The many and varied sumptuous foods available are a major part of the Jamaican Christmas.
However, due to dietary restrictions, some persons are unable to partake of these feasts during the season.
Persons with non-communicable diseases (NCDs) – diabetes, hypertension and cancer – must adhere to dietary restrictions while enjoying their favourite Christmas treats to strike a balance in their diet.
Nutritionist and Senior Lecturer/Head of the School of Allied Health and Wellness, College of Health Sciences, University of Technology (UTech), Dr Vanessa White-Barrow, says preparing healthy and creative substitutes to Christmas classics – cured ham/turkey, gungo peas and pumpkin soup, plum pudding and sorrel – will ensure that persons can enjoy meals without negative consequences.
“The dietary restrictions, particularly for persons with NCDs, are very important, especially at Christmas time, because they do not want their condition to worsen, nor can they allow their condition to progress to the stage where the other body organs are affected,”
To safeguard against this, Dr White-Barrow says recipes for traditional Jamaican Christmas feasts can be modified for safe consumption by persons who must adhere to a strict diet.
She recommended the use of lean meats (chicken breast, curry goat and fish) that can be used in place of cured meats, such as ham, which contain high levels of nitrites and nitrates which can worsen NCDs, such as cancer.
She also recommends desalting ham before baking or roasting to reduce sodium levels.
She also suggests adding a variety of herbs and spices as substitutes for salt to make meals flavourful.
“You can also use things like lemon juice, the unsalted onion and garlic powders, pepper, curry, oregano and thyme, instead of salt,” Dr White-Barrow advises.
White-Barrow urges persons to read food labels to control calorie intake, as well as to select low-fat options when grocery shopping. She also reminds persons to trim fat from meats in meal preparations.
As for the traditional beverage of the season, sorrel, she encourages Jamaicans to indulge in the antioxidant-rich drink and use minimum sugar in preparation, allowing the natural flavour of the plant to come through.
Other recommendations to keep these chronic conditions under control throughout the holiday period are increased intake of fresh fruits, vegetables and fibre, as well as reducing the use of table salt in meal preparations.
She implores persons to resist the urge to overeat to reduce calorie intake.
“Eat and drink in moderation and limit alcohol intake,” Dr White-Barrow advises.
She emphasises that persons must continue to take their medications and to follow their regular exercise routine.