If you find it hard to resist an open tin of Quality Street on Christmas Day without grabbing a soft centre, or if it’s impossible to pass the turkey leftovers without picking at them, you’re very much in danger of entering 2016 older and wider.
But unlike the unwanted gift that you can return in the New Year, the spare tyre you give yourself for Christmas will not be so easily exchanged. And while we all advocate a little seasonal indulgence, if you approach the food fest with caution you can easily keep the calorie intake low while festivities are high.
Just follow these simple tips in our Ultimate Guide to Healthy Christmas Eating.
Start Christmas Day with a Big Breakfast
Don’t kick off the day with chocolates from the tree. Instead, before the festivities begin, have a hearty and healthy breakfast. A good old fashioned bowl of porridge is about the best option. If you make it with water and flavour it with fruit it will be tasty, low in fat, filling and slow to release energy. Boiled or poached eggs are also great; they’re high in protein so keep you feeling fuller for longer too.
And because you won’t feel hungry for the remainder of the morning, you won’t be as tempted to snack.
Picture a Pie Chart on your Plate
When you’re serving your food for the big Christmas lunch, get the proportions on your plate right.
Here’s a guide:
1/3 Steamed veg such as Brussel sprouts, carrots and peas
1/3 Starchy food like roasted potatoes and parsnips
1/9 Protein, this is your turkey portion, just the lovely lean meat, not the fat-laden skin
1/9 Dairy products, the cauliflower cheese or white sauce
1/9 Sugary foods, your cranberry sauce
0/9 salt, it may already be added to some of the above and is best avoided in favour of other flavours
A full, but not over-filled plate is a good mix of all the essential food groups. And if you want to make it healthier still, cut back on the sugary and starchy foodstuffs and increase the steamed vegetables.
Christmas is not about food or gifts, it’s about getting together with friends and family so when you sit down to dine it’s the focal point of the day.
Take your time to enjoy this period and pace yourself as you eat. Intersperse mouthfuls with cracker-pulling, joke-telling and parlour game playing to extend the duration of dining.
Remember, it takes 20 minutes for the stomach to properly register food and begin to send signals to the brain that you’ve had your fill. If you wolf down your turkey in under that time frame you’ll most likely eat more than you need.
Mix Your Drinks – with Water!
Unless you’re driving on the day, the chances are you’re going to enjoy a seasonal tipple. But alcohol, as well as being laden with calories and devoid of any nutrient, is a dehydrator.
So, match every alcoholic drink with an equivalent amount of water. It will ensure you pace yourself nicely through the day, it will fill you up and so inhibit snacking and it will also mean you’re more likely to enjoy a clear head on Boxing Day.
And if you’re not drinking, do likewise with tea and coffee as the caffeine will dehydrate you too.
With so many parties and so much shopping to do this time of year, the chances are that by Christmas that you’ve let your usual exercise regime slip. While turning up for the turkey in a tracksuit will not go down well with the host, there’s no reason why you can’t get some exercise on the day of excess.
A post-lunch walk with family is a great way to sidestep the snack bowl, burn a few calories, aid digestion and bond with long-lost cousins.
If there’s a games console at the host’s house, challenge everyone to a game that requires physical movement like Just Dance or bowling.
And if, for example, someone you know has got a brand-new shiny bike for Christmas and you’re able to transport your own to the venue, then take the new wheels for a spin round the block!
Play the Reverse Drinking Game
If you’re attending your Christmas celebration with a loved one and you both want to watch your weight, keep score of each other’s intake of food and drink as the day progresses. Start with 100 points each and deduct for naughties like chocolates and booze but add for goodies like steamed veg and water.
Decide on a prize in advance like ‘no dishes to wash in January’ and award it to the winner at the end of the day.
Remember it’s only One Day of the Year
Above all else enjoy yourself. If that means slipping the odd treat into your mouth as the day unfolds then don’t be too wrapped up with guilt. We all have naughty days and if you’ve been nice for 364 days of the year we’re sure Santa won’t be striking you off his list.
If you manage to do most of what we’re suggesting you’ll probably have a healthier day than you otherwise would, so give yourself a pat on the back, pour yourself a glass of water and sit down to enjoy the movie!