Latest Stories

Tips on how to eat ‘noche buena’ feast


No, they aren’t taking away the joys of Christmas from you. They are just concerned about the effect of an eat-all-you-can noche buena on your health, specifically your waistlines and arteries.

Disturbed by the prevalence of heart attack and stroke cases during the holiday season, health experts yesterday dispensed a few tips on how to eat healthy, especially at this time of the year when Filipinos tend to overflow their tables with fat-laden food.

Dr. Tony Leachon, a cardiologist and consultant to the Department of Health (DOH) for  noncommunicable diseases, said merrymakers should divide their plate into four sections to avoid overeating. To drive home his point, he accompanied his advice with a diagram of a plate measuring nine inches in diameter.

“One fourth should be allocated for fruits, one fourth for vegetables, one fourth for proteins and the remaining space for carbohydrates,” Leachon told the Philippine Daily Inquirer. “We call this the ‘food plate.’”

In the Philippines, during the Christmas season—said to be the longest Yuletide season in the world—people tend to overindulge, making themselves vulnerable to noncommunicable or lifestyle-related illnesses, like cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.

“For noche buena, eat everything in moderation, drink alcohol in moderation and stop smoking,” Leachon advised.

Noche buena is a Filipino custom originating from Spain and Mexico. It involves family members and relatives who gather together for a feast usually after the midnight Mass on Christmas Eve.

The Filipino staples include queso de bola, pasta, fruit salad, lechon (roast pig), hamon or Christmas ham, pancit (noodles), chicken relleno (stuffed chicken) and hot cocoa.

Top causes of death

Leachon said it was OK to enjoy festive food, but he urged people to stick to the  ones low on calories, like fish and chicken. “Take more vegetables and fruits to lessen the risk of a heart attack and strokes,” he said.

A 2006 study of the Philippine Health Statistics showed that noncommunicable diseases are the leading causes of death in the country. Aside from heart illnesses, these include chronic respiratory diseases.

Such ailments have been linked to such risk factors as smoking, unhealthy diet, lack of physical activity and alcohol use, according to the DOH.

Balance, moderation

The DOH has observed a trend of increasing heart attack cases in hospitals during the Christmas season.

The key to maintaining good nutrition during the holidays is “variety, balance and moderation,” said Felicidad Velandria, a registered nutritionist-dietician formerly associated with the Food and Nutrition and Research Institute.

“We can still serve the traditional Christmas foods but choose healthy ones,” Velandria said.

Instead of serving fat-laden beef hotdogs, glazed hams and pork sausages, choose the chicken variety, which are healthier, she said. “Eat less fat, sugar and salt. Eat more fruits and vegetables, lean meats, low-fat dairy, nuts and whole grain staples,” she added.


Healthy way of cooking

Revelers should also ditch fried foods in favor of those that are steamed, baked, grilled or boiled.

Grilling, baking, stir-frying and steaming are healthy cooking methods that help enhance the flavor of the food without the unwanted fats that may clog the arteries, Velandria said.

“Alcoholic drinks are OK, but drink in moderation,” she added. For males, two bottles of 12-oz beer or a glass of 6-oz wine or 3-oz whiskey should be enough. Females should only drink half of the amount recommended for males, she noted.

A healthier option would be a glass of fresh fruit or vegetable juice, a fruit punch or a cup of herbal tea, she said.

Most important, one must exercise to burn off the extra calories gained from the season’s festivities.

“Balance food intake with physical activity. We need to burn the calories that we take to reduce or maintain our body weight,” Velandria said.


Dried fish and rice

With thousands of people still suffering in Mindanao following Typhoon “Pablo,” an official of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has his own advice: The noche buena can be as simple as a meal of “tuyo” or dried fish and rice as long as the spirit of sharing is present among those who partake it.

“It doesn’t really matter what food is prepared on the table for noche buena … it can even be tuyo,” said Fr. Edu Gariguez, executive secretary of the CBCP National Secretariat for Social Action (Nassa). “Christmas is in the heart and not in the food that we eat.”

Think of the victims

Gariguez said that on Christmas Eve, instead of concerning oneself with extravagant food, one must think of families devastated by the typhoon and his or her less fortunate neighbors with barely a decent meal to eat.

“It’s better if those who have enough for noche buena will help and share what they have with the poor and the typhoon victims,” Gariguez said. “It’s sad that while you are stuffed with festive food, many are starving.”

Gariguez said the CBCP-Nassa and various dioceses continued to give relief assistance to the typhoon victims but that the aid was not intended for the victims’ noche buena.

He added that the CBCP-Nassa had already sent an appeal mostly for housing and shelter materials to its international partners.

“Food for noche buena is merely palliative, not a long-term remedy, so we are more focused to give them housing assistance, basic survival kits like food, shelter and housing materials,” Gariguez said.

“Following the devastating calamity, I don’t think these people even think about noche buena. They think about having a house or a shelter to go home to,” he said.

Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles has advised all dioceses under his jurisdiction that the second collection in all Christmas Day Masses will  be donated entirely to the victims of the typhoon.

“All priests-celebrants of Christmas Masses are kindly asked to urge the faithful to be very generous in sharing Christmas joy with Pablo victims,” Arguelles said.

Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter

Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: Christmas , Food , Health , Lifestyle , Noche Buena

  • DarkSideOfTheMoon2

    i feel for those walang pang noche-buena….

Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
  1. How Zsa Zsa Padilla found Conrad Onglao; Sharon Cuneta played Cupid
  2. Miss America: Don’t suspend teen over prom invite
  3. Historic Fort Bonifacio tunnel converted into a septic tank
  4. President Quezon was born here–and so was Philippine surfing
  5. Almost mugged on Chino Roces Avenue
  6. Transitions and resurrection in the performing arts
  7. How healing waters accompanied my journey of faith
  8. ‘Archaeology tour’ of Cebu’s heritage of faith
  9. Palawan favorite getaway of show biz celebrities
  10. Joe de Venecia visits the Queen Mother of Cambodia
  1. How Zsa Zsa Padilla found Conrad Onglao; Sharon Cuneta played Cupid
  2. Are your favorite malls open this Holy Week break?
  3. How Vitamin B can be a remedy for ‘manhid’ and neuropathy
  4. Sarah Geronimo and Matteo Giudicelli sing ‘All of Me’–and we all swoon
  5. 90 percent of Filipino households don’t practice proper toilet hygiene, sanitation
  6. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?
  7. ‘Labahita a la bacalao’
  8. This is not just a farm
  9. 12 other things you can do at Pico de Loro Cove
  10. Marcos grandson to wed beautiful Rocha scion
  1. Mary Jean Lastimosa is new Miss Universe Philippines
  2. Did Angara ruin Pia Wurtzbach’s chances at Bb. Pilipinas?
  3. How Zsa Zsa Padilla found Conrad Onglao; Sharon Cuneta played Cupid
  4. Dominique–Gretchen and Tonyboy Cojuangco’s daughter–now an endorser
  5. Manila in shock over model Helena Belmonte’s death
  6. Vinegar test helpful vs cervical cancer
  7. From Jeannie to mom of suicide victim
  8. San Vicente beaches hidden but not for long
  9. Borgy and Georgina are back; others are off–again
  10. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?


  • DPWH to push for total rehabilitation of fire-damaged Quezon Bridge
  • Fires hit Manila’s Port Area, Malabon
  • Palace denies convincing Gigi Reyes to return home
  • Car hits packed US church, injuring about 20
  • LPA enters PH, to bring rains and thunderstorms
  • Sports

  • Reigning champs Miami open playoffs with win
  • Spurs subdue Mavericks in playoff opener
  • Wawrinka beats Federer to win Monte Carlo Masters
  • Ageless Hopkins pitches 50-50 Mayweather deal
  • Goodbye MGM, Las Vegas for Pacquiao?
  • Lifestyle

  • Miss America: Don’t suspend teen over prom invite
  • Transitions and resurrection in the performing arts
  • ‘Archaeology tour’ of Cebu’s heritage of faith
  • Historic Fort Bonifacio tunnel converted into a septic tank
  • ‘Imports’ from London, and play of the year
  • Entertainment

  • Discovery network cancels Everest jump
  • ‘Captain America’ stays strong atop US box office
  • Easter musings
  • Solenn in shorts
  • Unmerry mix of attention-calling moves on ‘Mini-Me’ TV tilts
  • Business

  • Oil prices down in quiet Asian trade
  • Asian shares mixed in holiday-thinned trade
  • BDO seen keen on bidding for Cocobank
  • Bataan freeport investment pledges up 1,302%
  • Golden Week
  • Technology

  • PH has slowest internet in Southeast Asia
  • Nintendo’s trailblazing Game Boy marks 25th anniversary
  • Nasa’s moon-orbiting robot crashes down
  • Netizens pay respects to Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Nokia recalls 30,000 chargers for Lumia 2520 tablet
  • Opinion

  • Gigi’s home
  • Palace stonewalls on MRT inquiry
  • Couple of things too
  • There is plenty of water behind Wawa Dam
  • Triduum thoughts of a young boy
  • Global Nation

  • Obama on mission to quiet Asia skeptics
  • Search for Etihad passengers launched
  • Japan presents $57-B ‘dream plan’ to solve Metro congestion
  • Tim Tebow’s charity hospital in Davao seen to open in 7 months
  • OFW died of Mers-CoV in Saudi Arabia, says family