Six Filipino Noche Buena dishes that put a healthier spin on holiday eating
Christmas is approaching, and we all know what that means—veering away from our usual eating habits and possibly making food decisions that we may regret come New Year. While indulging ourselves mindfully every now and then is fine (and actually healthy), we can approach holiday eating in a more positive light that doesn’t involve guilt. Yes, even with traditional Filipino Noche Buena fare.
1. Lumpiang sariwa
If you’re looking for a light snack or appetizer, lumpiang sariwa is your best bet. Compared with the usual ubod and toge, it’s made fresh (like the name implies) with no preservatives. The egg wrapper is low on calories and since there’s no frying involved, 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 preserving that classic Filipino feel.
2. Rellenong bangus
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 filled with vegetables too, like peas and carrots. Relleno is often made with pork but more health-conscious people will love the fish version.
This traditional Filipino dish is one you can definitely have for a healthy Noche Buena. While this peanut stew is often made with a plenty of meat, you can easily modify it to make it healthier. You can add in extra vegetables or even just do away with the usual meat altogether, like this recipe below.
4. Roasted chicken and barbecue
Now, having a healthier Noche Buena doesn’t necessarily mean skipping all meat. 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, grilled, and if it permits, baked meat. White meat is generally preferred over red. With barbecue, leave out the fat that’s usually added at the end.
5. Seafood arroz
What’s a Filipino celebration without rice? You don’t have to settle for plain rice this season either. Arroz or paella dishes can have a variety of meat but they can also be spruced up with a lot of vegetables. Seafood has more healthy fats, and you get a more variety, too. You can even, sort of, trick yourself into eating less rice by putting 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.
6. Fruit salad
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, resist adding too much cream and sweetened milk. It’s also 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 is that it’s all about portion control. You may choose not to consider these and go with your usual preparations as long as you don’t binge eat. It’s a period in which you can loosen up a bit but make sure you’re not eating like it’s your last holiday.