Six Filipino dishes that won’t make you feel guilty this holiday season
By Ea Francisco
Christmas is near, and we all know what that means: veering away from your diet and making questionable food decisions you’ll probably regret come New Year. It doesn’t have to go down that way, though. Even traditional Filipino Noche Buena fare can still be healthy.
If you’re looking for a light snack or appetizer, have lumpiang sariwa. Compared with the usual ubod and toge, it’s made fresh (like the name implies) with no preservatives. The egg wrapper is pretty low on calories and since there’s no frying, it has less fat than, say, lumpiang shanghai. Instead of the usual salads, which people may or may not even touch, this can be your way of sneaking in vegetables while still having a classic Filipino feel.
They say that making relleno is no easy task, which is why it’s usually saved for special occasions. It’s kind of like the Filipino equivalent of stuffed turkey. Except instead of turkey, it’s stuffed fish, and the inside is more fish but with other vegetables too, like peas and carrots. Relleno is often made with pork, but the more health conscious people would go for one that’s purely fish.
This traditional Filipino dish is one that you can definitely have for a healthy Noche Buena. While this peanut stew is often made with a lot of meat, you can easily modify it to make it healthier. You can add in extra veggies and use ox tripe or tuwalya instead of the normal cuts of meat. Actually, you can even opt to have no meat at all if your diet requires it or use meat alternatives.
Roasted Chicken and Barbecue
Now, having a healthier Noche Buena doesn’t necessarily mean having no meat, but you can go for ones that aren’t as fatty. Usually, we get things like lechon kawali or crispy pata, but it’s cooked with a lot of oil and fat that’ll give you high cholesterol if you don’t watch yourself. What you can have instead is roasted and grilled meat. At least here, the fat drips off when you grill and roast and not absorb it. White meat is generally preferred over red. With barbecue, you can have the option of leaving out the fat that’s usually added at the end.
What’s a Filipino celebration without rice? You don’t have to settle for plain rice this season either. Paella usually has lots of different kinds of meat, but it can also hold a lot of vegetables. Seafood has more healthy fats, and you get a lot more variety too. You can even, sort of, trick yourself into eating less rice by putting a lot of shellfish. Mussels, shrimps, and clams take up a lot more space than sliced meat, so normal portion sizes can actually have less rice in them.
For dessert, there’s always fruit salad. Though sometimes, it can end up having way too much sugar to be healthy. To make sure you don’t go overboard, try not to add too much cream and sweetened milk. It’s best if you cut back on the cheese and macaroni if you’re the type who normally puts those in.
One thing you have to remember this holiday season that it’s all about portion control. You can choose not to consider these and go with your usual preparations as long as you don’t overeat. It’s a time that you can forget your diet just a little, but make sure you’re not eating like it’s your last holiday.