Watching what you eat is probably not at the top of your list at Christmas. But if you’re training for an event or you're focused on a health goal, there is a middle ground between indulging and missing out.
The basic Christmas dinner of turkey and plenty of vegetables is actually a healthy meal, it's all the extras we add to the plate and throughout the day that add up.
Watch your sugar intake
Limit how much sugar is consumed throughout the day by keeping tabs on the sweets, biscuits, chocolates, cakes and mince pies you're having. Try keeping the bowls of temptation out of easy reach, or even in another room to prevent mindless munching.
Balance your Christmas day dinner
When it comes to the main meal of the day, think about how you balance your plate. As a quick rule, aim to fill a little over half the plate with non-starchy vegetables, a quarter of the plate with protein, and slightly less than a quarter with carbohydrates like potatoes and stuffing.
Turkey is a great source of nutrients
Turkey is a leaner meat and higher in protein than duck or goose. Turkey is full of zinc, which is an important vitamin for keeping your immune system strong. It's also high in tryptophan - an essential amino acid that's been reported to improve quality of sleep. This may explain why so many of us go for a nap after our Christmas dinner.
If in doubt, eat more sprouts
A great way to bulk out a Christmas dinner is by swapping some of the ‘bad fats’ you find in meats or rich sauces for more vegetables. Brussel sprouts are the much-maligned hero of the Christmas dinner. They’re a great source of fibre and vitamins C and K. If you're not a sprout-lover, try kale, broccoli or peas instead.
Cook with a quality oil
The fat we use in cooking is also important. Try using just a light spray or drizzle of a quality oil such as extra virgin olive oil, or just a dab of coconut oil.
Make a healthy homemade gravy
Gravy is an essential part of the Christmas meal, but this doesn’t have to compromise either health or calories. Pour the juices from the roast meat into a saucepan and skim off the fat that comes to the top. To the remaining stock add some water from cooking the vegetables to obtain the desired volume of gravy. To thicken, you can either blend in onion and carrot that have been cooked with the meat, or sprinkle in some brown rice flour, stirring thoroughly to avoid any lumps. This beats shop-bought gravy granules any day!
A few extra calories on Christmas day isn't going to derail your progress. It's a highlight of the year for many people, so the main thing is to enjoy your food and not feel guilty.
Last updated Monday 23 December 2019
First published on Friday 20 November 2015