“How to have a healthy noche buena?” This question must have been bogging your mind with Christmas just around the corner. After all, Filipinos tend to eat unhealthy dishes during the holiday season, which, according to the DOH, “could cause high blood and diabetes” especially when not done in moderation. And given all the health concerns we’ve faced this year, the last thing we want is to put an added burden to our bodies, hindering our immune systems to function at their best.

So, as a gift for yourself and your family this Yuletide season, serve a healthy meal by swapping some ingredients in your favorite traditional dishes. Cook up a delectable feast worthy of celebration that would, at the same time, strengthen your bodies with the following healthy noche buena alternative food suggestions.

Try: Using white meat for your Pinoy spaghetti

Christmas is Jesus’s birthday, and as with most Filipino birthdays, the sweet and meaty Pinoy spaghetti is a must-have. With its sauce packed with hotdog slices and beef, it’s a dish that’s filling and satisfying for kids and adults alike. But for a healthier twist, switch to using white meat like chicken in your sauce instead.

A healthy noche buena alternative food is a spaghetti bolognese
For a healthy noche buena, opt for spaghetti without red meat. Photo by Danijela Prijovic / Unsplash

The United States’ National Institutes of Health (NIH) has noted that the regular consumption of red meat has been linked with increased risks of diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular issues. So to stay on the safe side, experiment with alternative ingredients to make your holidays extra jolly.

Don’t think chicken doesn’t do well with Pinoy spaghetti? You can always go out of your comfort zone and try whipping up other pasta dishes with poultry or seafood as their main ingredient.

Try: Swapping seafood dish for your Christmas ham

A huge cut of thick, juicy ham is a holiday staple — you’d often find it as the main centerpiece in your dining table on Christmas Eve. Still, no matter how delicious it is, it might be best to skip serving it this season. Aside from red meat putting you at risk, WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has also tagged processed meat products like most store-bought Christmas hams as carcinogenic. This means that eating these dishes a lot might put you in risk of getting cancer.

If you insist on having ham this Christmas, what you can do to ensure your safety is cook your meat from scratch. Still, not having ham on your plate won’t make your feast less fun and yummy, to say the least. You can always opt for roasted chicken with less fat. Even better, go with grand fish dishes like baked salmon or rellenong bangus for an even healthier noche buena dish.

Christmas ham
Processed holiday ham can pose health risks. Photo by Сергей Орловский / Unsplash

Try: Lumpiang sariwa instead of lumpiang shanghai

Lumpiang shanghai is also another party favorite. These bite-sized treats are great both as an accompaniment to rice or as a snack when you drink. Still, because it’s filled with fatty ground pork and then deep fried for optimum crunchiness, it’s not the healthiest option out there.

Fried food contains more calories and trans fats. And according to a study published in US’ National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), when consumed four or more times a week, fried food can increase risks of developing obesity, hypertension, heart failure, and other chronic illnesses.

Spring Rolls
Say goodbye to fried spring rolls this season. Photo by Joshua Hoehne / Unsplash

For those hoping for a bite of lumpia this Christmas, a noche buena food alternative is the lumpiang sariwa. Packed with ubod and other vegetables, it’s a far more heart-friendly option for an appetizer. What’s more, it’s commonly served fresh and it’s equally delicious even without deep-frying.

Try: Yogurt for your potato salad

For your side dish during your noche buena, you might be thinking of whipping up a potato salad. It’s a popular with the crowd thanks to the creaminess of its mayonnaise, after all. However, since mayo is made with egg yolk, this ingredient is known for having high cholesterol and fat content — something we’d like to cut down on for the sake of our well-being in the long run.

As a substitute, you can use Greek or plain yogurt instead. It’s not as thick as mayonnaise but yogurt still does a nice job of adding creaminess that holds your salad together. More than that, yogurt has a number of health benefits. It’s high in calcium, which is great for your bone health, and may contain probiotics that greatly helps with your digestion.

What more, aside from your potato salad, you can also use yogurt instead of the usual condensed milk and heavy cream mixture for your fruit salad desert. Who’d say no to this superfood as a healthy noche buena alternative food ingredient, right?

Yogurt is a healthier food that you can use in many dishes. Photo by Sara Cervera / Unsplash

Healthy eating habits for a healthy noche buena

Doing minor tweaks in your noche buena recipes can do loads for your wellness. But, at the end of the day, it all boils down to your food safety habits and your own self-control. A treat once or twice won’t be bad, but overindulgence can still lead to health risks.

Take special care if you or your family member has suffered a chronic disease. Make sure your lifestyle habits won’t put you further at risk by talking to diabetologists, endocrinologists, cardiologists, and other specialists on SeeYouDoc. This way, you can continue to enjoy a merry Christmas and a delightful noche buena with your loved ones for years to come.


Sources: PNA, DOH, WHO-IARC, NCBI, NIH