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How to have a healthy Christmas

By
WebMD Feature
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

There are many fine Christmas traditions—mince pies, roast turkey, dodgy jumpers—but being healthy is not one of them.

"The average person consumes around 6,000 calories on Christmas day," says Luise Marino, paediatric dietitian and author of Momentums e-cook-book. "That's enough food for a woman for three days!"

And most people don't just over-eat on Christmas day. Those left-overs can last for days.

More stilton, anyone?

A moment on the lips…

"Weight gain over Christmas is common," says Luise. "Come January, though, it can be difficult to shift."

According to the British Dietetic Association (BDA) people gain 2kg, on average, over Christmas.

A lot of people say, well it's just once a year. What does it matter if I let my hair down? "But don't use it as an excuse," says Sian Porter, a dietitian and spokesperson for the BDA. "At this time of year, it's easy to hide under your layers of woolly jumpers and ignore what's going on underneath them."

One way of not letting the eating get out of control, says Sian, is to stick to normal meal times.

Start with a healthy breakfast, preferably one that is going to keep you full for a while, such as porridge oats or a smoked-salmon bagel. That way you won't be tempted to dip into the snacks as much.

Nibbles

The calories in snacks can quickly mount up. A single mince pie packs about 250 calories. A couple of those are equivalent to a quarter of the guideline daily calorie intake for a woman or a fifth of the calorie intake for a man.

"Canapés and crisps can be really high in calories and fat," says Luise. "Why not use fresh vegetables with low fat dips instead, and rather than putting out crisps, offer bowls of popcorn."

Chestnuts, dates and satsumas also make healthy, seasonal snacks.

Bird is the word

However, snacks are just a side-show. The main event is Christmas dinner and although it's never going to be a low calorie affair, there are ways of making it a healthier meal.

First of all, there's the bird.

"Whatever bird you choose to cook—be that duck, chicken, goose or turkey—they all are rich in protein and fat-soluble vitamins, which are essential for muscle repair and neuron function," says Abigail Wilson, director of eDietitians.  "Of these, turkey is the leaner meat and possibly the healthier option with significantly less fat than duck or goose."

Before cooking, Luise recommends pricking the skin of the bird so that fat can drain out.

Plus if you're going to stuff the bird, use less sausage meat and more cranberries, apricots, chestnuts and other healthy ingredients—they make for a tastier stuffing.

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