On average, we gain 5lbs of weight over the four-week festive period. What with drinks, dinners and socials all leading up to the biggest meal of the year, it’s easy to see how we consume an extra 500 calories per day – with Christmas day itself weighing in at a whopping 6,000 calories (three times the recommended daily amount for women and 2.4 times that of men). Here, Champneys senior nutritionist, Becki Douglas, gives us her ways of beating the bulge this Christmas day.
Get off to a strong start
Rather than having something heavy such as a ham terrine or a starter containing cheese, choose a light option – melon, vegetable soup or smoked salmon are just some ideas. Not only will these be healthier choices – with the smoked salmon a rich source of omega 3 healthy fats that are vital for your overall health – but they will also leave you with more room for the main event.
The main event
Don’t worry – I’m not going to tell you to swap out the festive feast for a kale smoothie or protein balls, because Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without turkey. In fact, the white meat of the bird is actually a great source of low-fat protein and B-Vitamins, which help to support energy production and liver function. Pricking the skin when cooking will let the fat run out, and roasting it on a trivet will mean the bird isn’t sat cooking in its own fat while it’s in the oven. Finally, you can save around 50 calories per serving by removing the turkey’s skin before eating, with most of the fat found there.
Swap the stuffing
Instead of a processed stuffing such as sausage meat, choose something more nutritious – a chestnut or fruit-based version will not only contain a lot less saturated fat and salt, but they also complement the turkey really well too. If making your stuffing from scratch, bulk it out with oats or oatmeal – these are high in fibre, and are shown to help lower cholesterol and release energy slowly.
Source your sauce differently
Shop-bought sauces can be full of sugar, so if you can and you’ve got time, it’s best to make your own. Cranberry sauce is great with turkey and a homemade batch will be lower in additives than those bought in a super market. The small red berries are also rich in Vitamin C and antioxidants.
Also, no Christmas dinner is complete without gravy, which can be made low fat with one easy trick. If making your sauce from the roasted turkey’s juices, pour them into a jug. Once a layer of fat has risen to the surface, spoon it off, and use the rest of the liquid to make your gravy. Thicken it up with low calorie vegetable stock.
Keep the vegetables healthy
Despite being packed full of vitamins and minerals, veggies can start to become pretty unhealthy around Christmas time. Whether they’re roasted or doused in butter (with just one teaspoon adding 40 calories), potatoes’, carrots’ and Brussels sprouts’ nutritious benefits can soon start to be outweighed by damaging factors. Instead of boiling vegetables, steaming the likes of carrots, cabbage and broccoli will help them retain their nutrients, texture and colour.
There is a healthier way of roasting vegetables too, which won’t affect their taste either. Rather than chopping your potatoes or parsnips into really small pieces, leave them quite large and they will absorb less fat during roasting because they have a smaller total surface area.
And so to dessert
If you’ve still got room for dessert after all of that – remember, you shouldn’t force a sweet down just for the sake of it – then there are a variety of healthy choices you can make. Christmas pudding itself provides some fibre, B vitamins and potassium, and is also fairly low in fat until you add cream or brandy butter. Keep it nutritious, lower the calories and boost your calcium intake by combining with low fat custard made with skimmed milk. Alternatively, you can rustle up a seasonal fruit salad or a homemade fresh fruit jelly and keep the calories in check by switching out cream for low fat natural yoghurt instead.
If you round off your Christmas lunch by reaching for the cheese board, opt for lower fat cheeses such as Edam rather than Cheddar. Also, for a less fattening vehicle for your cheese, accompany it with grapes, celery or apple, instead of biscuits.
No Christmas Day is complete without a second round of turkey. For a healthy Christmas supper, use wholegrain bread to make turkey sandwiches, and bulk them up with salad and pickles rather than cheese, crisps and high fat coleslaw.
Finally, instead of racing to finish the tub of Quality Street while watching TV, there are other things you can snack on that are both tasty and good for you (in moderation of course). A mix of dried fruit and raw, unsalted nuts are high in fibre and minerals, helping to ease any indigestion you may be suffering from. But if you just want something sweet, go for high percent cocoa dark chocolate. It is higher in antioxidants, doesn’t contain fattening milk and tastes so rich and intense that you won’t (hopefully) want to eat too much.
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