How to be healthy, but not miss out, this Christmas

Posted on: 22 December 2016 by 50connect editorial

Nutritional therapist, Emma Cockrell, shares her top tips on staying healthy this Christmas without missing out on any of the fun.

Family at Christmas

Watching what you eat is probably not at the top of your list this Christmas, but if you’re training for events or focused on a health goal, it’s good to acknowledge that the average consumption on Christmas day is a whopping 7000 calories! Being a bit more sensible on Christmas day will not only help prevent any guilt, it will also help you stay on track with your targets.

The basic Christmas dinner of turkey and plenty of vegetables is actually a healthy meal, it's all the extras we add to the plate and throughout the day that add up. Particularly the ones high in carbohydrate and poor quality fats, which can encourage weight gain.

Where to ‘trim the fat’

So a great starting point for a healthier Christmas day is to limit how much sugar is consumed throughout the day in sweets, biscuits, chocolates, cakes, mince pies and even crisps. You don’t need to feel like you’re depriving yourself, have a mince pie, but just not three. A good tip is to sit further away from the treats to limit your temptation and be conscious of how many treats you’re consuming.

When it comes to the main meal of the day, think about how you balance your plate. Your main meal should have half the plate as non-starchy vegetables, a quarter of the plate protein, and to support weight loss, slightly less than a quarter of the plate for higher carbohydrate foods, such as whole grains and starchy vegetables.

Great food swaps

If you’re the chef on the day, it’s a great opportunity for you to think about which foods you use. Turkey is a leaner meat than duck or goose. And when it comes to carbohydrates to pair with your Christmas dinner, choose between sweet potatoes, parsnip, roast potatoes, stuffing or Yorkshire pudding – rather than having them all.

A great way to bulk out a Christmas dinner is by swapping some of the ‘bad fats’ you find in pigs in blankets, for example, for more vegetables. Brussel sprouts are the marmite of the Christmas dinner, but they’re also one of the healthiest parts. They’re a great source of fibre and vitamins C and K. If your family need a bit of encouragement to eat them, try adding some honey and mustard. Or try kale, broccoli or peas instead.

The fat we use in cooking is also important. Try using just a light spray or drizzle of a quality oil such as extra virgin olive oil, or just a dob of coconut oil. When cooking with olive oil keep the temperature below 180 degrees Celsius to protect the quality of the oil, but coconut oil or butter can take higher temperatures.

Don’t forget the gravy!

Gravy is an essential part of the Christmas meal, but this doesn’t have to compromise either health or calories. Pour the juices from the roast meat into a saucepan and skim off the fat that comes to the top. To the remaining stock add some water from cooking the vegetables to obtain the desired volume of gravy. To this, you can either blend in onion and carrot that have been cooked with the meat, or sprinkle in some brown rice flour- stirring thoroughly to avoid any lumps. This beats shop-bought gravy granules any day!

Visit Nuffield Health for further tips on staying healthy during the festivities.

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