According to this article, a survey found that the average person in the UK consumes almost 6000 calories on Christmas Day. That’s a whopping 3 times more than required for the average female. While it is nice to indulge up to a point, this feels excessive and let’s face it, do you really enjoy that feeling of being so full you can hardly move? Read on for my top tips for surviving the Big Day without packing on too many pounds.
Start with a decent breakfast. The survey found that most people had a light, low-calorie breakfast of toast or fruit, but were tucking into chocolates and sweets by 10am and had eaten a full day’s worth of calories before even starting their main meal. It might seem like a good idea to have a small breakfast with all the eating ahead, but in fact having a decent breakfast with a good protein source will keep you feeling fuller for longer, so you won’t feel like eating quite so many sweeties mid-morning. Make the most of the special occasion and have something special. What about a cooked breakfast like scrambled tofu and home-made baked beans on sourdough toast, or for non-vegans, poached eggs and smoked salmon or kippers?
Keep portion sizes reasonable. We can enjoy a special meal without overdoing portion sizes. Eating slowly has been found to increase our enjoyment of a meal and help us consume less energy, so slow down and savour your Christmas dinner.
Make the most of the good stuff. A traditional Christmas dinner can actually be quite a healthy meal with lots of veggies which are full of beneficial vitamins and phytochemicals, and perhaps fibre-rich nuts or lentils if you are having a plant-based main dish. Even traditional turkey is one of the leanest meats. For any meal, around half your plate should be veggies, a quarter your meat or alternative and the other quarter your carbohydrate element. So load your plate up with sprouts and carrots first and then add on your potatoes and the ‘main event’.
Cook from scratch where possible. If you have time this is always preferable to buying ready-made foods or fake meat alternatives, which are usually high in salt, additives and preservatives. If you are looking for a plant-based main dish, check out my recipe for a vegan and allergen-free lentil loaf which the whole family can enjoy. Another top tip is to plan ahead and prepare what you can in advance.
Choose healthier cooking methods. Steaming carrots and sprouts is ideal to keep in the vitamins and minerals. And when roasting potatoes and parsnips, try to keep them a golden colour; brown and crispy means acrylamides form which are harmful, carcinogenic substances. Avoid this by covering the dish in the oven. ‘Slow and low’ is always a good mantra!
Keep the alcohol levels reasonable. Most of us enjoy a tipple at Christmas but don’t forget the empty calories soon add up. A large glass of wine has around 200 calories. Could you minimise it by having a refreshing spritzer of white wine mixed with sparkling water and lemon? Keep up your water intake by having water in between glasses of wine too.
Remember what it’s all about! Christmas should be an enjoyable time to spend with family so keep the focus on this. Showing gratitude has been found to increase longevity. Be mindful, appreciate the food you are eating and the company you are in and you may find you naturally eat less. Ensuring you are in a relaxed state when you eat will also help you digest your food better, allowing your body to make the most of the nutrients.