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Classic Filipino Christmas with a Healthier Twist

No one loves Christmas more than us Filipinos. With merrymaking and music being second nature to us, combined with our knack for spending time with family, the yuletide season is the perfect occasion to display the values we treasure most. Christmas may have been initially a Western holiday, but we have managed to make it uniquely our own.

As a tradition, we light up the streets with our brightly colored parols and wake up at the wee hours of the morning for simbang gabi. But we all know the holiday won't be complete without a festive feast to tie everything together, starting with the notorious lechon and sweet rice cakes like puto bumbong.

Through the years, we've grown accustomed to the splendor of calorie-packed dishes served post-midnight mass, but perhaps this year, we can try something different. For December, let's pave the way for a healthier holiday with better choices.

It has been, after all, a year of extraordinary changes.

Pass up the white rice for golden grains

White rice is a beloved staple among eastern cultures, making it nearly impossible for others to take it off their diet completely. But in the spirit of new beginnings, how about trying out something better than your usual?

Allow us to do the honor of introducing you to bulgur, the fiber-rich wholegrains well-loved in Mediterranean cuisine.

Bulgur is a fine choice, especially for those avoiding the extra holiday pounds.

You can worry less about gaining the dreaded holiday weight. Bulgur carries the least calories compared to other rice alternatives while also being a great source of protein.

Duru Bulgur offers fine, coarse, and extra coarse bulgur grains that you can prepare into all sorts of dishes like pilafs, soups, and even salads. You can also opt for a simpler route and serve bulgur as you would white rice (just add a dash of salt and pepper to taste).

But the holidays beg for something special. So as a personal recommendation from TGM, we'd love for you to try making the local Arroz Valenciana with bulgur. This Philippine variation of the Spanish paella can undoubtedly make for a cheerful dish with slices of chorizo and chopped chicken infused with savory spices. You may also want to look at our previous post for our Seafood Paella recipe with bulgur.

Dazzle guests with new flavors

The glazed hamon de bola is the undefeated festal centerpiece for Noche Buena but only until your older aunts and uncles decide to bring out the celebratory lechon. These holiday dishes are quintessential to the holiday feast, but they don't always bear good tidings for our blood pressure. So how about serving up something new and healthier instead?

It's more enjoyable to feast without worrying about unhealthy choices.

Dazzle family members with an herbed roast chicken finished off with Umbria's white truffle oil for a refined and earthy Italian flavoring. Serve this up with vegetable side dishes to balance the palate and see how the eyes of your family gleam with delight as they take their first bite.

Fill your cups with sugar-free goodness

The frosty bottle of soda is almost a customary pair with every festive meal. For how can one ever resist the refreshing fizz of these carbonated drinks? But with the dawn of the new season, it may be time to fill our cups with healthier options.

Squeeze out the naturally sweet juices of your favorite fruits, or better yet, discover beverages with less sugar.

For children (and kids still at heart), we certainly recommend Chek Hup's Kokoo hot chocolate drinks. Kokoo is creamy and sumptuous with a swirling signature aroma that's perfect for the yuletide season. Yet what's even better is that it uses a lower glycemic index rock sugar that will be more affable to your sugar levels. As a snacking pair, you can also find Gullon's sugar-free chocolate chip cookie as a wonderful treat in the days leading up to the new year. Let it be your warm-up for your new year's resolution for more wholesome choices.

The past year has not been what we have hoped it to be, so it's only apt to conclude 2020 a little differently as well. Despite all the hurdles we've faced, the one thing that remained clear is the importance of our safety and well-being amidst the cozy company of family. Let's make sure our homes are filled with warmth, laughter, and prosperity by serving healthy plates for our wellness. — (TGM)

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