Eat, drink and be healthy

Nutrition consultant JOY SKIPPER presents her tips for a happier, healthier Christmas...

It’s that time of year again, when you will start to over-indulge and then regret it two weeks later, when your clothes are feeling a little tighter than normal!

Over the Christmas period, around 175 million mince pies are bought (this does not account for the home-made ones), and if they were stacked on top of each other they would stretch 3,262 miles – 600 times higher than Everest!

On average people consume 6000-7000 calories, more than three times the recommended daily allowance, on Christmas Day alone, and gain around 2kg (5 lbs) over the Christmas period.

But you don’t have to be one of them.

Christmas is also a time for stress levels to rise and this can be very bad for blood sugar balance, tempting you to eat all the things you know you shouldn’t.

There are a number of ways you can remain healthy over the holiday period without missing out on a good time and some great food.

Never shop when you are hungry.

Always take a list and stick to it.

Do not over-buy! The shops will be open again in a few days, you are not going to run out of anything – don’t panic!

Stock up on unsalted nuts and seeds (pumpkin, sunflower etc) instead of salted nuts.

Serve vegetable crudités with dips rather than heavy pastry-based canapés.

Make some great tasting non-alcoholic cocktails for a change – i.e. Virgin Marys, and for a treat (and extra zinc) add a raw oyster.

Drink wine spritzers instead of wine (half wine, half soda water).

Alternate alcoholic drinks with a glass of water to help reduce your alcohol intake (and stop you feeling so dehydrated the next day).

The benefits of red wine diminish after two glasses, so don’t kid yourself!

Christmas lunch
– plan for size: nobody wants to be eating turkey for the next two weeks! Turkey is rich in protein and full of B vitamins, but remove the skin to cut down on fat.

Stuffing – make a nut-based rather than sausage-meat based stuffing – chestnuts are full of potassium and low in fat so a great base for a tasty stuffing.

Roast potatoes – cut your potatoes into larger chunks to absorb less fat, or use half sweet potatoes, which are full of antioxidants. Swapping roast for baked potatoes would be even healthier.

Vegetables – include lots of veggies with lunch, preferably steamed ones to help fill everyone up with some great vitamins and fibre.

Christmas pudding – very high in sugar so swap the brandy butter for some natural yoghurt instead.

Make your own mince pies using filo pastry instead of shortcrust, and substitute some of the mincemeat with some dried cherries or cranberries and flaked almonds, to cut down on sugar and fat. Try our delicious recipe to make your own!

Just remember that your digestive system does not change just because it’s the festive season, so give it a helping hand by; eating a good breakfast each day, keeping your blood sugar balanced by eating little and often, eating good protein at each meal and snack, and not over-doing the stimulants (alcohol, coffee etc).

And if you need a good pick-me-up on boxing day, a great way to start the day is with a good breakfast and a vegetable juice that will help to support your liver -ready to face another day!

Joy Skipper is a nutrition consultant based in west London.

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