The Christmas season means different things to different people – it can be time dedicated to catching up with family and friends, maybe it offers a welcomed break to simply kick back and relax, or perhaps it’s seen as a whirlwind of shopping queues and deadlines. 

Whatever the Christmas season means to you, the change to daily routines and the temptation offered by festive treats can test your healthy eating and healthy lifestyle habits. 

Christmas is a time for enjoyment and incorporating healthy choices in your diet and daily routines should certainly not be viewed as a chore – in fact, it’s likely to enhance your enjoyment of the festive season.

At this time of year, the National Dairy Council reminds us how simple and delicious it can be to include the ‘milk, yoghurt and cheese’ food group in a healthy, balanced, festive diet.  Here are some tasty tips to choose from to help you meet your recommended intake from this food group:

  • Breakfast offers many opportunities to include this food group in your diet. During these winter mornings you can start your day with a delicious warm bowl of porridge made with milk – sprinkle over a little cinnamon for a festive kick.
  • A cheese toastie, often viewed as a traditional option, can easily be transformed into a festive treat.  Simply use a spicy relish or perhaps re-discover the flavour of mustard.  The post-Christmas turkey sandwiches can also be spruced up with cranberry sauce and some Irish brie or grated cheddar.
  • Seasonal vegetables are a key element of many meals, and at this time of the year can be nicely served with a tasty milk-based sauce.
  • Festive dairy snacks can range from a simple mug of warm milk to a hot chocolate treat – or a festive berry yogurt-based smoothie to a fine Irish cheese board.
  • Desserts can be all too plentiful at Christmas time, so it’s important to choose wisely.  Why not try stewed fruit with a touch of cinnamon served with low-fat custard or yoghurt? Rice pudding made using low-fat milk with dried fruit such as raisins or apricots mixed through are delicious festive flavours.

The food pyramid, which aims to provide healthy eating guidance for adults and children over the age of five years, recommends three servings from the ‘milk, yoghurt and cheese’ food group each day as part of a healthy, balanced diet.  This increases to five daily servings between the ages of nine to 18 years. Examples of one serving include 200ml milk, 125ml yogurt or 25g cheddar-type cheese, with low-fat options advised.

By Dr Catherine Logan, Nutrition Manager, National Dairy Council