December 4, 2017
Top tips for a healthy Christmas
Christmas is coming, and we all know what that means: roast dinners, brandy butter, chocolates, wine, mince pies and Christmas pudding. Yes, it's a delicious treat each year, but it comes with a hefty calorie count. This means January turns into a month of hard work at the gym just to get back to the weight you were at in mid-December.
This doesn't have to be the case, of course. While Christmas is traditionally a holiday of eating, drinking and generally overindulging, you can still be as healthy as possible and not have to join the January rush to the gym. Here are our top tips for staying fit over Christmas without being a healthy-eating grinch.
Don't wait until the new year
One of the most common things you will hear at this time of year is people saying they'll wait until after Christmas to get in shape. There's no point in losing weight at this time of year; you're only going to put it back on during the holidays, right?
You've probably guessed what we're going to say: wrong. Keeping fit and healthy in the weeks leading up to Christmas is a much better idea than leaving it until January, even though you might well put on a few pounds before the new year.
First of all, if you can get close to your ideal body weight or fitness level in December, you'll have less of a struggle getting back there after Christmas. Leaving it until the new year often means you'll gain weight and lose a step with your exercise, which will just make it harder when you start up again.
But the main reason is that exercise is a great way of preventing future weight gain. Muscle tissue needs a lot of energy to make it through the day, so the more you build up, the higher your metabolism will be. This means you can eat more without gaining weight, shielding you against the effects of Christmas.
Avoid too much alcohol
While Christmas dinner is likely to cause you to gain a pound or two, at least you'll be getting a range of nutrients from it. Alcohol, on the other hand, is just empty calories. You might be surprised to learn how many calories, as well; a pint of lager comes with around 190 calories, while a 175ml glass of red wine contains around 160.
As such, we'd advise you to avoid any alcohol over the festive period. However, if you want to have your fair share of Christmas cheer, there are some healthier options. A single measure of spirit contains about 60 calories, so that plus a diet mixer is a better choice than many other drinks.
Alternatively, a glass of champagne or prosecco only contains 90 calories. None of these options are healthy, mind you, but they're better for your weight loss than a mug of egg nog (223 calories) would be! Of course, no matter what, you should always drink responsibly.
Bring some healthier treats
Christmas pudding and mince pies are delicious, but they contain so much sugar and fat that it's not a good idea to overindulge. However, if you don't want to be left out when it comes to the Christmas treats, you could always offer to make your own healthier alternatives.
Here's one option for healthy mince pies: in a large bowl, combine 175g of porridge oats, 40g of dessicated coconut and 60g of ground almonds. Add 2.5 tablespoons of oil – olive oil or coconut oil is best – two tablespoons of honey or maple syrup, and a teaspoon of vanilla extract. Mix this together well, adding a splash of water if necessary, until you have a smooth dough.
Meanwhile, heat a tablespoon of oil, about 20g of brown sugar, and the zest and juice of half a lemon and half an orange together in a pan until the sugar has dissolved. Grate about half of a small apple into the pan, then add 60g of raisins, 60g of currants, 40g of dried cranberries and 40g of sultanas. Mix so that everything is coated with the liquid, then put on the lowest heat possible and let it cook together for 15 minutes.
Grease a muffin tin, then roll out your dough and cut out ten circles. These will be the pastry cases for your mince pies. Place these in the tin, and spoon in your fruit mixture to each one. Cut the rest of your dough into stars, and place one onto each pie. Bake in an oven at 150 degrees celsius for half an hour, until the pastry is golden-brown, and then leave them to cool.
These mince pies will still be fairly calorie-heavy, but will have far less sugar in than shop-bought offerings. The crust will also be higher in dietary fibre and a range of other beneficial nutrients. Remember that these are still treats, so don't eat too many!