If you’re following our weight-loss Plan or just watching your weight and being careful about what you eat, Christmas can be a very challenging time of the year. The average person in the UK eats as many as 3,000 additional calories on Christmas Day alone! When the days are shorter, the evenings longer and the weather is getting really cold, you want to reach for warming comfort foods, not nibble a salad. And it’s party time, of course, when we get together with family, friends and work colleagues to eat, drink and be merry.
With a little bit of help and some practical advice from the experts at Cambridge Weight Plan, there’s no need to worry about piling on the pounds. You can go ahead and enjoy the festive season without missing out on your favourite traditional foods. Here’s how…
- Plan your Christmas meals well in advance and only buy what you need. We all over-estimate how much we’ll eat and drink and end up with too much.
- Do your shopping for grocery items and store cupboard ingredients as early as possible in December to avoid last-minute impulse purchases, which can be laden with sugar and fat.
- Better still, make a shopping list and shop online so you aren’t tempted to pop unhealthy foods into your trolley as you move up and down the supermarket aisles.
- Check the labels carefully when you are buying ready-made festive foods. Many are now available in healthier lower-calorie versions.
- If you have to buy cakes, chocolates and nuts for your family, don’t do it too early or you may end up eating them long before Christmas arrives. Buy them a day or two before Christmas.
- When you’re preparing Christmas lunch, follow the usual Cambridge guidelines. Use spray oil rather than a big glug of olive oil or butter for roasting the turkey and vegetables.
- Steam or boil carrots and green vegetables and serve them fresh and sprinkled with herbs rather than smothered in melted butter.
- Make your own cranberry sauce with fresh berries, orange juice and sweetener or minimal sugar.
- You can make great stuffings with really lean low-fat pork sausage meat, taken out of the sausage casings and mixed with diced onion, garlic, herbs and spices. Or mix some cooked quinoa or brown rice with diced vegetables and herbs, and bind together with some beaten egg.
- Instead of serving brandy butter, pouring or whipped cream with cakes and desserts, try using 0% fat Greek yoghurt, reduced-fat crème fraiche or light low-fat ice cream. If you insist on cream, use a reduced-fat aerosol.
- Cheesecake tastes just as good made with extra light soft cheese. Add it to dips too, mixed with 0% fat Greek yoghurt and flavoured with herbs.
- Instead of a cheese board or chocolates at the end of a meal serve a bowl of clementines, lychees, kumquats, physalis and other festive fruits. Or you can prepare a colourful platter of sliced oranges, pears, apples, melon, grapes, etc.
- If you’re making mince pies, use filo pastry brushed with egg white, not melted butter. Fill them with mincemeat and leave uncovered or just put a small filo star on top. Dust really lightly with icing sugar.
- Remember to cut any visible fat off cold ham and beef, and remove the skin from turkey and chicken.
- Before the party, eat something light and healthy that fits into your Cambridge Plan to fill you up in advance. You’ll be less hungry when you arrive.
- Instead of tasting all the filo and pastry wrapped canapés circulating at drinks parties, opt for healthier dips with raw vegetable dippers.
- If there’s a buffet, choose lean fish and meat, vegetables and salads rather than creamy or mayo-type dishes.
- Just fill one plate, preferably not too large, and slowly eat the food on it rather than going back for more.
- Most Christmas desserts contain far more calories and fat than you think, especially trifle, pavlova, cheesecake and Christmas pudding. It’s Christmas and you don’t want to go without and feel you’re missing out on all the goodies, so just have a small slice or moderate portion and stop at one. Don’t go back for second helpings.
Diet and lifestyle tips
- Stick with your usual portion sizes – don’t eat more ‘just because it’s Christmas’.
- Balance your food throughout the day. If you’re going to eat a big dinner later, have a light lunch and vice versa.
- Be vigilant and look out for ‘empty calories’ in drinks, snacks, sauces, bakery items, etc. They soon add up.
- Go easy on nuts – they are high in vegetable oil and calories. If you really cannot resist them, always buy shell-on ones and crack them open yourself. This is time consuming and you’ll be less likely to eat so many. Don’t buy shelled cashews and peanuts, etc.
- Try to stay fit and use your time off work to get out for a walk, go to the gym, have a cycle or some fun dancing. If you do eat a little more than usual, you need to burn off those excess calories.
- It’s Christmas so go ahead and treat yourself to a drink but make it a long white wine spritzer rather than a sugary cocktail. If you really want a glass of straight up white wine, choose a dry not a sweet, one.
- Always choose low-calorie, slimline mixers.
- If you’re not drinking alcohol, it’s best to avoid fruit juices and sugary soft drinks. Sparkling mineral water is always refreshing or go for a diet Coke or Pepsi.
- The aroma of mulled wine can be irresistible but it’s often laced with sugar, fruit and sweet spirits, so don’t over-indulge.
And if, despite all your best endeavours, you still end up putting on a few pounds or you plateau and don’t continue losing weight at your normal rate, don’t despair. As soon as the holidays are over and you’re back at work or your normal routine you’ll soon get back on track. Talk to your Consultant who’ll be pleased to help you.