This Christmas, leave the upsizing to the goose
Christmas will evoke a whole range of emotions and responses, but one thing many of us will be united on around the festive season is the wish to feast. Is it an excuse? Is it peer pressure? You decide, but what matters is finding non anti-social ways to avoid starting the New Year half a stone heavier (you know those summer holiday adverts are only a Santa’s whisker away), without leaving yourself miserable.
Even before we get onto roast spuds, mulled wine and all the nibbles be it sweet or savory things may have already started to go down a slippery slope, at the same rate the temperature has dropped? Maybe you are thinking, I can cover up with layers? But remember, summer always follows winter (thank goodness) and there are Christmas/New Year parties in-between. So do not make it harder for yourself by getting out of shape now. Stick to the same food shopping list at this time of year as you did in the hotter months, you did not need tins of chocolate then so you do not need them now. If you do not buy chocolates, crisps, pastries you will not have it in to eat. Or if you do have non healthy food for the occasional treat make sure it is kept in an out of sight way, so it is not always tempting you. Try keeping healthy snacks (all prepared) at eye line in your fridge, alongside a jug of water with lemon in – all this will help you not need to worry about losing the winter weight in spring.
Maybe you can hear your grans voice in your head telling you that you need to eat more to stay warm? That may have applied once upon a time, but with central heating, cars and temperature controlled offices most of us actually spend very little time in the cold. The feeling is just a feeling and not a physiological reality. Staying active is the critical thing, not only will help keep weight off, it will also improve circulation keeping you warmer and you will get the same feel good feeling you get from some food, but without the guilt. Plus burn a few extra calories by exercising outside in the cold making your body work harder to heat up, rather than stuffy air conditioned gym.
Perhaps it is comfort food that you crave? We tend to associate winter with feeling tired. This does not have to be the case, for much of this can be brought on by staying in and blobbing out and it is the inactivity that can actually be making us tired! Avoid the sugary and fatty foods you may feel drawn to, such as cakes and mince pies and instead go for low GI options that will keep you fuller for more often and won’t lead to the same energy highs and dips. Introducing snacks which are a mix of carbohydrate and protein would be ideal if there is going to be long period without food which means your blood sugar is likely to be dropping, which can also lead to eating bigger portions or reaching for the first thing when you do eat earlier. Snacks can include yoghurt or fromage frais, nuts (handful), seeds (handful), Rye bread with Ricotta, wholegrain crispbread with guacamole, peanut butter with vegetable dips, salsa with carrot batons.
Or are you making justifications to yourself, such as eating that chocolate will cheer up my day? When it is miserable outside, we often feel miserable inside and use food or wine to try and make us feel better. Start recognising when you are eating because you bored, tired or miserable. Find other things to make you happy, like doing an activity, phoning a friend and acknowledging things that are going well.
Now you have the armory on how to deal with winter wobbles, let’s move onto the serious matters of parties, drinks and Christmas dinner.
Party food & treats
• When going shopping stick to going up the vegetable aisle, and down the meat aisle (or go to the green grocers and butchers) and stick to whole foods rather that processed food. On the whole, real food does not come in boxes and does not contain ingredients that you cannot read.
Make your own dips using natural yoghurt or fromage frais. Add a variety of seasonings such as lemon juice, black pepper, fresh herbs and spices. Meanwhile, serve them with vegetable crudités rather than crisps or tortilla chips.
• Replace pretzels with homemade popcorn – in a pan in 7 minutes, plus it counts as wholegrain
• Finely slice some root vegetables, or kale and roast in a single layer with a drizzle of olive oil and have your own healthy crisps including fiber.
• If mince pies are a must, have a go at making your own mince pies using filo pastry instead of shortcrust, puff or flaky. It’s lower in calories and fat than the other varieties – plus you’ll use less of it. Or i you don’t fancy experimenting with filo pastry, simply make mince tarts instead of pies. Leaving off the pastry top will save around 40 calories and 3g fat.
• So you do not over eat portions of nuts buy nuts in their shells such as walnuts, Brazil nuts and hazelnuts. You’ll be less likely to overindulge if you have to use a nutcracker every time.
• If you can’t resist a piece of Christmas cake, remove the icing and marzipan and just enjoy the fruit cake. You’ll save 60 calories and 1.5g fat.
• Swap your boxes of chocolates for sweet in-season satsumas and clemontimes. Both these fruits are packed with vitamin C, are virtually fat free and contain just 20 calories each.
• Or make your own chocolate orange using just 4 ingredients (cacao powder, cacao butter, oranges and maple syrup – see http://thelittlegreenspoon.com/ for more details)
• Remember alcohol is sugar, and like all sugar full of empty calories. Plus if you over indulge in alcohol you are more likely to make poor food choices the next day, so the excess in calories increases and you are more likely to move less with a sore head.
• Adding soda or diet lemonade to white wine can it last twice as long and half the calories. If you can’t bear to dilute it, opt for a dry white or red wine as these contain fewer calories than sweeter wines. Watch the glass size/amount served too as that can make a huge difference. Or swap to a glass of bubbly. In general you drink less as it’s served in smaller glasses and the bubbles can help fill you up.
• Beware of alcopops – they’re loaded with calories and little else. And because they don’t taste very alcoholic it’s easy to drink large amounts of them. There are a few reduced-sugar alcopops on the market so look out for these – but remember, they are still high in alcohol.
• Most measures of spirits poured at home will be larger than those served in bars and pubs with the result that your drink will probably contain twice as many calories. If you’re going to do a lot of entertaining at home, it’s worth investing in a spirits measure so that you can measure out your favorite tipple. Or at least pour spirits into the glass before adding ice or mixers, so you can see just how much alcohol you have added. Some places serve spirits in double measures (50ml) as the standard with the result that you get double the calories, or they may serve 35ml measures of spirits rather than 25ml measures.
• Mix spirits with low-cal mixers such as diet cola, diet lemonade, slimline tonic or slimline bitter lemon.
• Steer clear of beer, lager and cider as they’re loaded with calories. And the higher the alcohol content, the more calories they contain. For example, a pint of standard beer contains around 160 calories, whereas a bottle of strong lager can contain anywhere between 120-200 calories. Ciders served in a pint glass with ice can contain more than 200 calories per pint.
• Choose cocktails with care. Aim to avoid anything that’s made with cream, coconut milk or syrupy juices – they’re packed with calories. And remember that the more shots a cocktail contains, the higher its calorie value will be. Where possible, ask for diet mixers to be used and remember to sip slowly!
• Avoid creamy liqueurs after dinner and instead have a single shot of brandy if you really fancy ending your meal in style. Most cream based liqueurs contain around 80-100 calories per 25ml measure compared with 50 calories in a brandy.
• Turkey is a great healthy option as it is packed with protein, which helps fill you up, and provides many other nutrients including zinc, a mineral that keeps the immune system in tip-top shape. Turkey tends to be lower in fat and calories than many other meats, especially if you go for the breast.
• Don’t smother the turkey with oil, butter, margarine or lard when you cook it. Instead try using some spray oil, or cooking in the oven with the meat sat above water. Remember, just 1tbsp oil contains 100 calories and 11g fat.
• Before tucking into your meal, remove the skin from the turkey. Just 15g contains a massive 70 calories and 6g fat – and it’s gone in a mouthful!
• Pile your plate high with traditional seasonal vegetables such as red cabbage, carrots, Brussels sprouts, swede and cauliflower. The more colours you have on your plate, the greater the variety of nutrients. You’ll retain more vitamins and minerals, too, if you steam vegetables rather than boiling them.
• Use less fat to roast potatoes and parsnips. Parboil them first, then brush lightly with oil rather than pouring straight from the bottle. Pop them into the oven and you should have delicious, crispy roast potatoes that aren’t loaded with oil. Keep them in large pieces, too, as this reduces the amount of fat they absorb.
• If you’re going to use the meat juices to make the gravy, drain off any fat first.
• Make your own stuffing with chopped chestnuts, which contain just 2.7g fat per 100g. It’s a better option than sausage meat, which provides around 32g fat per 100g! To keep the fat content down further, use a spray oil to fry onion if you plan to use it in stuffing.
• Use good quality sausages and lean back bacon to make the sausage and bacon rolls that are traditionally served with turkey. Or wrap small bits of prosciutto around leaks or sprouts for a similar but lower calorie option.
• Beware of all the extras such as cranberry sauce, bread pudding and white sauce. They add calories but little else – allow 25 calories for 1tsp cranberry sauce, 40 calories for an average serving of bread sauce made with semi-skimmed milk and 20 calories for 1tbsp white sauce made with semi-skimmed milk.
• If you can’t resist the Christmas pudding, have just a small serving. An average 100g portion contains a massive 330 calories and 11.8g fat. And choose your pudding partner carefully. Surprisingly, custard contains more calories than cream or brandy butter, even if you make it with skimmed milk! Bottom line: you might be better off opting for a dollop of cream if you can limit yourself to just one tablespoon.
• It might be tempting to nibble while you’re preparing meals for family and friends. But it’s all too easy to work your way through almost as many calories as the meal itself. Avoid the temptation by keeping your mouth busy with a piece of sugar-free chewing gum.
• Use leftover turkey to make turkey soup or stir-fry.
[some of these tips have been taken from http://www.weightlossresources.co.uk/ ]