells, head of the DNAFit wellness team writes, “During the festive season people tend to overeat, and can eat up to three times their calories as a result”. There are of course various ways to prevent this, one of which is using your genetic results to determine what’s on the menu (and in what quantities) this year.
Eating to your genetics
Using your optimal diet type to guide your Christmas menu
DNAFit provides you with your optimal diet type according to your DNA test results. You’ll receive either a low carbohydrate, Mediterranean or low fat diet plan. If you’re guided towards a low carbohydrate plan you would need to be cautious around the quality and quantity of carbohydrates you include in your meals. With a low fat plan you would need to watch out for the type and amount of fats and on a Mediterranean plan, you need to consider both fats and carbohydrates but are not highly sensitive to either one.
Your optimal diet type is decided according to your carbohydrate sensitivity and saturated fat sensitivity respectively.
Other genetic factors to consider when indulging in holiday treats
- Detoxification ability
- Cruciferous vegetable need
- Antioxidant need
- Omega-3 need
- Vitamin B need
- Vitamin D need
- Salt Sensitivity
A traditional Christmas dinner consists of smoked salmon and/or smoked salmon mousse as a starter, followed by roast turkey with roast potatoes, pigs in a blanket, Brussels sprouts, stuffing, cranberry sauce and gravy, not to mention Christmas pudding with brandy butter. Now while all that sounds delicious, you should be making sure that what you are eating aligns with your genetic nutrition profile.
Genetically-guided starter: salmon
Key points for each genetic marker
Saturated Fat Sensitivity
- Choose low fat or fat free cream cheese, cottage cheese or smashed avocado
- Swap butter for an extra virgin olive oil alternative
- Smoked salmon also contains toxic compounds
- Choose fresh or baked salmon instead
- A vegetable soup starter will provide you with more vitamin A and C
- Salmon is a source of omega-3s, and vitamin B and D
Salmon is a fantastic source of omega 3’s (unsaturated fat), Vitamin B12 and Vitamin D so if you have an increased need for some omega’s, as well as D and B vitamins a small salmon starter is not the worst thing. However, the preparation method and its accompaniments should be considered.
Smoked and chargrilled red meat, chicken and fish (including our omega-3 rich salmon) contain toxic compounds, so choosing fresh salmon as a starter would be a healthier alternative (especially if you genetically activate these toxins rapidly). You can always bake the salmon if you aren’t too keen on going the raw route.
Often cream cheese accompanies a smoked salmon dish, unfortunately it is high in saturated fat – and even if your saturated fat sensitivity is low you don’t want to include more than 10% of your daily calories from saturated fat. This is advisable since majority of the foods eaten over Christmas dinner typically have a high saturated fat content. Rather choose a fat-free alternative like a low fat smooth cottage cheese or smashed avocado.
Consider if any recipes call for butter (some more saturated fat) and substitute it with an extra virgin olive oil. Also adding in some fresh fruits and vegetables to the starter, such as melon or a vegetable soup will provide you with some micronutrients (mainly antioxidants – vitamin A and C). So, if your need for antioxidants is raised, this should help you along.
Genetically-guided main course: roast turkey and veggies
Key points for each genetic marker
- Fibre is found in vegetables potato skins encourages the feeling of satiety and lowers the GI
- Choose low GI potatoes – new / baby potatoes or purple sweet potatoes
- Use low GI bread crumbs and/or oat bran – this will keep the GI down
Saturated Fat Sensitivity
- Turkey is a lean protein, this means it low in saturated fat
- Majority of the fat on cooked turkey is found below the skin – remove it before eating
- All vegetables are low in calories and fat – as long as you don’t add butter!
- Roast potatoes prepared with butter, animal fat, coconut oil, palm oil, ghee or lard are high in saturated fat
- Swap out saturated fats for an unsaturated alternative – olive, rapeseed or sunflower oil
- If using meat juices for the gravy, let the fat rise to the surface, then skim it off and use what’s left behind
- Roasting is a high temperature preparation method – cook the turkey at a reduced temperature for a longer time to prevent the formation of toxic compounds
- Green leafy vegetables (Brussels sprouts) assist with detoxification - load up of these!
- Garlic and onion are flavoursome and they help with detoxification capabilities
- Bacon is smoked and sausages are processed - limit your serving to 1-2 pieces at most
- Vegetables are fantastic sources of antioxidants (vitamin A and C)
- Choose a nut and/or fruit-based stuffing – nuts are unsaturated fats and a vitamin E source
- You can get quite a bit of folate, vitamin B6 and B12 from turkey
- Water from your cooked vegetables can be used in gravies and contains vitamin B
- Try not to cook with salt and let everyone add salt at the table
- Use plenty fresh herbs such as chives and spring onion to add some flavour
- Avoid powdered soups / gravies since they are high in sodium
Turkey is a lean protein (low in saturated fat) so relish it, specifically if you have an increased sensitivity to saturated fats. The majority of the fat on cooked turkey is found immediately below the skin – remember to remove it before you dig in!
You can also get quite a bit of folate, vitamin B6 and B12 from turkey. Don’t forget the cooking method roasting is considered a high temperature preparation method so ideally start cooking that turkey sooner rather than later and at a reduced temperature to prevent the formation of those dreaded toxins.
If you don’t enjoy turkey, try some chicken instead, or if you follow a vegetarian meal plan a plate full of roasted vegetables with some nuts, legumes and seeds are always a good way to go to include your protein, vitamin E, folate and unsaturated fats.
Fill up on vegetables! Make vegetables at least half of your plate and savour them throughout the meal. Don’t forget to choose a variety of colours – include some green (Brussels sprouts), orange (carrots), purple and/or red (beetroot) vegetables where possible.
Why so much veg you may ask? Vegetables are a fantastic source of antioxidants (vitamin A and C in particular) and your green leafy vegetables (Brussels sprouts, for example) assist with detoxification, which is handy if you have a raised antioxidant need and/or a reduced detoxification ability. They’re also rich in fibre. Fibre encourages the feeling of satiety alleviating over eating, as well as assisting with lowering the GI of carbohydrates.
Cook your vegetables for the shortest amount of time possible in the smallest amount of water necessary. Steam or microwave them to keep all the nutrients in, and as long as they are not covered in butter, all vegetables are low in calories and fat. If you’re looking to flavour your vegetables choose fresh herbs, garlic and onion, and a drizzle of olive oil (after cooking). Not only are garlic and onion flavoursome, they will also assist with your bodies detoxification capabilities.
Roast potatoes are a common accompaniment to roast Turkey. There are three genetic considerations when preparing roast potatoes; carbohydrate, fat and salt sensitivity.
Starting with the carbohydrate sensitivity you ideally want to go for a low GI option – that would be new / baby potatoes or purple sweet potatoes. Keeping the skin on the potatoes not only increases the overall fibre content it also assists in slightly reducing the GI. Remember low GI carbs release slower and prevent rapid spikes in blood sugar levels, this is important to keep in mind if you have a high carbohydrate sensitivity and still would like to enjoy some roast potatoes as part of your Christmas dinner.
Moving on to fat sensitivity - roasted potatoes are typically prepared with large quantities of saturated fat (butter, animal fat, coconut oil, palm oil, ghee or lard) and if your sensitivity to saturated fat is elevated you should take note here. Swap out the saturated fats for an unsaturated alternative – olive, rapeseed or sunflower oil – and use a non-stick roasting tray, this will assist with using less saturated fat. Cutting the potatoes into larger chunks will assist in a lesser absorption of oil compared to smaller pieces.
Potatoes are best flavoured with salt and if you have a raised salt sensitivity this is a concern. Try not to cook with salt and let everyone add salt at the table. Use plenty fresh herbs such as chives and spring onion to add some flavour. Paprika is a spice that also adds to potatoes taste.
With the gravy, stuffing and sauces, rather choose a nut and/or fruit-based stuffing – nuts are rich in unsaturated fats and vitamin E, also try use low GI bread crumbs and/or oat bran – this will keep the GI down (particularly if you are carbohydrate sensitive). When making gravy rather use the water from your cooked vegetables in this way any the vitamins removed from the vegetables with cooking will be added back to the meal, mainly your vitamin B’s and vitamin C? If using meat juices, let the fat rise to the surface, then skim it off and use what’s left behind – this will reduce the overall saturated fat content for those who have a medium to high saturated fat sensitivity. Try to avoid using any powdered soups or powdered gravies in the preparation of your sauce and/or gravy since they are high in sodium. Regardless of if your salt sensitivity is normal it is still advisable to limit your overall sodium intake.
If you can’t resist pigs in blankets, cook them alongside your turkey instead of frying so you can discard the extra fat. Keep in mind bacon is often smoked and sausages are extremely processed and this can have an impact on your detoxification ability since there is an increased concentration of toxic substances – so try to limit your serving to 1-2 pieces at most.
Genetically-guided dessert: Christmas pudding
Carbohydrate and fat sensitivity
- Desserts are high in refined carbohydrates and saturated fat
- It comes down to the portion size - try keep your serving as small as possible
- Serving fresh fruit salad will also contribute towards including vitamin A and C
Desserts in general are high in refined carbohydrates and saturated fat – this is a concern regardless of your carbohydrate sensitivity and fat sensitivity since Christmas the dinner from starters to mains may contain refined carbohydrates and saturated fats as well. All in all, it comes down to the portion size, try keep your serving as small as possible.
Christmas pudding with brandy butter is a common dessert to be enjoyed around Christmas time. Adding oat bran or using low GI bread crumbs can assist in lowering the GI of the dessert. Eliminating the brandy butter will contribute to lowering the carbohydrate and fat content of the dessert – replace it with a low-fat custard or crème fraiche. Serving fresh fruit salad with natural yoghurt or low-fat custard as dessert will keep your overall sugar intake relatively low and will also contribute towards including some more vitamin A and C (anti-oxidants).
This article isn’t meant to restrict you, but rather to keep you mindful of what you can do at Christmas to enjoy yourself but still stay healthy by eating according to your genes. It’s the time of the year where you can afford to relax a little and enjoy quality time with friends and family, rather than stressing about having too much on your plate (both literally and figuratively).