Christmas food survival guide

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Christmas is the traditional time for overeating and drinking too much. Parties, social and family gatherings make Christmas one of the hardest times of the year to stick to a healthy eating plan. But all is not lost – with a little nutritional know-how and crafty swaps you will be able to protect your waistline and still have fun.

How to survive the festive season’s weight gain
The average person gains 5lb (2kg) over Christmas. Although some of this extra weight will be water and glycogen (stored carbohydrate) much of it is likely to be fat. For instance an extra 3500 Calories (equivalent to 14 mince pies) puts on 1lb of fat. So if you overeat just 500 kcal a day (equivalent to a couple of small slices of Christmas cake) for one week you will gain 1 lb of fat. If you overeat 1000 kcal a day for one week you will gain 2 lb of fat.

Surviving Christmas Dinners
• Have a light but filling breakfast – fresh fruit; cereal and low fat milk – to ward off hunger pangs until lunch-time.
• Replace high fat nibbles with crunchy crudités, bread sticks or popcorn.
• Remove the skin from your turkey.
• Cut potatoes and parsnips into large chunks so they will absorb less fat during roasting – coat lightly in olive or vegetable oil.
• Pass on the bacon rolls and sausages – fill up with extra veggies (non-buttered).
• Instead of cream on your pudding, mix half cream and half fromage frais or yoghurt, and add a splash of brandy.
• Make mince pies with pastry on the bottom only OR use filo pastry.
• Omit the suet/ fat and half the sugar from home-made Christmas pudding – use pureed prunes or mashed banana to replace the fat and extra dried fruit to replace the sugar.
• Go for a family walk after Christmas dinner. Sitting around watching TV lends itself to further nibbling.

Party Survival Tips
• Have a small healthy snack (e.g. a cheese sandwich) before you go so you aren’t starving when you arrive. It will stop you overeating at the party.
• Don’t skip breakfast or lunch or else you will feel hungrier later on and more tempted to overeat.
• Stand away from tempting bowls of crisps, chocolates and nuts.
• Stand as far away from the buffet table or kitchen as you can.
• Avoid anything made with pastry (e.g. quiche; sausage rolls; vol au vents).
• Put all your food on a plate in one go – don’t keep on returning to the buffet table and picking at individual foods.

How to Avoid Overeating
• Listen to your natural appetite cues.
• Balance your indulgences with healthy eating during the rest of the day, not starvation.
• Don’t attempt to compensate for overeating by starving yourself before or afterwards – this upsets your normal appetite cues and can lead to a vicious circle of crash dieting and overeating or binging which may be difficult to break. If you over-indulge, do not feel guilty afterwards.

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