This year Christmas is even more special after the eventful year we have had. We definitely deserve a good celebration with good food and a few treats, however let’s not forget the hard work that we’ve put in all year.
The good news is that it’s possible to enjoy some of the wonderful things that Christmas has to offer without going into the new year with regrets after eating too many chocolates or minced pies. If we can get into the mindset of ‘everything in moderation’ but also opting for healthier alternatives when possible, we will definitely get off to a good start.
Here Laurann O’Reilly, a qualified nutritionist and owner of Nutrition by Laurann provides us with some practical nutrition tips on how we can have both a healthy and happy Christmas.
1) Write your shopping list
I know this can be hard as there are so many tempting treats products on the shelves right now, but having a list will help prevent impulse buying and can save you some money too. Another reason for your shopping list is so that you can carefully plan what food products and ingredients that you need, these can include your treats but be realistic about what foods you want to have in the cupboard, as it is there that the temptation will lie.
Tip: When writing your shopping list consider the number of people in your household, plan out your meals and work out how much food you realistically need, including the treats.
2) Eating out at Christmas
With the restaurants being back open, many of us may be meeting friends and family for long awaited Christmas meals and catch ups. When choosing a restaurant or a meal from the menu try find the healthiest dish. You can look at how the food is cooked opting for oven cooked, grilled, poached or boiled foods over fried foods, for instance boiled rice instead of fried rice or chips. It may be an idea to have a small low sugar snack before arriving to avoid overeating the rich restaurant food. It's also best to avoid the temptation of additional breads and the hidden calories in sauces which accompany many meals.
Tip: It can be helpful research restaurants if you are making the booking or if you are invited as a guest you can also look up many of the menus online.
3) Watch the portion sizes
Here in Ireland we are renowned for our huge portion sizes and many of us have lost all concept of what a true portion size should be, I call this ‘portion distortion’. With our Christmas dinner probably being our biggest feast of the year, we can often get a little carried away and push our tummies past their limits. However, it is possible to enjoy our lovely Christmas meal without rolling out of our seats afterwards by simply watching our portion sizes.
Tip: A portion of protein i.e. turkey and/or ham should be the size of the palm of your hand or a deck of cards (1/4 of your plate), a portion of carbohydrate i.e. potatoes should be the size of your fist (1/4 of your plate) and vegetables are 2 fists (the remaining half of your plate)
4) Slow down
With many of us leading extremely busy lives we have gotten into the habit of eating our meals too quickly. If we make a conscious effort to slow down, we can avoid overeating and that ‘food coma’ feeling. It’s particularly important to slow down when having complex meals like our Christmas dinner in order to give our bodies a chance to digest our food properly, as well as allowing our bodies to register that we’re full. It’s Christmas so why rush a good thing.
Tip: It may be a good idea to avoid eating all of your food in one sitting. Instead you can try to spread out your courses, which will allow you to savour each dish, especially after all of the effort put into them.
5) Watch the liquid calories
We often forget to account for the drinks that we consume and only see solid food as sources of energy and sugar. What many of us don’t realise is that juices, soft drinks and alcohol are often high in ‘liquid calories’ which can be easily consumed but also easily stored. To give you a picture of how this works, 500 extra calories per day can result in a 2lb/week weight gain.
If we then consider the energy content of some drinks we can begin to understand how the liquid calories sneak in. For example, 1 can of a full sugar cola is 149 calories or fizzy orange 138 calories.
When it comes to alcohol (although different brands and types can vary in calories) we’re looking at approximately 125 calories for 150ml glass of red wine, 121 calories for a 150ml glass of white wine, 244 calories for 1 pint of 5% lager, 210 calories for 1 pint of 4.5% cider and 1 shot of spirits (gin/vodka) before a mixer is around 97 calories.
If we think about how many drinks we may have in one day or often in a few hours, you can see these extra calories really can begin to add up.
Tip: Try plain/fruit infused water or no added sugar diluted drinks instead of soft drinks and be mindful of how much alcohol you consume
6) If consuming alcohol
- Have a good meal: This may be an obvious one but it’s always wise to have a good meal prior to drinking as not alone will it line your stomach but it will slow the absorption of alcohol in your body
- Activated Charcoal: Activated charcoal tablets if taken before you have your first drink can help to absorb the toxins from your alcohol and help to prevent a potentially sore head. These can be purchased in some pharmacies and health stores.
- Stay Hydrated: Why not alternate your drinks with water or a low calorie soda between each drink, this allows you to pace yourself whilst keeping you hydrated. Not alone will it help prevent a sore head the next morning it will ensure you can enjoy your holidays without missing out on the fun stuff. Also, be sure to have a big glass of water before going to bed
- Milk Thistle: This is an amazing herbal remedy and liver cleanser, which is great at preventing and treating a sore head if you’ve had a few drinks or after over indulging in food. Best taken in liquid form (20 drops in a little amount of water before bedtime and first thing when you wake up)
- Smoothies – If you have had a couple of drinks the night before, having a fruit based smoothie will not alone help to repair some of the damage but it also provides you with a healthy form of sugar to restore your blood sugar levels.
*If consuming alcohol, please drink responsibly
A healthy Christmas snack recipe
No bake strawberry & almond bites
This is such an easy and delicious recipe with a beautiful combination of strawberry, almond and coconut.
Enjoy as a healthy snack or treat.
Servings: 12 Bites
1 cup pitted dates, roughly chopped
4 medium strawberries, sliced
¾ cup almonds, finely chopped
½ cup oats
½ cup desiccated coconut
1) Add all ingredients except the desiccated coconut in a blender and blend until you get a thick paste like consistency (leave some almond chunks if you wish)
2) Remove from blender, and roll into balls using your hands
3) Dip in the bowl of desiccated coconut to coat them and enjoy!
Note: Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days in the fridge.
About Laurann: Laurann O’Reilly is qualified and experienced Nutritionist with a BSc. Degree in Human Nutrition from University of Nottingham and a Master’s in Public Health Nutrition from University College Dublin. She has over 10 years of experience including working community and clinical care, research, personalised nutrition consultations (dealing in healthy eating, weight loss, digestive health and sports nutrition), teaching and developing nutrition courses at FETEC level, nutrition education talks and workshops (corporate wellness, schools, sports teams, public and private talks), previous food manager of the Coeliac Society of Ireland and is part of the roll out team for the Healthy Ireland Smart Start health promotion programme for pre-schools.
For further information see www.nutritionbylaurann.ie or contact Laurann at firstname.lastname@example.org