For many of us the best thing about Christmas is enjoying the delicious festive fare with family and friends. But how can you do this at the same time as sticking to a healthy diet?
Here are a few suggestions that will help you have the best of both worlds:
- Start the day with an oat-based breakfast. Having a good breakfast means you are less likely to pick at unhealthy snacks mid-morning or overeat at lunch time. Soaked oats or porridge are a great choice because oats really keep you fuller for longer.
- Switch to rapeseed oil or olive oil for roasting, and watch how much is used. Unsaturated fats such as rapeseed and olive oil are excellent for roasting your turkey and potatoes. Not only do they give beautifully crisp results, they are a healthier option than butter. As all fats are high in calories, still watch how much is used.
- Make a tasty nut stuffing. Many stuffing recipes and ready-made stuffing options are high in saturated fat. Nut stuffing makes an equally delicious accompaniment to roast turkey and contains mainly the healthy unsaturated fat. Walnuts are well worth including in your stuffing as they have the added benefit of containing plenty of Omega 3 fats.
- Be turkey savvy. Turkey is a healthy, low-fat meat which is high in protein and B vitamins however, to keep the fat in your Christmas dinner to a minimum, opt for the white breast meat and avoid the skin. If you are making gravy from the meat juices, first spoon off the fat and include vegetable cooking water for extra flavour and nutrients.
- Keep a check on the roast potatoes – Christmas lunch wouldn’t be the same without roast potatoes, but they tend to be high in fat so watch how many you eat. You can cut calories by roasting potatoes in larger chunks, as this reduces the amount of fat each potato absorbs.
- Go to town on the veg. Christmas is a great opportunity to include a huge variety of vegetables. Have serving bowls full of carrots, parsnips, red cabbage, peas, broccoli and of course Brussel sprouts on the table so everyone can pick and choose what they want. As a guide include enough vegetables to cover a third to a half of each plate. Serving them first makes sure you can pile them high. Be adventurous with the Brussel sprouts by stir-frying them in a teaspoon of rapeseed or olive oil, with walnuts.
- Opt for plant-based alternatives to dairy cream. There are several alternatives to dairy cream now available in the shops including soya cream and oat cream so try these to reduce the amount of saturated fat in your Christmas deserts. Avoid creams that contain coconut or palm oil as these contain high levels of saturated fat. Other low saturated fat options are 0% yogurt, lite crème fraiche or making your own custard with skimmed milk.
- Indulge in fruit-based puddings. Incorporating fruit-based puddings into your Christmas feast will bump up your fibre intake so you are less likely to get blood glucose peaks and troughs. Including tinned or frozen fruit such as raspberries or satsuma segments is a practical option as you can stock up on in the run up to Christmas. It’s also a good idea to have a fresh fruit salad in the fridge over Christmas as a light desert option following a big meal.
- Stock up on healthy snacks. Rather than having a tin of assorted chocolates or biscuits, have healthy snacks at the ready. Nuts in their shells displayed with a nutcracker look great amongst the Christmas decorations and having to crack the nuts open takes time and means you don’t eat too many. A handful of nuts is known to be heart healthy and also helps with appetite control. Alternatively have a bowl of easy peel satsumas displayed for anyone who is getting peckish. Dates stuffed with a little peanut butter and chocolate are a fabulous sweet treat, while popcorn made with cinnamon and a little brown sugar are another tasty, high fibre snack alternative.
- Practice mindful eating to get maximum satisfaction from every mouthful. Christmas is typically a time to over-indulge however did you know we get the most enjoyment from the initial mouthfuls of a dish and less satisfaction as we continue to eat? Therefore, opt for small portions over the Christmas period and really savour the lovely flavours and aromas of your dish. You can always go back for more. Eating slowly and mindfully will help to avoid over eating as it takes time for the message to get to your brain that your stomach is full.
- Take an after-dinner walk. Getting outside for a walk in the fresh air after a large Christmas meal will aid digestion and help you feel energised rather than sloggish. It really is worth planning into your Christmas Day agenda.
- Have a break from large meals with a bowl of soup. Having a bowl of soup is a great option when you need a break from big meals over the Christmas period. As long as you avoid creamy versions, they are normally very low calorie and at the same time they are very satisfying and keep you feeling fuller for longer.
- Go easy on the Christmas Day tipple. Alcohol has an unhealthy effect on blood cholesterol and blood pressure and can also lead to weight gain. Decide in advance how much you are happy to drink and only have this amount in the house. Space out your alcoholic drinks by having a glass of water in between each glass of alcohol and have lots of non-alcoholic alternatives available. Try adding soda water to wine to make a refreshing spritzer. Perhaps consider making a healthy seasonal punch by gently warming a mixture of orange juice, grape juice and a little mixed spice, and adding orange or satsuma slices and cloves. This is a delicious drink for welcoming guests and makes the house smell wonderfully festive.
Have a very happy, healthy Christmas.
Cathy Court is a Registered Nutritionist (ANutr); she works with clients providing very personalised nutrition and healthy eating advice. You can find Cathy in our #ShopLocal Directory, and get more information about how you can work with her on her website.