10 tips for a healthy Christmas

Spinneys’ nutritionist Freda Molamphy explains how to enjoy the feasts and festivities without overdoing it

Christmas is the time for celebration (and indulgence, if we’re honest). But if you are trying to follow a healthy eating and exercise routine – or have specific issues that require you to monitor your diet – Christmas need not be the time to overdo it. Here are a few things to bear in mind this festive season:

  1. Enjoy everything in moderation. For example, don’t indulge in mince pies, Christmas cake and pudding for dessert – choose one and really enjoy it.
  2. If you’re having a large meal at lunchtime or dinner, you don’t necessarily need a large breakfast. Think smoked salmon with scrambled eggs, a delicious piece of seasonal fruit and something sparkling to drink.
  3. Eat from a smaller plate (and don’t fill it). This will help you monitor portion size.
  4. Try to avoid having too much stuffing, gravy and bread sauce, cream, flavoured butters and roasted potatoes with your festive meal. Instead focus on vegetables and roasted meats.
  5. Allow yourself a small portion of dessert – a small fruit meringue or sorbet would be a good choice.
  6. If you are having a cheeseboard, have only your very favourites and in small amounts, with a water biscuit rather than bread.
  7. Eat slowly and try to have a break between courses to allow the food to digest.
  8. Drink plenty of water throughout the day.
  9. If canapés and nibbles are presented, steer clear of salted nuts and snacks, deep fried foods, rich pastries, crispy coated and battered items and choose one or two lighter options only.
  10. Try to get some exercise. As the weather has cooled down, now’s the perfect time for a long walk with the dog, a swim or a cycle. Why not get some friends together to do something active on Christmas morning?

If you happen to be hosting this year here are a few tricks that will help you keep calories, fat and salt under control:

  • Don’t automatically add butter and salt to vegetables. Offer them separately and allow guests to season to taste. Traditional Brussels sprouts, carrots and parsnips all make for good high-fibre, vitamin-rich additions to your meal.
  • Skim as much of the fat as possible from your gravy. You can use a special fat separator or, as a handy trick, drop some ice cubes into the gravy – the fat will automatically stick to the ice and once your fish the cubes out, a lot of the fat will also be removed. Simply reheat before serving.
  • Remove poultry skin before serving. Lean turkey meat is nutritious but the skin is high in fat.
  • While potatoes roasted in duck or goose fat are delicious, it is far better to roast them after coating with olive oil. Sweet potatoes make for a great low GI alternative, too.
  • If soup is on the menu, why not choose a lighter option this year? A chilled gazpacho is always a winner. Serve in small cups with a sprinkling of freshly chopped herbs.
  • Ideal starters include a prawn salad with a fruity dressing, smoked salmon with low fat crème fraîche or a grilled halloumi salad.
  • While there’s rarely an easy way around the indulgence of dessert, you could offer guests a refreshing muddled berry juice to end the meal on a light and bright note.