Christmas Nutrition: How to feast healthily on the big day

6 min read

By Jennifer Bulcock

  • Christmas is coming, are you getting fat?
  • What the heck, it's Christmas!
  • Nutrition consultant and Mum of 3, Jennifer Bulcock, explains how to maintain control over the festive season, leading to a healthy happy new year.
The Best Christmas Dinner Ever

If we look at how Christmas has evolved, it has become the tradition to consume highly calorific, rich foods, during the cold dark winter months.

But the days of a traditional Victorian Christmas - which may be romanticised in the movies - were incredibly challenging times.

Mostly, people struggled to eat enough, and many worked in highly laboured, physical jobs.

Today, many of us cannot afford these extra calories, without it influencing our waistlines or our health.

We lead less physically active lifestyles, and have access to hyperpalatable, highly calorific foods, year round.

After the typical weight gain during the Summer from alcohol, BBQ’s and all-inclusive holidays, we’re hit with another reason to indulge: Halloween. With buckets of candy and buckets of excuses.

Then comes bonfire night, with parkin and toffee, or if you’re in the states, there’s Thanksgiving. We move into Advent, and the Christmas build up, giving ourselves more justification to let it all go.

We never truly get back on track. January hits and rather than gaining a few pounds, it can be more like a stone, or even two!

Based on 1 or 2lbs weight loss a week, it could take until March to lose the extra weight. Just in time for Easter egg chocolate binge perhaps?

The point I’m trying to make is, whether it be Christmas, Easter, Summer Holidays, Halloween, birthdays, anniversaries, or the Saturday night takeaway, we can always find justification for excessive food consumption - to appease the guilt associated with over indulgence.

Once you’ve had one or two days of overindulgence, it’s pretty easy to throw the towel in and continue the binge throughout the whole of December. Making it even harder to gain control.

Christmas is the same as any other time of year: eat in moderation and true balance.  Food, on its own, should not be the reward. Rather, an embellishment to the moments you are lucky enough to enjoy, during this time of year.

What can we do during the festive season, to offset any damage? Click on through and find out...

christmas nutrition
The Best Christmas Dinner Ever

1 - Beware of feeders.

I’m sure every family has one. My lovely Great Auntie Gladys who made glorious sweet treats. It seemed to bring her great pleasure witnessing everyone enjoying generous servings, despite only eating a measly portion herself.

“Ah, go on – just one won’t hurt”

It felt hard to say no.

We shouldn’t have to say no.

But, Is this excessive? Can you afford it? Is it worth the extra calories?

You may not have to be so blunt as to say “no”. Perhaps have a smaller portion, or just a mini taster. But take back control of your own choices from the Christmas feeders.

2 - Know your calories.

Weight gain or weight loss will always boil down to energy in vs energy out. If you know how many calories you can typically eat each day without gaining weight, this will give you a useful starting point to gauge how much you can afford to consume.

Knowing that the chocolate rum truffle’s single mouthful amounts to over 200 calories, may help you decide whether to eat the whole packet or stick to a more reserved serving.

Don’t save up calories to give yourself a binge. When you don’t eat enough to satisfy, your hunger hormones rise, and your tummy starts to rumble.

Then when the ‘green light’ is lit to eat, this can result in an all-out binge, to quickly satisfy the overwhelming sensation of hunger, leading to an overconsumption of energy dense foods, that provide little in the way of nutrition or satiety.

Christmas Nutrition

3 - Pick Protein

Turkey, chicken, eggs, or animal free versions such as pulses, and tofu etc. Protein is the most satiating nutrient, so the more protein you eat, the fuller you will be. The fuller you are, the less likely you are to binge!

4 – Eat your greens

Skipping your veggies to make room for treats or pudding is daft. In fact, if you’re going to be eating that mince pie with brandy butter no matter what, it may well be better to eat both.

The health benefits of eating your veggies, due to the micronutrients and fibre, will outweigh any small calorie savings by skipping them altogether. Plus, veggies are calorie efficient – meaning you get more volume of food, helping to fill your belly, which may help to prevent overconsumption.

Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without Brussels Sprouts.

Christmas Nutrition

5 - Go easy on the booze

Alcohol provides zero nutritional benefits. But during the festive period, its becomes quite a regular occurrence. And why not? We should be able to enjoy a few drinks over Christmas.

But what is appropriate and when does it become too much?

Calories in alcohol still count. As the human body cannot store alcohol, (like other nutrients such as protein, carbs and fats), it must burn off the energy from the alcohol first. Meaning you’re more likely to store any other calories you’ve consumed as fat, rather than burn them off.

Booze also lowers our inhibitions, meaning after that second or third glass of mulled wine, one or two rum truffles turns into the whole box. Before we know it, we’ve consumed an extra 500-1000 calories, all because we had a little bit too much alcohol, and went with the motto, “screw it, it’s Christmas!”

6 – Water

Yeah, water is important. We all know this.

But, by drinking a large glass of this magical liquid before we eat, may help reduce the how much we eat overall. Plus, being optimally hydrated will lead to feeling less bloated or sluggish. (And the visit to the porcelain throne will be a smooth experience.)

Christmas Nutrition

7 - Set a routine to be active

During the dark winter months, it can be difficult to feel motivated to get up early for a workout or even in the dark evenings. This, in part, is what can lead to the depressive feelings many people struggle with during January.

Setting a small window daily to be active and sticking to it will not only help you to burn more calories, but support your mental wellbeing, keeping you feeling positive and energised.

It could be as little as a 15-minute circuit done in the living room. You could even download a free pedometer app and track your steps.

An average daily step count of less than 10,000 a day is considered sedentary. Check your steps and see where your average step count falls. Can you find ways to increase this?

You could make it into a fun family event for the week – whoever get the most steps by the end of each week gets to choose the Sunday afternoon Christmas movie?

Had a little bit of overindulgence? STOP - Put on your shoes and get out for a brisk family walk. It’ll help to burn off the extra calories and support your mindset.

8 -  Have Fun!

Christmas is a time to relax and enjoy time with the family. Diet and lifestyle shouldn’t negatively dominate our thoughts. Find the magic in the moments spent with family; the joy of searching for signs of Christmas outdoors, maybe a starlit walk to look for Santa on Christmas eve.

Maybe find a local nature trail and find out how you can help look after winter creatures in your own garden over winter.

Christmas is worth so much more than food.

When it comes to the New year, you may well find you have the drive and determination to look at permanently improving your overall habits and your lifestyle.

From a mindset point of view, this can be a great time to begin lifestyle changes. If you are ready to start this journey, find out more about my Fat Loss Foundation – Habit fix, starting January 2017.

Christmas Nutrition



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