How to have a healthy but still delicious Christmas

How to have a healthy but delicious December

Christmas! It’s almost here. The shelves are stocked with panettone, mince pies are EVERYWHERE and I may have already gone through a whole tin of Roses. And that was before the 1st December!

My eyes are sparkling with thoughts of yummy party food, pigs in blankets and Christmas morning Buck’s Fizz. But my bottom is quivering at the thought of the extra few pounds I stack on every year without fail. Yet this year I think we’ve all needed to turn to comfort food and the odd early Gin and Tonic to get us through the day (remember home schooling?). Now is not the time to dietand we all need a little indulgence, especially after the year we’ve had.

So how can we enjoy all the festive food without emerging the other side feeling a little bit sluggish, bloated and generally a bit podgier?! A bit of balance (a OneFitMama class anyone?) and some simple food swaps will mean you can still tuck into party food and enjoy the Christmas flavours without feeling like a stuffed turkey afterwards.

1. Crisps for olives

Stick a bowl of crisps on the table and they’re usually demolished in a few minutes. There’s just something about the salt and texture that keeps you going back for more. A large handful of crisps can contain as much as 8g of fat and very little nutritional goodness. If it’s a salty taste you’re after try swapping to a handful of olives. Whilst also high in fat (albeit oleic acid which has many health benefits), they are a great source of vitamin e, iron and calcium. Your skin and bones will love you for it!

Still want the crunch? Try swapping to lentil crisps or bean sticks to add a little fibre.

2. Sausage Rolls for Chicken Skewers

Ahhhhh party food! I genuinely get excited to see what new delights M&S or Aldi come up with each year. Mini Burgers, filo wrapped prawns, mac and cheese bites…..delicious! But put a few on your plate and you can soon rack up a good few hundred calories and still be left wanting the same again plus more. Not all party food is made equal. One arrancini bite can contain a whopping 3.7g of fat vs less than 0.5g in a yakatori chicken skewer. So try going for less deep fried, breaded or pastry based options and opt for simple chicken skewers, prawns and veg crudites with low fat dips.

3. Chutneys for grapes and celery

Cheese and biscuits is one of those Christmas traditions I indulge in every year without fail. In fact last year I had it nearly every day between Christmas and New Year. Well it did need eating; I needed the space in the fridge!

Cheese gets a bit of a bad rap when it comes to health; yes its high in fat (and sometimes salt) but it is also a great source of calcium and varieties such as goats cheese can be rich in vitamin D. Slice cheese thinly on top of your Jacobs biscuit rather than topping with a massive wedge; try lighter versions of your favourite to reduce the fat content but not flavour and try serving with grapes and celery rather than sugar loaded chutneys to improve the overall benefits of your cheese board.

4. Mince pie and brandy butter for gingerbread

I’ve only recently got into mince pies after years of thinking they had nuts in. And oh they are delicious! But those little pies can stack up a lot of fat and sugar in just a few bites. The average mince pie is around 250 calories, up to 9g of fat and 32g of sugar! Add on a dollop (25g) of brandy butter to it and you’re looking at an additional 11g of fat and 10g of sugar.

If it’s Christmas spice flavours you’re after swap, your normal mince pie for a mini version or better still, make your own at home using filo pastry for a lighter version. Or switch to a gingerbread man for around 179 calories and 4g of fat. But expect to share it with your little one!

5. Tins of chocolates for a little dark chocolate

Roses, Quality Street, Celebrations. Whatever your favourite selection they are simply irresistible! Once that tin is open its hard to not keep going back for more. We all know that confectionary is full of fat and sugar but if you really need that sweet fix, try swapping to dark chocolate. Typically lower in calories and fat thanks to the high cocoa and reduced sugar content, a couple of squares or dark chocolate will give you just the fix you need and give you some antioxidant benefits too. Just keep to 70% cocoa content or higher.

Or of course you could keep it to just one of your favourites out of the tin!

6. Gingerbread Latte for a Skinny Gingerbread Latte

Oooh I do love it when the Red Cups come out! Whatever your festive hot drink of choice, you can expect it to be pretty indulgent and very delicious! Most of the festive drinks on the Starbucks menu are around the 400 calorie mark and if topped with whipped cream, around 16g of fat! There are some easy ways of reducing that though whilst still getting the flavours; ditch the cream, swap full fat milk to skimmed, opt for less syrup or sugar free syrup and order your drink in a tall.

At home, try swapping a milky hot chocolate for a cacao latte. Pukka have brought out a delicious latte called Cacoa Maca Magic to make with your favourite milk (I use coconut milk). It has all the richness of a hot chocolate, spiced with cinnamon, ginger and maca and no added sugar. Mixed with 250ml of hot milk, this comes in at about 150 calories.

7. Eggnog for a Christmas Gin and Tonic

Christmas is undoubtedly going to look and feel a little different this year. But a lack of Christmas parties doesn’t always mean a lack of Christmas drinks as we try and get together with friends and family virtually. Is a family Zoom call even worth doing without a large glass of wine in your hand?

Alcohol undoubtedly contains a high number of calories, sometimes through sugar, sometimes through rich, added fats (Baileys anyone?). A few wise choices with your Christmas tipple can save you lots of “empty” calories. A classic, homemade eggnog can be as much as 340 calories and 10g fat (not dissimilar to a Mcdonalds milkshake!). A glass of Baileys isn’t quite so bad at 130 calories and 5.8g fat but that’s for a single shot. And when have you ever poured yourself a single?!

Swap it for a small glass of red wine for around 85 calories or a Christmas spiced gin and slimline tonic for 115 calories. That’s not to say don’t enjoy an eggnog or Baileys; it is Christmas after all. Just don’t drink several in a row if you’re trying not to overindulge.

I’m not going to talk about Christmas Dinner. If there is one meal you should really go all out for it is this one. And if you do end up over indulging over the festivities, do NOT feel guilty about it. If you generally have a balanced diet a few days (not weeks!) of eating everything in sight is not going to hurt. Enjoy it and celebrate; that tin of Quality Street will soon be finished and before you know it you’ll be back to eating less and into the rhythm of normal meals.

Now pass me a strawberry cream!

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