Enjoy Christmas and escape unencumbered with excess pounds and belt overhang? Staying healthy over the festive season. Impossible, surely!? Well, not necessarily, check out these tips.

1

Don’t Ditch Your Gym Habits Entirely

First of all, try to keep in mind that Christmas itself lasts only a couple of days – there’s no need to ditch your gym regime for a whole week in the lead-up (or fall-out).

2

Try And Stick To Your Usual Eating Habits In The Run Up

Just because it’s Christmas, it doesn’t mean you have to gorge yourself on mince pies, nibbles and booze every night. In fact, the more you stick to your usual eating habits in the lead-up, the more special it will be to eat Christmassy foods on the day. Try not to snack mindlessly in the Christmas rush – make time for your meals and stay hydrated, so that you don’t mistake thirst for hunger.

3

Expend Energy In Festive Preparations

As far as calorie burning is concerned, our ‘spend and save’ strategy begins a few days before Christmas, when you have the opportunity to expend more energy than usual on preparation chores like shopping, cooking and cleaning. Put as much effort as possible into these activities, such as parking the car at the far end of the car park at the superstore rather than opting for home delivery, kneading pastry by hand rather than shoving it in the blender, and polishing your own windows instead of getting the cleaner in.

4

Don’t Skip Breakfast

And as for the big day itself? Don’t forgo breakfast, no matter how hectic your morning is. Starting the day with a meal boosts metabolic rate by 10 per cent, and reduces the risk of you overeating later on. But skip the fry up – have something light, such as a boiled egg and a slice of wholemeal toast, or fresh fruit and yogurt.

5

Exercise In The Morning

If you’ve got time, exercising in the morning will gear up your metabolism for the rest of the day. In this scenario, intensity is more important than duration as the harder you work, the greater the ‘afterburn’ effect of continued higher calorie burning. A 20-minute brisk run or bike ride would be perfect. The frostier the better – research shows that we burn up to 12 per cent more calories working out in cold weather, as the body has to work harder to maintain its core temperature.

6

Time To Put On Your Christmas Day Outfit

Wear something that doesn’t have an elasticated or loose waistband; this will give you a benchmark of tightness. If it fits in the morning, you want it still to fit by the evening. It’s a harsh wake-up call when you need to undo that top button to fit in another helping of roast potatoes!

7

Dinner Dilemmas

Choose carefully and Christmas dinner needn’t be a disaster area. For example, choosing the white turkey meat instead of the darker stuff can save you calories and fat grams. Remove the skin, too, or just restrict yourself to one tasty mouthful of crispy skin (well, it is Christmas, after all!).

8

Don’t Feel Obliged To Eat More Than You Normally Would

Turning down seconds doesn’t mean you didn’t enjoy your meal – it’s just that you have had enough. Similarly, there is nothing wrong with politely putting your hand over your glass when it still has wine left in it, so that you can keep track of how much you’ve had. If you get the choice, opt for filo pastry mince pies – less fattening than puff or shortcrust pastry and just as delicious. Also choose custard instead of brandy butter and cream.

9

Time For An Aperitif?

A pub-sized serving of Baileys will set you back 100 calories (and let’s face it, who pours pub-sized servings at home?). Why not go for brandy, with 65 calories and no fat per measure?

10

Getting Back On Track

Once the big meal is over, busy yourself with clearing the table, washing up or entertaining the kids. Anything active is better than parking yourself on the sofa with a box of chocolates that you really haven’t got room to eat. The same goes for Boxing Day, which otherwise has the potential to be a repeat performance of the previous day’s excesses. Avoid the Boxing Day blowout by organising to do something active with the family – such as a walk or a game of rounders in the park. The you can enjoy your turkey sandwiches guilt free.

Health Benefits Of A Christmas Dinner

When we think of festive eating, “healthy” and “good for you” aren’t two phrases that spring to mind. However, tucking into your Christmas dinner could actually be better for you than you think. Here are the surprising health benefits of a Christmas dinner.

Chestnuts

Whether you eat them with sprouts, in a veggie-friendly nut roast or added to stuffing, chestnuts are a great way to boost your health at Christmas time. Unlike most nuts, chestnuts are surprisingly low in fat and also an excellent source of vitamin C. On top of this, chestnuts are a good source of protein, fibre and nutrients, including iron, B vitamins and folate.

Cranberry sauce

Cranberry sauce is a staple of many Christmas dinners, so it may comes as good news to lots of us that the popular condiment is packed with antioxidants and nutrients essential for good health. Several studies have identified links between consuming cranberries and reduced risks of heart disease and breast cancer.

Brussels sprouts

Many people claim to hate sprouts – perhaps due to their unappealing smell or appearance. However, if you can get past your aversion to this traditional Christmas veg, you could be doing your health a big favour. By tucking into your sprouts on Christmas day you will be filling your body with plenty of essential nutrients, including vitamin C, omega-3 fatty acids (great for the heart and brain) and cancer-fighting substances, glucosinolates.

Carrots

Carrots have long had a reputation for helping you to see in the dark, and it may be that this is not far from the truth. The vibrant vegetable is packed with carotenoids such as alpha-carotene, beta-carotene and lutein, which help to protect vision and reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration, as well as helping to protect against cancer.

Roast potatoes

Potatoes can get a bad press; however, the starchy veg is actually packed with immune-boosting vitamin C and the essential electrolyte potassium – yes, even when roasted. Furthermore, scientists have discovered that potatoes naturally contain chemicals called kukoamines which help to lower blood pressure, while the skins are rich in phytonutrients such as flavonoids which can help to prevent heart disease. So, no need to feel guilty for tucking into that second helping of spuds!

Parsnips

Parsnips are low in calories but high in fibre, making them a perfect healthy accompaniment to your Christmas dinner. Not only that, parsnips contain the antioxidant falcarinol which can to reduce cancer risk, and are high in folate, which reduces risk of high blood pressure and helps prevent birth defects in unborn babies.

Christmas pudding

If you fancy something sweet following your Christmas dinner, the good news is you can indulge yourself while still reaping some great health benefits. Christmas cakes and puddings may not be particularly low in fat, but a large proportion of their ingredients is dried fruit which counts towards your daily portions of fruit and veg and is high in nutrients and fibre. On top of that, they are packed with health-boosting spices such as cinnamon, which can help control blood sugar levels and has anti-inflammatory properties, and nutmeg, which is good for digestion.

Wine

Many of us like to accompany our Christmas dinner with a glass or two of wine. However, while it is best not to drink too much (for your dignity as much as your health!), a little bit of vino could actually be good for you. Research has found that, when drunk in moderation, the antioxidants in red wine can help to cut heart disease risk, protect against cancer and fight against wrinkles.