December 2019

How to have a healthier Christmas this December

The festive season is all about enjoying time with friends and family, eating, drinking and being merry! Weeks of indulgent eating between office parties, Christmas day, through to new year celebrations can be a challenging time to eat well. Media reports suggest that we can eat in excess of 6000kcals (25104kJ) on Christmas day – the equivalent of 3 days’ worth of calories for a woman and over 2 days’ worth of food for a man! The table below offers some insight into how the calories can mount up:

We all know that feeling where on January the 1st, you step on the scales and almost jump off in horror… so here are some helpful swaps and tips you can use to help make your festive season that little bit healthier.

Healthy Christmas dinner:

Turkey

  • Before cooking the turkey, prick the skin to allow the fat to run out. Also, cook the bird on a wire rack so that it is not sitting in fat all the time.
  • Turkey skin is where most of the fat is, so by removing this before eating, you can reduce saturated fat and calories from your meat. If you just can’t resist crispy skin, give yourself a small portion to control how much you eat.
  • Turkey contains 2 different types of meat – light and dark. Light meat is usually the turkey breast, whereas dark meat would be the thigh portion. Light meat contains fewer calories – so maybe think about purchasing a turkey crown this year?

Stuffing

  • – Instead of making stuffing with sausage meat, try a vegetable-based stuffing mixture instead, this will help to cut down the calories as well as the saturated fat.

Roast Potatoes

  • By first part-boiling the potatoes, less oil will be absorbed but you will still get that fluffy in the middle, crispy texture you’re after. 
  • Brush potatoes with vegetable oil instead of using goose fat or lard and flavour with seasonings (e.g. salt, pepper, cumin, rosemary etc). This will not only reduce the amount of oil you eat but make your roasties super tasty.

Vegetables

  • Pile up your plate! Vegetables are easy to fill up on, contain hardly any calories and are a super nutrient-dense food. Try to include a variety or veg and steam instead of boil to lock in all of those nutrients.

Gravy

  • Gravy is usually pretty high in salt and the best way to reduce this is to make your own. Try using turkey stock with some of the turkey dripping to add a salty, umami flavour to your gravy. 
  • To reduce the fat in your gravy, poor the turkey juices into a jug and wait for the fat to rise to the surface. Now carefully spoon off the fat and use the remaining juices to make gravy.

Dessert

  • Firstly … Don’t eat until you are stuffed! Your stomach takes up to 20 mins to digest what you are eating, so eat slowly with breaks and you’ll most likely end up saving yourself those excess calories. 
  • Wait until after dinner to see if you really need that dessert or cheese board – maybe wait and have it as your afternoon snack instead?
  • But if you just can’t wait, try to have a light fruit salad – it will be nice and refreshing after a heavy meal!

If you love food too much – maybe try to burn off those calories instead, after all Christmas is a time of indulgence! Here are some festive activities to help boost your metabolism.

Festive activities

One of the best things about not eating all of your Christmas dinner, is leftovers! As well as being super delicious, turkey has loads of health benefits!

Niacin is a B vitamin that can increase your HDL (‘good’) cholesterol which in turn will help to combat body fat. Turkey is a rich source of protein, which enables muscle growth and repair. Also, it is a good source of iron, zinc, potassium and phosphorus. These nutrients help to increase red blood cell levels and in turn, help to keep the body warm during winter and safeguard you from sickness.

Some people believe that tryptophan (an amino acid) in turkey is what makes us tired after Christmas dinner. Tryptophan assists in the production of serotonin, and in turn, serotonin can make us feel relaxed – hence the sleepy association. However, the likelihood of tryptophan having this effect is most likely outweighed by the feelings of tiredness induced by over indulging and drinking. So maybe try saving some of that delicious turkey for another nutritious meal over the festive period.