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Healthy eating advice for the festive season

If you’re worried about piling on the pounds this Christmas, Community Dietitian Natasha Allen shares some great nutritional advice…

Studies show that on average we gain 1-5lbs over the Christmas season caused by a combination of extra calories consumed at pre-Christmas parties as well as Christmas day itself where on average we consume 6000 calories, equivalent of 2-3 days’ worth of food. Weight is easy to gain and hard to lose and if we don’t manage to lose the weight we gain at Christmas and the same thing happens year on year, this could lead to significant weight gain.

Here are some tips to avoid calorie over-consumption for the festive season:-

Pre-Christmas events and party treats

A little forward planning is important to enjoy the festive season and still be able to fit into your New Year’s Eve party outfit.  It’s easy to consume a full meals worth of calories in party snacks, so here are a few tips:

  • Have a small bowl of cereals before the party so you don’t arrive hungry
  • The more options available at the buffet, the more calories we tend to consume. Take your time deciding what to eat and stick to a selected few options rather than aiming to try everything. Make smart choices if you are watching your calories such as vegetables and bread sticks with dip.

Tips for the big day

The Turkey: most of the fat (calories) is under the skin of the turkey, remove this before eating

Roast Potatoes: – Cut potatoes and parsnips into a larger size for roasting.  This absorbs less fat and reduces calories, par-boil before putting in the oven.   Swap goose fat for rapeseed or olive oil and try using an oil spray or lightly spreading the oil rather than free pouring it over them

The Gravy: – pour the meat juices into a jug and wait for the fat to rise to the surface, carefully spoon off the fat before continuing to make the gravy

The Veg:- Serve a variety to provide essential nutrients which are low in calories, don’t add butter, instead use chopped herbs or lemon juice for added flavour and fill up a third of your plate with them.

 The Pudding: – Serve Christmas pudding with Greek yoghurt or reduced fat custard made with skimmed milk rather than double cream or brandy butter

Mince Pies: – Remove the top of the mince pie to reduce pastry consumption or swap to a mini mince pie.

Alcohol

Alcohol stimulates the appetite and weakens will power which can lead to good intentions becoming over ruled.  It is also high in calories and contributes to all the extra calories consumed here are some tips:

  • Don’t allow top ups, wait for your glass to become empty before refilling
  • Avoid drinking on an empty stomach to avoid becoming drunk too quickly
  • Opt for smaller glasses
  • Measure spirits rather than free pour
  • Try mocktails
  • Use sugar free mixers such as diet coke or diet sprite

What will the dietitians be doing to combat the calories this Christmas season?

  • When Christmas shopping walk up the stairs rather than using the escalator or get off the bus a stop early
  • Have a family walk on Christmas Day
  • Use unsalted fruit and nut mix for snacks instead of salted nuts
  • Fill up on healthy snacks such as fruit and yoghurt and vegetables with dips’
  • Go for colourful foods at the buffet table rather than beige

Wishing you a happy and healthy festive season.