Christmas is well known for being a time to indulge and why not? However, it’s very easy to get carried away and overindulge. We have a few little tips to help you still enjoy all the festivities of the season but with a few tweaks, which your health and waistline will thank you for in the New Year.
Here are 1Life’s top tips for a healthier Christmas.
- Get active
We know it’s tempting to put your feet up after enjoying your Christmas day lunch but to burn off some of those extra calories and to aid digestion why not encourage the family to get out for a long walk in the fresh air? Likewise, if the family have received new outdoor gifts such as bikes, scooters or footballs why not test them out and get the whole family involved? Or even better, fit in some exercise in the morning to work up an appetite for your Christmas dinner. You will feel far less sluggish and won’t feel as guilty about enjoying an extra mince pie. The more activity the better we say!
Here’s an idea of the activity you need to do to burn off some Christmas favourites:
- Mince pie – 20 minute run
- Glass of mulled wine – 30 minute walk
- Small pig in blanket – 10 minute run
- Bag of chocolate coins – hour long weight-lifting session
- Go easy on the alcohol
There are endless opportunities to enjoy a few tipples over the festive season but these alcohol units soon add up, and so do the extra calories. Try to keep a tab on how much you are drinking and have plenty of water to help with hydration. Lower calorie drinks include spirits with low calorie mixers, such as gin and slimline tonic.
- Don’t overeat
It is believed that the average person consumes a whopping 3,000 calories during Christmas dinner, which is more than the recommended daily calorie intake for a man. It’s no surprise then that Christmas dinner can contribute to weight gain, heartburn and indigestion, as well as leaving you feeling lethargic for the rest of the day. All of this spells bad news for getting active in the afternoon. Why not try having a ‘normal’ size meal, letting this settle for 20 minutes and if you are still hungry having some more. You’ll probably find that you have had plenty and will feel so much better for not overindulging.
- Choose wisely
Christmas dinner can be a perfectly healthy meal if you make some sensible food choices. For example, turkey is the star of Christmas dinner but it is also a fantastically healthy, lean protein making it an excellent food choice. Load your plate up with plenty of vegetables and you are looking at a balanced, healthy meal. However, watch out for the extras which significantly bump up the calorie content as well as the saturated fat, such as pigs in blankets, stuffing balls, gravy and even roast potatoes. Most of these are high in salt too which can spell bad news for your blood pressure. When it comes to pudding try swapping calorie laden brandy butter for low fat crème fraiche.
- Fresh fruit and veg
Let’s be honest, chocolate and cheese become another of the main food groups over Christmas, with most of us having just the odd satsuma over the festive period. However with the party season in full swing which means late nights and overindulging, it’s more important than ever to get the vitamins and minerals your body needs to stay healthy. Fill up the fruit bowl and keep it handy so there is no excuse to avoid a healthy snack and don’t forget to load up on fresh veg with your meals. Not only will your waistline thank you for it but it will also help to keep those pesky seasonal colds away.
- Healthy Christmas snacks
Christmas is certainly a time for snacking, everywhere you turn they are readily available, whether it’s a box of chocolates or a bowl of crisps. The best option is to have the willpower to turn these down and try to stick to a schedule with your normal meals. If the temptation is too much though, try to opt for sensible food choices such as unsalted nuts rather than crisps, breadsticks instead of cheese straws and dried fruit rather than chocolate for a sweet fix.
Christmas is all about enjoying yourself and with some careful thought as to what and how much you are eating, drinking and exercising, you can do just that!
Here are a couple of healthier alternative recipes for Christmas classics…..
175g (6oz) butternut squash, peeled and diced
175g (6oz) brown basmati rice
Reduced salt stock
2 tsp olive oil
2 medium onions, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
125g (4oz) chestnut mushrooms, roughly chopped
Handful fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 fresh sage leaf, finely chopped or pinch dried
1 small egg yolk
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
- Put the squash and rice in a saucepan and cover with reduced salt stock. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes until both rice and squash are just tender. Drain well.
- Meanwhile, heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat and cook the onions, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes until soft and golden.
- Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Turn up the heat, add the mushrooms and cook, stirring for 3-4 minutes until softened. Remove from the heat.
- Add the rice and squash to the onions along with the parsley, sage, egg yolk, lemon zest and juice. Mix well, leave to cool then chill completely before using.
- Use the stuffing to roast inside the turkey in the traditional way. Alternatively, spoon into a lightly oiled ovenproof dish and bake at 190C, 170C fan oven, gas 5 for 25-30 minutes, cover with foil half way through cooking.
Healthier mince pies:
1 tart eating apple, such as Cox or Braeburn, peeled, cored and cut into small dice
1 pear, peeled, cored and cut into small dice
50g (1 ¾ oz) mixed dried fruit
50g (1 ¾ oz) dried blueberries
Finely grated zest and juice of ½ a large orange
2 tsp mixed spice
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
Small piece fresh root ginger, finely grated, optional
3 sheets filo pastry, about 140g (5oz)
1 small egg yolk, beaten with a splash of cold water
¼ tsp icing sugar
- Heat the oven to 180C / 160C fan / gas mark 4. Put the apple, pear and dried fruits in a small saucepan with the orange zest, juice, spices and ginger, if using. Stir over a medium heat for 5-7 minutes or until the fresh fruit begins to soften at the edges and most of the liquid has evaporated. Leave to cool.
- Lay the filo sheets on top of each other. Cut in half then cut each half into quarters. This will give 24 pieces of pastry in total, see Cooks tip. Keep the filo pastry covered with a clean tea towel to prevent it from drying out.
- Using a deep, non-stick, 6-hole muffin tin, lightly wipe out each hole with oiled kitchen paper. Line each one with two pieces of the filo pastry.
- Spoon the cooled fruit mixture into each muffin tin and press another two pieces of pastry on top. Brush all over with the beaten egg and bake for 10 minutes until golden.
- Take the tin from the oven. The pies will be quite firm to move by now. Using a small knife, loosen the pies from their tins and turn over to expose the base. Brush the bases with the beaten egg and return the pies to the oven (base upwards) for a further 5 minutes until crisp and golden.
- Cool on a wire rack and dust lightly with the icing sugar.