Are you full of Christmas spirit? What about Christmas chocolate and mince pies? ShortList’s Ben Isaacs tells you how to minimise the festive damage
For many of us, the festive period is more about the food and drink than the presents. Big portions, rich desserts, fine cheeses, gallons of port. But will all the unavoidable saturated fat and excess calories ruin your Christmas? Nutrition consultant Alice Mackintosh admits that even if you wanted to treat the holidays like a normal time of year, it would be impossible. But, with her tips, you can ensure your new year fitness regime isn’t the harrowing slog it normally is. And it’s not all about what you put in your body – the now popular Christmas Day run has gone from being an activity purely for smug obsessives to being a way for the average gym-goer to enjoy his festive feasting even more, while also ensuring his shirts will still fit on New Year’s Eve. Don’t get left behind…
Use freshly squeezed orange juice to make Bucks Fizz rather than juice from concentrate. The vitamin C levels are higher in fresh juice.
Go for a brisk walk before Christmas dinner. Exercise improves our sensitivity to insulin, reducing the tendency of our bodies to take sugar in the blood and store it as fat.
Use leftover turkey in salads and sandwiches. The meat contains tryptophan – the precursor to melatonin, our sleep hormone. Try to combine it with carbohydrates to aid absorption into the blood stream.
Have scrambled eggs and smoked salmon on Christmas morning. Eggs are a great source of amino acid cysteine that reduces levels of hangover toxins. Plus, protein and omega fats from salmon keep your blood sugar levels balanced, reducing the chance of getting a headache.
Consider getting a supply of Napiers Hangover Hotchpotch (Napiers.net/hangover-hotchpotch) ready. It contains herbs such as milk thistle to support the liver, and ginger to stimulate appetite. Perfect after the office Christmas party.
Opt for mince pies and desserts made from filo pastry – it is thinner and lower in calories.
Buy your turkey from a butcher supplied by local farms, and go organic. Birds that have been fed better grain and are free to roam have leaner, more nutrient-rich meat.
Sleep in late on Boxing Day. It’s supposed to be a holiday, after all. Recharging batteries helps nourish the adrenal glands, which prevent burnout.
Overcook sprouts. It’s easy to put people off, and they are full of folic acid and other liver-supporting nutrients such as indole-3 carbonyl. Overcooking also reduces nutrient value.
Just have chocolate for breakfast – there is time for that later. Setting the day up with a nutritious breakfast helps prevent energy dips later. For something sweet, drink a morning smoothie.
Eat overcooked roast potatoes. If they are too dark and crunchy they could contain harmful free radicals.
Opt only for deep-fried canapés. If you see sushi and smoked salmon, go for them. They tend to have fewer of the trans fats that have been shown to contribute to high cholesterol.
Choose pork sausages. Instead, pick up venison ones. They are leaner and have more flavour. Cook on a wire rack so the fat drains off rather than the sausages swimming in it.
Buy dips made with cream or cream cheese. Go for vegetable-based dips, such as salsa or guacamole, or mix chopped herbs into low-fat yoghurt. They have more nutrients and less saturated fat.
Forget dinner if you’re going to a work do, or you’ll end up having a kebab on the way home and feeling worse the next day.
Lose all sense of portion control – remember, it is just a roast dinner. Give your digestion a break and stop when you’re full.
Use plain table salt for cooking. Sprinkle sea salt instead. It has more flavour so you don’t need as much and is richer in minerals such as iodine.
Stress – there’s enough of that. Take a deep breath and shake it off.
Mackintosh is a nutrition consultant at The Food Doctor, 13 Harley St, W1; thefooddoctor.com