Be honest – what is the first thing you think of when you think of Christmas? Is it the visit of family and friends? Is it the presents? Or is it the huge meal of succulent Christmas-pudding-stuffed turkey with roasted everything covered in chocolate and served with Brandy mince pies?
If, like me, you’re a bit of a foodie, Christmas can be a daunting time to keep the weight loss going, or even just to prevent gaining too much over the festive season. And make no mistake, the festive season will keep going now until New Year’s Eve – after all, those chocolates you got for Christmas are best destroyed Bridget-Jones-style before the new year with all its good intentions kicks in, right?
Here are 5 ways to make sure your scales won’t break on 1st January:
- Spritzer everything.
Alcohol contains 7kcal/g. To put this into context, carbohydrates – even those lovely sugars in lemonade – have 4kcal/g, whereas fats contain 9kcal/g. This means that in an energy-density contest, alcohol is second only to fat when it comes to increasing your hip size to incredible proportions – while at the same time having none of fat’s benefits (like keeping you satiated).
Christmas is traditionally best enjoyed in an alcohol-fuelled haze, but switching to spritzers instead of full-on alcoholic beverages means that you can keep the calorie content down while still not feeling left out. Buck’s Fizz, white wine and lemonade, Vodka and pretty much any sweet drink of your choice will keep you drinking for longer periods of time while stretching the amount of alcohol in your drinks to manageable lengths. Carbonated drinks have the added benefit of making you feel less thirsty quicker, so you have the desire to drink even less. Win-win.
Oh, and you are less likely to wake up with a hangover. Win-win-win.
2. Liquidise your chocolate
Best thing I did this year when it came to December and replacing my morning chocolate with a suitable alternative.
I am a bit of a chocolate addict. When I was a yoof (seems like a lifetime away now) I would think nothing of eating a bar a day. As a grown-up now, my taste buds have developed a bit further and I need less chocolate to keep me going; however, I can still easily eat half a bar if I’m not careful. Half a bar – depending on the brand you consume – can mean anything from 250-350kcal. That’s half a meal’s worth of energy and trust me, it won’t feel like you’ve just eaten half a meal.
The ideal compromise is drinking hot chocolate instead. It’s easily made from 1tsp cocoa powder stirred into a cup of hot milk and sweetened with 1tsp brown sugar. You’re looking at about 150kcal per cup (less if you use sweetener instead of sugar, but I have issues with artificial sweeteners). You won’t need more than a cup. In the grand scheme of a Christmas Day, saving 100-200kcal may not seem a lot, but put into context that’s up to 10% of what an average woman is supposed to consume daily.
You can even go further and use up your Christmas chocolates that way. 2-3 pieces of plain dark or milk chocolate, stirred into 150ml hot milk, give you gooey satisfaction and make the load more manageable with time.
3. Load up on vegetables.
It’s an obvious one, but so easily forgotten during the Christmas feast. Every decent Christmas meal comes with heaps of sides, including a choice selection of vegetables. Depending on your cooking habits, they could be roast parsnips, carrots, peas, red cabbage, sprouts – you name it.
I would issue caution on the roast vegetables as they tend to be covered in fat, so the red cabbage or sprouts, which are both usually boiled, may be your best friend when it comes to weight loss. And going by my own family, if you are a sprout lover, you’ll have plenty to yourself.
Vegetables are filling and they keep your digestive system going at a time when heavy meals can slow it down to an uncomfortable speed. Eat them to your heart’s delight without the guilt normally associated with Christmas dinner.
4. Go easy on the pudding
So we’ve just had a filling meal, but you can barely express that you’re bursting when the Christmas pudding is announced. And it’s lovely, let’s face it. Whether it is the traditional fruit-filled cake of the baked or boiled variety, a Yule log filled with cream, a couple of mince pies or spiced biscuit (maybe even some of that Stollen or gingerbread?) – puddings are the great downfall of all dieters.
Here are a few things you can do:
- Ask for smaller portions. No one is going to refuse, especially if you point out you’re still full.
- Go easy on the cream. Custard is the better choice, but most puddings are still thoroughly enjoyable without.
- Make smart choices. Choose biscuits over chocolate, fruit over sponge. But beware – most fruit may well have soaked in alcohol (see my first point).
5. Keep moving
One of the best traditions on Christmas is the extended Christmas walk. Enjoy it.
A good walk will keep your digestive system in shape, burn some of those calories you have just consumed and make you feel less sluggish and more of a human being again.
If you have children, enjoy their presence – they and their newly-acquired toys should provide plenty of movement and entertainment to keep your hands off the food and your bum in action. Switch off the telly (Dr Who and the GBBO can wait until the children have gone into bed, after all) and get moving. You’ll feel all the better for it, build more memories and enjoy your family time.
I know Christmas is the last time you want to be thinking about your diet. However, by sticking to the above, you can enjoy the festive season in a much more guilt-free way.
Oh, and don’t weigh yourself until the 1st January.