How to feast on Christmas turkey and trimmings and still keep trim

by Emma Nolan
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Did you know…. On Christmas Day people can eat and drink their way through up to 6,000 calories – that’s up to three times what we need in an average day.

When it comes to Christmas, most of us expect to gain at least a few extra pounds and hope to shed them in the New Year, but for those seriously trying to lose weight or maintain weight loss, Christmas can be a trying time.
So, the people at the Irish Nutrition and Dietetics Institute, have put together some tips to help you through the festive season.

Don’t starve yourself
Over Christmas it’s better to aim to keep weight steady than to try to actively lose it. There is nothing like avoiding every bit of party food to bring on the urge to give up the whole diet and splurge.
Have a little of what you fancy. Pick one or two parties over Christmas where you can indulge – but keep it to just one or two – and remember Christmas Day counts as one!

Choose wisely
Between work and family many of us have more than one party to go to and, at this time of year, the food tends towards the high fat and stodgy or the sugary and sweet. Start by having some of the lower calorie options – salads, fruit and bread before you head for the sausage rolls and mince pies.

Be careful what you buy
Christmas is a great excuse to fill up the shopping trolley with tins of biscuits and boxes of sweets but who is going to end up eating them?
If you are only having guests over for one day at Christmas, buy just what you need for that day.
You don’t need to stockpile goodies ‘just in case’. You could also buy healthier nibbles such as satsumas and other seasonal fruits such as mango, unsalted nuts or chestnuts as they are the only low fat nut, reduced fat crisps, popcorn or pretzels, dried fruit such as dates, figs or apricots, bread sticks with tomato salsa or low-fat yoghurt dips.

Plan Ahead
As most of us are very busy during December, we may be tempted to opt for take-aways and junk food. Having some standbys in the house can help.
Beans on toast is a quick, nutritious meal or try stocking the freezer with cartons of fresh soups.
If you are cooking dishes such as stews or casseroles, make some extra and freeze it and you don’t have to worry about cooking when you come in from a busy day.

On Christmas Day
For starters, try melon, other fresh fruits or smoked salmon. Homemade soup can be a warming low-calorie starter, try adding some seasonal butternut squash.
Top with low fat creme fraiche and some fresh parsley rather than cream.
Turkey meat is good, however avoid the skin as this is high in fat.

When roasting potatoes leave them whole rather than cutting them small as the smaller they are the more fat they will absorb. Roast separately from the turkey to cut out the animal fat.
Fill up on plenty of vegetables but avoid adding butter or rich sauces. Steam your vegetables rather than boil to hold on to those valuable vitamins and minerals.

Gravy is a must for turkey but allow the juices to settle so you can skim off all fat before making.
Use low fat custard or creme fraiche instead of cream or brandy butter with pudding.
Try a fruit compote by stewing your favourite berries with plums and apples with a pinch of cinnamon.
When you feel full, stop eating!

Christmas Cheer
We do more drinking at Christmas that at any other time of the year and alcohol is a big problem if trying to keep your weight stable.
Not only does it contain calories itself (one pint of beer has around 200 calories) it also leads to low blood sugar, which makes you feel hungrier.

Try to have a glass of water for every second drink. This will not only reduce the calories, but will also help the hangover. Mixing wine with mineral water is another way to cut back on calories. If you have a lot of parties to go to, try not to drink at all of them and bringing the car with you has the added benefit of not having to queue for taxis!

Entertaining at home
Appetisers don’t always have to be crisps and sausage rolls. Raw vegetables like carrots, celery and cauliflower chopped and served with dips such as salsa are tasty and low in calories, as are olives with thin slices of French bread.

Have fruit-based desserts such as apple crumble and frozen yoghurt available as well as ice cream to go with it. If you are having traditional desserts like Christmas pudding, go for custard made with low-fat milk rather than cream.
You are unlikely to be the only person watching your weight – your friends may thank you for thinking of lower calorie options.

Get some
Most of us have a few days off over Christmas, which makes it a great time to get some exercise. Doing some extra walking or sessions at the gym will help to balance out the extra food you’re eating. Walking in the fresh air is also one of the best hangover cures – so now you have two reasons to get going.

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