During the Christmas holiday period we're always surrounded by lots of lovely food and drink so it's easy to over-eat. It's important to enjoy yourself over the festive period but taking some simple steps can contribute to a healthy and enjoyable festival period and it will stop you worrying about those post-Christmas extra pounds!
With so many treats around and the temptation to sleep them off in front of the TV, it’s no wonder that people gain an average of 2 kg (5lb) over Christmas. It only takes an extra helping of pudding and a few more glasses of wine or chocolates and suddenly you’ve had all your daily calories in one sitting.
While many of the traditional foods are actually very low in fat, it’s the trimmings and extra nibbles that can add the pounds. So go easy on these and take smaller portions of the roast potatoes, gravy, sausages, stuffing, puddings and cheese.
Christmas is a great opportunity to try out new activities and healthy foods with friends and family.
Here are some of my tips for a healthy Christmas:
Make healthy Christmas dinner choices
· For starters try melon or smoked salmon. Salmon is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids that are needed for a healthy heart. Another option is a hearty healthy soup made from seasonal vegetables such as parsnips, turnips, carrots, cauliflower, celery and leeks.
· Roast potatoes using a vegetable oil spray, olive oil or sunflower oil. Cut them into large chunks so they’ll absorb less fat. Do not deep fry your roasters, parboil them first then add the oil before roasting in the oven.
· Christmas pudding is quite low in fat and a small portion goes a long way. Try serving it with low-fat custard or crème fraiche. A baked apple or fresh fruit salad with natural yoghurt is also a good option with the fruit giving you valuable fibre and vitamins.
·Pile on the vegetables! Vegetables are our friends – they are high in fibre, contain antioxidants, vitamins and minerals and are low in calories. However DO NOT cover them in butter or any other fatty spread.
· Turkey is low in fat and high in protein so feel free to have an extra slice or two, but don’t eat the skin or you’ll add more fat and calories.
Choose healthy snacks
· Satsumas are seasonal, tasty and are a great source of Vitamin C so be sure to have a large bowl of these and other fruits available.
· Serve raw vegetables such as peppers, spring onions, cucumber and carrots with low-fat dips.
· Dried fruit is a lovely, healthy snack with lots to choose from, such as dates, figs and apricots.
Make sure everyone in your house eats a healthy breakfast. This will give you a slow release of energy, keeping your spirits up during the present-opening and dinner preparations and you’ll avoid over-eating during your sit down meal.
Some great breakfast ideas are porridge or pancakes served with berries and natural yoghurt – add a sprinkling of nutmeg and cinnamon for a festive touch. Another scrumptious breakfast is scrambled egg served with smoked salmon and chives. Don’t forget to include fruit!
Use herbs and spices to flavour food
Try to limit how much salt you use for cooking and therefore eat. Salt can increase blood pressure which can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. Experiment with herbs and spices in your food instead.
Recognise when enough is enough
Choose to be full, not stuffed. Listen to your body and stop eating and drinking before you have to loosen your belt. Instead of suffering for the next hour while your body tries to digest, you can enjoy time with friends and family and look forward to the next meal.
Remember, being active is just as important as healthy eating and a great way of burning off those extra calories. It can also keep children and guests entertained. Physical activity is also a great way of reducing stress levels (and let’s face it, Christmas can be stressful). So wrap up and go outdoors out - you’ll feel a whole lot better for minimum effort.
Take your time
Christmas is meant to be an enjoyable family occasion so instead of wolfing your dinner down and feeling hungry take your time. Make sure you chew your food well, put your knife and fork down occasionally and engage in some festive conversation. This was as well as enjoying the food you’ll enjoy the whole sit down meal experience.
. Leave the house: Instead of watching the same old films and repeats, go outside and get moving.
. Take a walk: There are plenty of places for walking. Walk to nearby friends and family instead of taking the car; if you have a dog take him/her for a walk and let them celebrate Christmas with you.
. If you have children encourage them to go outside and play some family games and if you’re luck enough to have a white Christmas build a snow man!
. Enjoy those presents: If anyone in your family was lucky enough to receive presents such as a football or bike, go and use them, and get all your Christmas guests outside to join in the fun.
Give and receive activity-based presents: Walking shoes, a trial gym membership, dance classes, a trampoline - anything that will help you, your family and your friends to get active.
Don’t drink too much!
Not only does alcohol have extra unwanted calories it makes us dehydrated, a hangover will make us tired the following day and quite often it gives us unhealthy munchies.
I’m not saying don’t drink because everyone enjoys a nice glass of champagne or mulled wine but try and limit the quantity you drink. Another great tip is to drink a glass of water between each alcoholic drink or accompany wine with sparkling water.
Another reason to stay hydrated is the fact that quite often thirst can be confused as hunger!
Lastly HAVE FUN WITH YOUR FRIEND AND FAMILY! Some studies suggest that those who ate ‘treat foods’ and felt guilty weighed MORE than those who ate it in celebration, without any guilty feelings!
No food is banned in a healthy balanced diet it is all about moderation and NOT denying yourself the treat foods. A little bit of what you fancy does you good!
I am not suggesting you lose weight over the holiday period, just try to maintain it.
P.S. If you do put on an extra few pounds over the festive season DO NOT crash diet in the New Year! Eat sensibly and exercise and you will find as you slip back into your usual routine the weight will fall off. If one of your New Year resolutions is to lose weigh then please do this by eating a well balanced diet by including foods from all food groups and gradually incorporate exercise into your day-to-day routine.