We Wish You A Lean Christmas And A Healthy New Year!

Continuing your healthy diet and fitness regime this Christmas does not mean you have to be boring or exclude yourself from all the fun! What it does mean is that you have to make a plan ahead of time in order to avoid the temptation of the calories surrounding you this Christmas day. Instead of suggesting that you eat a salad or soup for your main meal (where is the fun in that?) I am going to tell you how you can still snack and enjoy a roast dinner while stopping yourself piling on the pounds.

Remember:

- Making food from scratch means that you know exactly what is going into your meal and helps you to avoid unnecessary additives, preservatives and bad fats.

- Controlling your portions is key. Pile up your plate with vegetables and lean meat and allow yourself small amounts of ‘naughtier’ foods. Only make enough food for those at the dinner table to avoid seconds...and thirds...

- Plan ahead what you will be allowing yourself to eat and what is off limits. Shop accordingly so there is no temptation in the cupboards.

- If you are heading to a relatives or friends this Christmas offer to take along a dish so that you know there will at least be something healthy for you to eat. Also consider packing healthy snacks such as plain nuts or dried fruit so you can avoid digging into the dreaded chocolate boxes!

- Eat a healthy breakfast. Do not save yourself for the main event because you will end up ravenous and more likely to pile up your plate with naughty foods.

- Take your time eating the Christmas roast. It takes 20 minutes for your brain to register that you are full.

- Have fun, stay in control and know which foods belong on the naughty list and which belong on the nice list!Christmas-tree

The Naughty List

The Nice Alternatives

Butter basted & stuffed turkey

Skinless turkey

Roast potatoes

Dry roast/boiled/ mashed potato

Pigs in blankets

Oven cooked lean sausage/fat trimmed bacon

Yorkshire pudding

Small whole-wheat Yorkshire puddings

Sausage, sage and onion stuffing

Cranberry and chestnut stuffing

Gravy

Reduced animal fat and salt gravy

Butter soaked/ glazed vegetables

Plain steamed vegetables

Cranberry Sauce

Cranberries

-

Satsumas

Mince pies

Filo pastry open-top mince pies

Salted/roasted nuts

Raw nuts/ low-heat roasted nuts

Sweets/chocolate

Dark chocolate/dried fruit

Crisps

Plain popcorn/oatcakes

Beer

1 glass of red wine/Holsten Pils

Turkey is an excellent source of protein and is highly recommended by nutritionists for being a lean meat. The meat itself is low in saturated fats and contains tryptophan which is linked with promoting restful sleep. However, if you coat it in butter and stuff it with high fat sausage meat and other delights you will increase the overall calories and fat content by quite a substantial amount. Unlike chicken, turkey has a rich flavour which can be enjoyed by merely slow roasting the meat. Remove the skin and tuck into a few slices of lean mass promoting meat.

Roast potatoes are delicious, but they are also coated in fat! I would highly recommend replacing your normal potatoes with sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes are a complex carbohydrate as opposed to a simple, sugar-spike inducing carbohydrate which makes them a great side option to your turkey. Mashed sweet potato is delicious, but be sure not to add spoonfuls of butter to the mix or you will have completely missed the point of calorie reduction. If you feel the mash is too dry, add a dash of milk before mashing. You can also opt for dry roasted potatoes or boiled white potatoes if you want to keep the dinner more traditional.

Pigs in blankets are the delicious nemesis of the Christmas meal...so tiny, you can have a few and it counts as one sausage right? First of all, if you want to eat sausages make sure you choose ones which have a high percentage of meat in them. Cook the sausages in the oven or grill them and drain away the fat. If you want to have a slice of bacon with your sausage be sure to trim the fat and focus on the meat. Portion size is everything so only cook what you intend to eat – 1 or 2 per person is sufficient.

White flour is a nutritionally poor ingredient. Opting to use whole wheat flour is advantageous because it is high in dietary fibre and a source of vitamins too! If you decide to go ahead and eat Yorkshire puddings this Christmas, you should use an alternative to white flour when making them and definitely steer clear of ready-made options! Make small individual portions and allow yourself one. In all honesty though, if you want to eat lean steer clear of these completely.

The beauty of stuffing is that if you want to reduce calories and improve the nutritional content, it is very easy to do so! Again, this is a food I would allow only a small portion of or cut out altogether. Switch the sage and onion stuffing for cranberries and chestnuts. Cranberries and chestnuts are great sources of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals so the calories will be less wasted on them. The best way to reap the benefits of cranberries and chestnuts is to eat them in their raw state as a snack between meals. This will be extra helpful as it will help you to avoid junk snacks while being in-keeping with the Christmas themed treats. Satsumas are another great Christmas snack which won’t pile on the fat over Christmas. High in vitamin C and sweet to taste, they can help rid you of sugar cravings when the chocolate tin begins to look appealing.

What is a roast dinner without gravy? Well, dry mostly. Gravy is an enjoyable part of the roast dinner and luckily there are many alternatives to making a healthier option. The biggest issue with gravy isn’t the animal fat, it is the high salt content. A great alternative is chicken soup. It adds flavour to your meal without the massive calorie, fat and salt punch! To remove salt from the equation, flavour the gravy with pepper or garlic.

There is only one way to cook your vegetables and that is to steam them! Lock in the flavour and reduce the loss of vitamin and anti-oxidant goodness. The greener the vegetable, the less starchy they are. Brussel sprouts, green beans, broccoli and cabbage are excellent additions to the roast meal. Pile these onto your plate first alongside the turkey to avoid taking big portions of other foods at the dining table.

When it comes to snacking, the healthy alternatives on the nice list will be your saviour from the naughty junk food! They taste great but are far lower in calories, fat and sugar. Again, the focus should be on portion sizes. Try to avoid pouring snacks into large bowls and placing them around the room where you will grab a handful every time you pass the food and lose track of how much you have eaten. Set aside a separate bowl for yourself with a small handful of treats so that you can indulge in delicious food without gorging yourself on it. Let’s face it, the first few bites are the most enjoyable anyway!

It is acceptable to factor in a few drinks at Christmas, after all it is the season to be merry! What you don’t want to do is drink away 300kcal per drink and not account for it. The best alcoholic beverages to opt for are Holsten Pils or a glass of red wine. Holsten Pils is a low calorie (~170kcal per can) alternative to drinking regular beer. It is suitable for diabetics and is lower in starchy carbs which prevents a sugar spike post consumption. If you would prefer a glass of wine stick to red. It is a good source of antioxidants and has anti-inflammatory properties which link it with improving cardiovascular health, reducing LDL cholesterol, improving sleep and enhancing brain function (obviously in small quantities).

When it comes to training, you should adjust your schedule to allow yourself rest days which fit in with your Christmas plans. However, there are always options which can easily be integrated into the Christmas festivities. The sofa workout, new workout DVD’s (someone is bound to get one as a present), active games on wii/xbox, the 99 workout, competitive party games or walking off the roast dinner are all great options to keep yourself active even on rest days. Take advantage of the fact that the gym is closed on Christmas day and Boxing Day. Mixing up your training regime every once in a while is a great way to shock the muscles into progression, avoid plateaus and increase metabolism.

Enter the New Year being proud of staying on track with your health and fitness goals and you won’t have to make guilt-ridden New Year’s resolutions like everybody else!

About the Author

Job Role Sports Nutritionist and Social Media Coordinator Qualifications Bsc Sport and Exercise Science Steph has a competitive athletic background which spans 19 years. As a child she performed with the English Youth Ballet and had performed on the West End stage by the age of 10. Her enthusiasm for sport and fitness continued to grow as she did, encouraging her to learn more about nutrition and training. She began using her knowledge and personal experience to help others when she began coaching at the age of 16. From here, she went on to study Sport and Exercise Science at the University of Essex during which time she also received the Most Promising Newcomer Award from her University to mark her outstanding contribution to sport. During her first year of study she was introduced to partner stunt acrobatics and artistic gymnastics. After one year of dedicating herself to a lifestyle revolving around her sport, she was training with the best team in the UK who are currently ranked fifth in the world. Steph has worked in both the private and public sector coaching children and adults from grassroot to elite level as well as providing them with cutting edge advice on how to reach their goals. Steph has received awards for her choreography and has competed nationally and internationally meaning that she can back up her scientific knowledge with a wealth of experience. As our resident Sports Nutritionist, Steph is here to provide the most current and evidence based fitness, health and nutrition information to help you reach your health and fitness goals.
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