Most of us are familiar with the ‘Christmas bloat’. Parties, lunches and socialising, where we overindulge in the finer stuff we might normally skip, because “it’s Christmas.” But in comes the lethargy, the belt unbuckling an extra notch and the guilty feeling from overdoing it. It’s no wonder that the turn of the New Year brings so many resolutions aimed at getting back on track with a healthy lifestyle.
The good news is that by making some thoughtful nutritional choices throughout the festive season (and the build-up), you can avoid slipping off the wellbeing wagon. If you plan ahead, you can have a variety of healthy, tasty nibbles around the house that are packed with flavour and won’t make you feel like you’re missing out on the festive fun.
Even the traditional Christmas dinner can be tempered – it doesn't need to be laden with fat and overflowing with unhealthy calories to taste good.
The important thing to remember about Christmas eating is to forget about the 'all or nothing' approach.
“Trying to lose weight during this time can be a self-defeating goal for some of us. Instead, we should strive to maintain our weight. Depriving ourselves of foods we like at Christmas, or feeling guilty when we do enjoy them isn't part of a healthy eating strategy”, says Georgina Camfield, Associate Nutritionist at AXA PPP healthcare.
To achieve this, it’s best to balance party eating by choosing lower-calorie foods at other times of the day.
If you do treat yourself to the odd high-calorie, sugary or fatty food (and that’s totally okay!), try to eat a smaller portion, eat it slowly – and enjoy every bite!
What's in a Christmas dinner?
The traditional Christmas day meal is packed with hidden nutrients, providing us with a wealth of minerals and vitamins that contribute to good health. And with a few tweaks here and there, you can make it even healthier.
- Smoked salmon. This tasty treat is a low-calorie option offering a good source of protein and heart health-promoting omega-3 fats. Ideal as a starter.
- Roast turkey. Rich in protein and low in fat, especially if you discard the skin. Save leftovers for meals the next day and turn into a colourful salad or healthy curry.
- Potatoes. A delicious source of vitamin C and energy providing carbohydrates. If roasting, use olive oil or flaxseed oil rather than lard to cut saturated fat. Keep the skins on for added fibre. Also, if you cut them larger, they'll absorb less fat.
- Brussels sprouts. An average serving (9 sprouts) provides half of your daily needs for folic acid and all the vitamin C you need – a great boost for the immune system.
- Carrots. Rich in beta-carotene, which is converted to vitamin A in the body. This and the other carotenoids act as potentially disease-beating antioxidants and are also important for eye health. Serve them steamed or boiled, or as crudités before the main course.
- Peas. Popular with kids and a good source of iron, zinc, vitamin E, fibre, folic acid and most other B vitamins. Steam them in the minimum amount of water using a tight-fitting lid.
- Christmas pudding. The dried fruit provides plenty of potassium, and it's a reasonable provider of iron and fibre. If you're making your own, rely on the sweetness in the dried fruit rather than adding artificial sugar for a healthier take on a classic.
- Custard. A comforting and low-fat alternative to brandy butter, and a good source of calcium, which is vital for good bone health and muscle contractions. Choose skimmed or semi-skimmed milk.
- Satsumas. Each of these handy stocking fillers provides half your daily needs for vitamin C. Try as a healthy snack in between meals when you feel peckish.
- Walnuts. The powerhouse of nuts. These delights are packed full of healthy fats and nutrients that promote better heart health and reducing inflammation.
When it's all over and you think about your New Year's Resolutions, try not to include 'give up', 'never eat' and other negative decisions. Instead, make positive resolutions that you can keep: learn to choose healthier food options that nourish your body, go for smaller portions, strive to achieve five portions of fruit and veg a day, and include more physical activity in your daily routine.
For some fantastic healthy alternatives to the usual Christmas favourites, why not give these recipes a try?
- Alternative fruity mince pie fillings
- Bubble squeak cakes
- Chickpea and roasted vegetable stew
- Coronation turkey
- Glazed ham three ways
- Green bean salad with cranberries
- Roasted caulifower cheese
Georgina Camfield, Registered Associate Nutritionist (ANutr), AXA PPP healthcare.