Few of us enter into the New Year without feeling the effects of consuming those extra calories over Christmas, and with the average person consuming as many as 6,000 calories on Christmas day alone, it’s easy to see how you could gain as much as 5lbs during the festive season. Festive gatherings with family, friends and co-workers leaves us with little time or motivation for regular exercise and a balanced diet in the lead up to Christmas, but adopting a proactive approach to weight management can help you storm into 2014 without the extra inch of Christmas padding.
Danone Nutritionist Kellie O’Connor explains, “Christmas is the one time of year when we really tend to over-indulge in large quantities of unhealthy foods that are high in saturated fat and sugar. Many people have a tendency to pile on the pounds over the Christmas period and it can take a few months to shed that extra weight. We don’t have to sacrifice all our favourite foods at Christmas but simply incorporating certain key nutrient dense foods in our diet, such as dairy products, fruit and vegetables, can help us to manage our weight and leave us feeling healthy and happy entering 2014.”
Embrace the festive season with these 7 healthy eating tips:
1- Avoid skipping meals. To avoid overindulging, try not to skip meals. If you do, you may eat to excess, and your digestion will be a bit more difficult. Try to have fewer large meals, choosing instead regular small, nutritious meals.
2- Drink plenty of water. Water is crucial for keeping your body in good working order. Drinking 8-10 glasses of water every day will help to keep you hydrated, and may also help you to reduce your alcohol intake if you alternate between drinking water and alcohol. On Christmas day, add a couple of attractive bottles of water to your table to encourage your guests to hydrate properly!
3- Get active! Although regular exercise can be the last thing on your mind in the cold winter months, it’s a must for anyone proactively managing their weight over Christmas. Take advantage of all those family gatherings and days off work by going for brisk and sociable walks.
4- Don’t go to a party hungry. Eat something light before going to a party to reduce your chances of snacking on high calorie party food.
5- Avoid high-fat snacks. Including nutritious and low-fat snacks in your diet can help you avoid those sneaky few pounds piling on. Fat-free yoghurts such as Danone Vitalinea are a good snacking option, as they are low in calories, and provide a source of calcium, vitamin D and protein, and are quick and easy to consume.
6- Slow down. During meals, take the time to set your utensils down between each bite and chew well. By taking more than 20 minutes to eat, you allow satiety signals to reach the brain to let you know that you are no longer hungry.
7- Eat a rainbow. Include plenty of colourful fruit and vegetables with your main meals, and enjoy fruit for breakfast and snacks. It’s a good idea to make up a fruit salad to keep in the fridge as a go-to for when you’re tempted to snack on not-so-healthy foods.
Here are some delicious and healthy recipes that you could consider using over the Christmas period and beyond:
1. SMOKED SALMON SPREAD
“This recipe is perfect for any social gathering at Christmas time!”
- · 125g natural yoghurt such as Danone Activia
- · 200g smoked salmon
- · 1 tsp sweet chilli sauce
- · 2 chopped spring onions
- · Freshly ground black pepper
- · Juice of ½ lemon
Blend all the ingredients together in a food processor. Refrigerate for 2 hours before serving. Serve with vegetable sticks such as peppers, carrots or celery, or on small slices of brown soda bread.
Nutrition information per serving: 91 calories, 14.3g protein, 2.6g fat. Source of calcium & omega-3 fats.
2. Spiced Apple Cake
‘A delicious healthier alternative to Christmas pudding’
Makes 10 servings
- · 300g Bramley apples (weight after peeling and coring), chopped into ½ inch (1 cm) cubes
- · 100g butter
- · 275g wholemeal flour
- · 1.5 tbsp baking powder
- · ½ tsp salt
- · 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- · 1 tsp ground nutmeg
- · 2 large eggs at room temperature
- · 75g golden caster sugar
- · 125g natural yoghurt e.g. Danone Activia
- · 50ml low-fat milk
1. Grease an 8 inch (20cm) round loose-based cake tin, and line the base with greaseproof paper.
2. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over a low heat.
3. Sift the dry ingredients twice into a large bowl (this helps the cake to be light and airy).
4. In another large mixing bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar, yoghurt and milk together, pour the melted butter into the egg mixture and whisk again.
5. Sift the flour mixture again straight in on top of the egg mixture and fold it in using as few folds as possible.
6. The mixture will look quite runny and lumpy but don’t worry – this is normal. Don’t be tempted to overmix.
7. Now fold in the chopped apple and pour the mixture into the tin, levelling off the surface.
8. Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for about 1 hour or 1¼ hours, until it feels springy in the centre.
9. Allow the cake to cool in the tin for 30 minutes before removing the sides, then gently slide a palette knife under the base and transfer the cake to a wire rack to finish cooling.
10. Serve warm as a dessert with reduced fat crème fraîche or natural yoghurt.
Nutrition information per serving: 225 calories, 6g protein, 10.5g fat, 12g sugar, 3g fibre.
 Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute Fact Sheet
2 The British Dietetic Association