However you’re choosing to spend this Christmas to keep your loved ones safe during this pandemic year, there is no denying that food and drink still plays a major part in the holiday season.
Are you planning to spend it alone but still want to treat yourself for your Christmas meal? Or are you going to be within your Christmas bubble and planning to go all out with the meal to make up for having to still have safety precautions in place? Maybe you and your partner are planning on abandoning tradition and just ordering a takeaway?
Christmas is a time to treat yourself and your loved ones. But did you know that studies have shown the average person gains 1kg in weight over the festive period? While there is of course no shame in enjoying the odd indulgence over the next few weeks, just remember, everything in moderation.
Here are my top tips for keeping on top of your nutrition while still having a festive time.
Keep hydrated. We often confuse hunger with thirst, particularly if there are lots of nice foods on offer. Make sure you drink a glass of water 20-30 minutes before a meal. This will make you feel fuller and stop you overindulging while you eat.
Make time for physical activity. After Christmas dinner, when we all feel like having a nap on the sofa why don’t you wrap up warm and head out for a walk? If you’re with others, get the whole group to don their wellies and head outside. And if you’re spending Christmas alone, maybe you could arrange to meet a friend for a walk? Being active helps reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, obesity, stroke, high blood pressure and some cancers, as well as burning off the calories of Christmas.
Watch your red meat intake. Turkey is a lean meat and contains lots of protein, which our bodies use for growth and repair. Try to enjoy it without the skin, as the skin contains lots of saturated fat. And if you’re partial to pigs in blankets, try not to have too many. Maybe swap your third one for a parsnip or roast potato.
The benefits of the veggie option. Nut roasts are also a great protein source and provide a meat-free alternative. We should try to have lots of different protein sources in our diet to ensure we get all 20 different amino acids in our diet. Nuts also contain monounsaturated fat, which can help promote our “good” cholesterol levels and in turn help with heart health.
Aim for your five a day. Just because it’s Christmas doesn’t mean you need to forget about your fruit and veg intake. Fruit and veg contain lots of different vitamins and minerals, are a good source of fibre and help to keep our digestive system working as it should. Clementines are in season at this time of year and are a great healthy snack, and if possible, try to have skin on your vegetables, as this will help improve the fibre content even further. Add nutritional options to mealtimes. If possible, try to serve a variety of veg with your Christmas dinner and make sure you pile your plate with extra veg. Brussel sprouts may not be everyone’s favourite, but they are a really good source of fibre and vitamin C. Why not add some nutmeg to them, to make them extra tasty? Getting the cheeseboard out? Include grapes alongside your finest choices.
Mind your salt. It is recommended that we should be eating no more than 6g of salt a day. Too much salt in our diet can raise our blood pressure, which can leave us at risk to heart disease or strokes. Salt is often found in pre-packaged foods and ready meals, so always check the label. Crisps and salted nuts are often a go-to snack at Christmas time but why not swap for fruit and a handful of unsalted nuts to help cut that extra salt out of your diet. Another good rule to follow is to either use salt in the cooking and preparing of your meals or to have salt on the table to add to your plate, but not both!
Keep on top of those portion sizes. At Christmas we tend to over fill our plates. The British Nutrition Foundation report that we can eat “up to a staggering 6000 calories” on Christmas day. It is recommended that the average person should have between 2000-2500 calories a day, so that means we may eat more than double, almost three times the recommendation. Be picky with your seconds. Box up any leftovers and save them for Boxing Day rather than picking at them for the rest of the day.
Try to avoid snacking. We know Christmas is all about passing round the Chocolate box and just when you thought you couldn’t possibly fit in any more, you manage to force down another slice of Christmas cake. But listen to your body. If you’re full, don’t just snack for the sake of it. Keeping your eating to mealtimes is a good way to moderate how much you’re eating over the festive season.
Watch your alcohol intake. At Christmas many of us may enjoy a tipple of our favourite drink. But make sure you know what your limits are (and also understand how alcohol may have an impact on your emotions or mood.) Remember to keep hydrated, aim to have one alcoholic drink followed by one soft drink (water is best), as this will help reduce a sore head the next day.
Pick healthier drinks. While we’re on the subject of drinking, many alcoholic drinks tend to have a high sugar content and so in turn are high in calories. If you still want to enjoy a tipple, sparkling wines are a great alternative, as a 125ml glass of prosecco tends to have around 85 calories whereas a pint of beer has around 200calories. Spirits also are lower calorie alternatives but be aware of what mixer you are adding to them as they often contain lots of sugar. Remember, moderation is key.
Finally, remember to enjoy your day and the food and drink you choose. Despite the limitations in place, Christmas is a truly special time of year and should be enjoyed however you choose to. There is no need to treat ourselves, the key is to try and avoid repeatedly overindulging and maintaining a healthy balance. And don’t worry, we’ll be here in the New Year full of helpful wellbeing advice to get you back on track and lead a healthy lifestyle.
In the meantime, feel free to browse our health and wellbeing library.