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We do it every year don’t we? Go crazy at Christmas, indulge and bulge and then hit January wishing it never happened after we’ve gained a kilo or three! Typically, many of us will pack in an additional 500kcal each day over Christmas, and can easily consume over 6000kcals on Christmas Day! If you wanted to walk that off, it would take at least 15 hours! A mince pie can stack up over 250kcal and a small chocolate might seem like only 50kcal, but when you’ve eaten five of them, that’s not going to help matters. Some of us may even ignore any signals of fullness and always find room to pick and snack on high calorie foods. But it doesn’t have to be this way, we can approach Christmas with a healthier attitude and not feel like we’ve missed out. Here are some ideas on minimising the Christmas indulgence:
Going to a buffet meal?
All that food is so tempting, and it’s easy to pile high on calories and then go back for some more. So here’s a tip. Mentally portion your plate into three zones. The first zone is one half of the plate, make that salads and fruits. The second zone is a quarter of the plate, and that’s for unsalted nuts, meats, cheeses, salmon, olives and eggs. The last zone is the remaining quarter, and that’s for bread, crackers, rice, pasta or grain-based foods. It will help control the calories and ensure you have some eating fun too!
Christmas branded foods are high in calories
Go on, next time you’re in Marks and Spencer or Tesco, look at their luxury Christmas range such as mince pies, Christmas cake or anything you wouldn’t buy any other time of the year. Then look at the fat content and calories! But it’s only once a year, right? That’s what manufacturers are relying on – you switching off your usual careful attitude because it’s Christmas! You can probably make your own for half the calories and have a lot more fun doing so, especially if you have children that can get involved! And there’s nothing better than a home-made mince pie.
The demon drink
So you’re out with your friends to the Christmas party and you know you’re going to have one too many glasses of your favourite poison. We so often underestimate the amount of calories we can consume in just one evening of drinking alcohol, and that’s before the munchies step in and you head to the chippie. Drink water, it’ll help you reduce the number of slugs you take from your beer or wine glass. Serve alcohol in tall thin glasses too, you get less alcohol in them and thus will drink less – clear spirits like gin or vodka are best. Put your glass down between sips! Holding it will encourage you to tip it to your mouth more often. Don’t get involved in rounds – this is such a British thing. Drinking in rounds makes it much harder to control your habits, but if this is not possible then only participate in every other round. Don’t let someone else control the bottle! If you’re drinking wine with friends, be careful that whoever is guarding the bottle is in charge of your portion intake
and maybe topping up your glass more often than you would yourself. You could also dilute your wine with low calorie lemonade or tonic water to help reduce the calorie intake.
If you’re watching your calories and really want to control intake this year, the obvious option is to be the driver. No one is going to encourage you to drink more than you would then.
Do you like to wake up to an indulgent breakfast? Start the day as you mean to go on? Well swap that hearty breakfast for smoked salmon and scrambled eggs! It’s a bit special but less calories, less fat and packs in some nutrition punch too.
We all love roast potatoes, but you can pretty much roast any root vegetable. Look at this month’s seasonal highlight to see how you can roast celeriac! There’s a whole host of other vegetables we can roast too, that will make the plate exciting and reduce calories but not the fun. Roast in vegetable oil rather than goose or duck fat, and throw in some herbs like rosemary or whole garlic cloves.
Turkey or chicken are both good choices so long as you eat the lean meat. Avoid the skin as that’s where most of the fat will be. If you prick the skin prior to cooking, a lot of the fat will drain out, but you will need to cook it onto something that drains away the fat, such as an upturned ovenproof plate. Avoid stuffing it with meat, instead use chestnut or fruit-based stuffing
Laying the table out? Don’t put out the massive plates, you’ll simply fill them. Serve smaller plates and go back for seconds if you want. By doing that, you’re much more likely to naturally consume fewer calories and not feel like you’ve missed out.
We all love a mince pie or slice of Christmas cake but coming in at least 250kcal per pie or slice can ensure calories quickly add up. Consider bite size pies or pies with a lattice top (reducing the amount of pastry used) and cakes without marzipan and icing (topped with nuts and fruits instead) for damage limitation! Go posh with the chocolate. Rather than a huge tin of Quality Street, many of which don’t get eaten (let’s face it, who likes strawberry creams?), get a smaller tray of good quality dark chocolate truffles. These are difficult to eat in excess as they are rich and pack a full flavour punch! They not only taste much better, but eating fewer of these means you limit the calorie and fat intake.
The key is balance. We often adopt the attitude “in for a penny, in for a pound”, and trash the diet because we’ve already had our daily calorie intake by lunchtime! That’s going to happen, don’t stop enjoying yourself because you’ve had one indulgent day, just pick it up the following day. The sooner you get back on the wagon, the less likely you’ll put back on those kilos you worked so hard to lose. If you leave it until January to restart your diet, you’re more than likely going to give yourself a much
harder task, because you’ll be surprised how much additional weight you can gain just in those few weeks of Christmas.
Seb is a writer and blogger of food and nutrition. He holds a bachelors and a masters degree in nutrition science, and has studied sports and exercise nutrition at postgraduate level. He specialises in plant-based nutrition and believes passionately that we can all live with a little less meat. He writes for www.veggieandspice.com and www.itsaboutnutrition.com