There are about 30 major holidays over November, December and January, celebrated by many diverse cultures across the globe. Many of us have the chance to indulge in more than one with friends, family and neighbors. We’ve started with Christmas as an example, but would love to hear about your favorite feasts!
Christmas can be a time to spend with family and friends and, of course, to eat. There’s really nothing better than when all the traditional foods come out, as they can remind you of your childhood, certain family members and even the history of your country, all in a single bite.
However, the holidays are also the time when it’s easiest to pack on the pounds as we fortify ourselves against the dark winter season and bring out the best we have to offer each other. How does your country’s traditional meal stand up in regards to healthy eating? Our nutritionist had a closer look at the ingredients of each country’s dish and assigned a “health score” from 1 to 8. (1 being the unhealthiest and 8 the healthiest option.) Our heatmap gives you a nice overview, where in the world Christmas is being celebrated the healthiest.
Japan’s Christmas dinner is an interesting one: sponge cake, strawberries, and a box meal from Kentucky Fried Chicken. It’s a true lesson in marketing, as a campaign in 1974 led people in Japan to rush to KFC’s across the country to enjoy the Colonel’s special recipe.
There’s not much redeeming about Japan’s Christmas dinner, though, when it comes to ingredients. As it’s deep fried it’s very high in fat and salt, and there are no vegetables on the menu. Steer clear of this meal if you’re aiming for a healthy start to the New Year!
The traditional Christmas dinner in the US is very similar to Thanksgiving, in that they serve turkey, ham, and potatoes, but with more eggnog. Americans love spending their holidays with family and friends, and celebrate with a whole lot of food!
Christmas dinner in the US tops 3000 calories and about a third of those calories are from alcohols and desserts. Most of the vegetables served have added cream or butter; however, the amount of veggies on the menu means a lot of fiber.
Christmas dinner is quite the affair in Denmark. As a peninsula with numerous islands, you can expect a lot of fish at a Danish table. And they certainly deliver! Salmon and herring sit alongside turkey, liver pate and mulled wine to help warm you with good tidings from the inside out.
Denmark’s menu, however, is the highest calorie menu on this list, coming in at around 4,000 calories. That’s what most of us need over a span of two days! Around 1,000 calories come from alcohol and dessert. Due to all the fish and vegetables, though, this Christmas dinner is high in omega-3 and fiber.
The Portuguese go all out on Christmas. Cod fishcakes, octopus, salt cod, nut cake, fruit cake, and French toast can all be found on the table. If you have a penchant for seafood and sweets, it seems like Portugal is the place for you to go.
Like many of these menus, Portugal’s has a lot of calories from alcohol and dessert, and has a high fat content due to the fried courses, but the focus on fish and veggies make it a more balanced meal than others.
Romanian Christmas dinner has a wide spread that includes chicken and egg aspic, salad, roast gammon, pork and meatball soup. If you’re looking to bring something new into your Christmas tradition, why not try something Romanian?
While the meat on the Romanian menu may make you think that it would be healthier than other Christmas dinners, it’s one of the highest calorie menus due to sweets, pastries, and doughnuts.
There doesn’t seem to be anything more Spanish than Christmas dinner in Spain. Chorizo, langostinos, stuffed turkey, asparagus, marzipan, and wine all fill up a Spanish table.
The Spanish Christmas dinner is high in fat and salt due to smoked meats and cheeses, and there are fewer vegetables. So while it might be delicious, it’s not the best decision health-wise.
Just reading the menu for a French Christmas dinner makes you feel a little more French. Oysters, pate, quince cheese and smoked salmon all help to bring people together to celebrate the holidays.
France also has a menu that’s high in fat because of the emphasis on foie gras, cheese and chocolate. There are an entire day’s calories in this one meal, but it also has its benefits. There are oily fish, fruit, nuts, and veggies in a French Christmas dinner to help balance things out.
The UK and Ireland made a name for Christmas through A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. The traditional UK and Irish Christmas dinner doesn’t seem to have strayed far from the Victorian roots, and serves Yorkshire Puddings, stuffing, and roast beef all make for a cozy, traditional Christmas dinner.
As in many of these menus, a significant portion of calories comes from alcohol and dessert, and the UK menu is no exception. It’s high in fat and sugar due to the puddings, bacon and gammon, but the Brussels sprouts and other vegetables help to round out the meal.
Like Australia, Christmas in Brazil also occurs during the summer. And like Carneval, it sounds like a festive affair! Brazil nuts (of course), turkey, pork, and even French toast are all served, which is sure to bring joy to people’s hearts (and stomachs).
A Brazilian Christmas dinner is quite fatty, clocking in at 200% of the recommended daily intake of fat, but a lot of that comes from nuts, which are good for your heart. There’s also a lot of fiber and iron intake as well!
Canadians know how to keep warm up in the Great White North, and their Christmas dinner is no exception. Pea soup, turkey, stuffing, and eggnog (but no moose, as far as we can tell) all warm up the bellies of Canadians during one of the coldest - and happiest - nights of the year.
Once again, alcohol and dessert are the real kicker when it comes to holiday menus, and the Canadian menu is no different. Vegetables and the associated fiber come in to help balance the meal, though.
The Swedes serve Christmas dinner in a buffet style, and do they have quite the spread! Pickled herring, potatoes, pate, beet salad, Swedish meatballs and Aquavit all help make up a traditional Swedish Christmas.
Sweden’s Christmas dinner does pretty well in that it has oily fish, beets and cabbage, and doesn’t have much sugar in the menu. However, because of their large spread, Swedes could consume around 3000 calories in a single meal!
People in the Czech Republic celebrate Christmas in a similar way to Croatians. Lots of delicious food, including fried carp, hard-boiled eggs and gingerbread can be found on a Czech table.
The Czech dinner does quite well in that it contains over 100% of the recommended intake for daily fiber, but it is one of the saltiest menus in the list and has lots of sugar, as well. Pick and choose your Czech menu items carefully!
Famous for its Christmas markets, no one does Christmas quite like the Germans. Stollen, gingerbread, white sausage and mulled wine will all make you feel right at home; and the smells alone will make you think you’ve stepped into a Christmas story.
While the German menu may be high in calories, it does quite well health-wise in that it contains fish, fiber (in the form of sprouts and cabbage) and ligonberries, which are high in vitamins and minerals.
The Dutch serve up one of the best things on Christmas: raclette. This melty cheese is as fun to make as it is to eat, and to keep the fun going, they even serve ice cream for dessert. Add roast vegetables, hare and venison to the mix, and you have a recipe for a Christmas dinner you won’t soon forget.
Once again, alcohol and dessert are the real culprits at Christmas dinner. In the Dutch menu, seafood, lean meats, and veggies are great to have, but the added sugars of the desserts bring down the healthiness of the meal.
Iceland doesn’t quite live up to its icy name, but it can be quite cold there, especially in December. With the Northern Lights shining above, Icelanders enjoy pork, lamb, ptarmigan stew and a whimsical sounding desert called «snowflake bread.»
The Icelandic menu doesn’t fare too poorly, as it has higher calorie sauces and higher fat meats, which are balanced with leaner meats and vegetables. If you’re looking out for your waistline, steer clear of the sweets and alcohol after dinner!
Malta has home cooking down pat on Christmas, as they serve chicken, baked macaroni, potatoes and a chestnut tart. One of the most intriguing things you’ll find on their menu is a prickly pear liqueur cocktail.
The Maltese menu is light in calories, but doesn’t contain many vegetables. Again, around half the calories are from desserts and alcohol. If you’re watching your weight, this could be a good menu to try if you stay away from dessert and booze.
Norwegians are also well prepared for a chilly Christmas, as they serve up sausage, meatballs, boiled potatoes, porridge and a delicious sounding saffron bun. Some Akevitt after the meal certainly doesn’t hurt either.
While around 400 calories of the Norwegian menu comes from alcohol, it fares well in fat and calories due to the fish, vegetables, and fiber content.
Christmas dinner in Serbia is a traditional Eastern European affair, with roast pork, stuffed cabbage, cheese and apple strudel, plum brandy and a log torte. We couldn’t ask for more this year!
Serbian Christmas dinner is more moderate in calories, although having different kinds of strudel on the menu ups the fat content. However, having salads, cabbage, and fruits on the menu as well keeps the meal relatively balanced.
As Christmas occurs during Australia’s summertime, it’s easy to picture Australians enjoying the sunshine on Christmas Day with a barbeque. Seeing as BBQ prawns, lobster and steak are all on the menu, Christmas dinner sounds like it would be a fun, relaxed affair.
An Australian Christmas dinner is one of the lighter menus, as it’s just over 1,500 calories and has lots of protein-rich foods and vegetables. The desserts make it a bit high in sugar, and the BBQ sauce ups salt content. However, if you’re looking for a new twist on Christmas dinner, this could be the way to go!
Just based on the food alone, Christmas in Belgium sounds like a refined affair. Aperitifs, croquettes and vegetables with prosciutto grace their menu, with some lovely chocolates to finish.
This menu is very high in fiber due to all the vegetables, especially the Brussels sprouts, which contain cancer fighting nutrients. It’s a pretty balanced menu, though maybe steer clear of the dessert!
Moving a little more east in Europe, Croatians enjoy quite the spread. Lamb, pork, stuffed peppers and sweets are all enjoyed. Did you know that Croatians will sprinkle straw under the tablecloth? This helps keep the story of the birth of Jesus in mind.
Croatians fill up on good protein, salad and vegetables, which is what you want in a meal! However, the caloric count comes in at around 2,000 calories and it contains a fair amount of fried desserts and alcohol.
Finland’s main Christmas meal consists of things like rutabaga casserole, carrot casserole and potato casserole, along with turkey, ham, and of course, sweet. There’s nothing quite like a casserole to keep you warm and in Finland in the dead of winter, we’re sure that would be highly appreciated.
A Finnish Christmas meal is under 2,000 calories and contains oily fish (which is good for your heart) and a lot of vegetables. However, the cheese and desserts in the meal are some things to eat in moderation.
Lithuania’s Christmas meal is a little more subdued than others, with families enjoying herring, dumplings, cranberry pudding and fruit juice together. Alcohol isn’t served, as Christmas in Lithuania is a highly religious time.
The menu has lots of vegetables and fish, which is great and it’s also lower in added sugars, so this could be an option for you if you’re looking for something different and healthy.
Borscht, white rye soup, pierogies and picked herring are all on the table in Poland on Christmas. Being the heavily Catholic country that it is, Christmas in Poland has a lot of tradition behind it and a lot of good eats.
Herring and vegetables make the Polish Christmas dinner light on fats and calories, and it also isn’t high in added sugars either. Check out some Eastern European home cooking with a Polish menu this Christmas!
Christmas dinner in the Ukraine is also quite Eastern European in that there’s a smorgasbord of pickled herring, borscht with dumplings, baked potatoes and poppy milk to grace the table. The Ukrainian Christmas days go from January 6th to the 19th, because they follow the Julian calendar instead of the Gregorian calendar.
The Ukrainian meal is also pretty good and clocks in at around 1,500 calories. It contains lots of oily fish and veggies as well as sauerkraut, which is great to add some probiotics into your diet!
There’s nothing quite like comfort food to keep you warm when it’s snowing outside and Austria has mastered this for Christmas dinner. Dumplings, mulled wine and even the famed Sachertorte help keep family and friends warm and in good spirits.
Austria’s menu is quite like, at under 1,500 calories. It’s lower in salt, and the red cabbage is a great source of antioxidants. Most calories in the meal are found in desserts, but isn’t a little slice of Sachertorte worth it?
Hungary’s Christmas meal combines all the wonderful, unique flavors that make Hungarian food as delicious as it is. Fish soup, turkey, poppyseed pudding with honey and Christmas ale will have you clamoring for seconds.
Hungary’s menu is one of the healthiest ones as it’s not heavy on alcohol and contains lots of fish, meat and vegetables. It comes in at under 2,000 calories as well!
Italy is known for its food and on Christmas they don’t disappoint. Pasta, mussels, eel, chocolate mousse and, of course, panettone are up for grabs. Top it all off with some Italian wine and Christmas will be a hit, for sure.
The Italian menu is also pretty healthy due to all the fish, vegetables and protein from the tuna and eel. Have a small glass of red wine with dinner and you can enjoy its health benefits, too!
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