Top10festive1Top 10 Festive Food and Drink Tips

It is perfectly possible to enjoy Christmas with all the trimmings without being either boring and not joining in, or going OTT and ending up looking like Santa Claus by the New Year. Nutritional Therapist Lisa Blair gives you the low down her top tips:

It’s simply not realistic to try to lose weight during the holidays, instead just focus on maintaining your weight. Depriving yourself of festive foods or feeling guilty about eating them isn’t really part of a healthy eating strategy. Stick to a good eating schedule of 3 meals a day and 2 snacks, drink and eat in moderation and enjoy the occasional sweet treat. Read on to find out how you can enjoy the festive season without piling on the pounds:

1. Damage limitation
Whatever you do don’t go to the party or the pub with an empty stomach. Make sure that you eat a good quality snack before you go out containing complex (or brown wholegrain) carbohydrates and protein e.g. some oatcakes and hummus or a brown bread chicken sandwich. This will help slow down the absorption of alcohol and will also hopefully stop you hoovering up the buffet.

2. Choose your drinks wisely
Top10festive2Try to keep your alcohol intake to a minimum, as it taxes the liver, the digestive and immune systems, and upsets blood sugar balance.

Whatever you do stick to the same drink, as mixing them forces the liver to work harder to detoxify the alcohol, increasing your chances of getting a hangover.

If you want to drink spirits, the clear ones are the best as they have the lowest congeners (by-products of alcohol fermentation which causes headaches) so a choice like gin and vodka would be far better than whisky or brandy. According to the British Medical Journal bourbon is twice as likely to cause a hangover than vodka.

Choose pure fruit juice, soda or mineral water as mixers, avoiding the usual sugary sweetened mixers.

Choose red wine rather than white wine or beer as it contains the immune boosting antioxidant resveratrol. Drinking organic wine also reduces the likelihood of a hangover, as they do not contain the chemicals found in non-organic wines.

Avoid all sweet and creamy drinks, cocktails and alcopops because they are just loaded with sugar and will help you to pile on the pounds – they are also easy to drink really quickly, which you will regret in the morning.

3. Go slow
The liver can only handle about one drink an hour. Any more than this and a toxic backlog of alcohol builds up in the blood, circulating the excess alcohol throughout the body until the liver is ready to deal with it. This stresses and damages the liver and results in a hangover. It’s important to drink slow enough so that the liver can keep up, so drink no more than one drink an hour.

4. Importance of hydration
When we drink alcohol our liver and kidneys require lots of water to break it down and remove it from our bodies. It is this process that results in dehydration, one of the main causes of a hangover. So to avoid that raging thirst and headache by alternating alcoholic drinks with non-alcoholic drinks, preferably water. This will cut your alcohol consumption considerably and help prevent dehydration.

Don’t forget to put a large glass of water by your bedside before you go out and make sure that you drink it before you go to sleep. Have another one as soon as you wake up – you know it makes sense.

5. The perfect party plate
Let’s face it, it’s just so easy to stand by the bowl of salted peanuts and munch your way through them; without thinking you have consumed 900 calories and have worked up a raging thirst (yes that’s right 1 cup of salted peanuts is a whopping great 900 calories…considerably more than can be found in a Big Mac). So step away from the salty snacks, survey the scene and make a strategic selection from the buffet.

Good choices: 
Olives, raw nuts and pretzels 
Crudites and dips – hummus, salsa, guacamole 
Bruchetta and open sandwiches 
Chicken satay, chicken drumstick or falafel 

Bad choices:
Salted peanuts or crisps
Sausage rolls, pork pies and pastries
Fried foods
Sausages, cold meats & salami and sausage rolls

6. A minute on the lips forever on the hips
Top10festive3On a typical Christmas day many of us can consume up to a whopping great 6,000-7,000 calories enjoying the festivities (that’s 2-3 times more than most of us need). However, there are a few simple tips that can help trim the calories without spoiling the fun.
• Before cooking the bird, prick the skin to allow the fat to run out and cook it on a trivet so it’s not sitting in fat all the time.
• Remove the skin from the turkey; you will save about 50 calories per portion.
• Choose light meat rather than dark meat as it has slightly fewer calories
• Replace sausage meat stuffing with a chestnut or fruit-based version.
• Cut the potatoes into large pieces for roasting. Large ones absorb less fat during cooking than smaller ones. This also applies to parsnips.
• Make bread sauce with skimmed milk, and hold the cream.
• For the gravy drain off the turkey juices in to a jug and wait for the fat to rise to the surface. Carefully pour or spoon off the fat before using the juices to make gravy.
• Serve a wide variety of steamed vegetables, as they are all low in calories, provided they are not covered in butter! Just one teaspoon of butter adds 40 calories. Use chopped fresh herbs or lemon zest to add flavour instead.
• Serve Christmas pudding with custard made with semi-skimmed milk or low fat Greek yoghurt rather than double cream or brandy butter.

7. Portion control
For some reason at Christmas we completely lose the ability to stop eating when we are full. It is important to eat slowly, chew food well, and wait at least an hour after a meal before you attack the Christmas goodies. Putting food on a smaller plate can also work wonders. Don’t be tempted to go back for second’s or even third’s.

8. Don’t be tempted to skip meals
So despite your good intentions you have overindulged the day before. It might seem like a good strategy to ‘make up’ for this excess by missing breakfast however, this is a recipe for disaster. It will affect your blood sugar balance, you will get really hungry and will be more tempted to overeat later on or graze on chocolates to keep you going. Start the day with a good quality breakfast containing complex wholegrain carbohydrates and some protein. Scrambled eggs on toast, or fresh fruit and yoghurt would be ideal choices.

9. Don’t stop exercising
How many times do you need to watch the Wizard of Oz? Skip the repeats and get the family off the couch to go for a brisk walk instead. Research shows us that exercise after a meal improves insulin sensitivity and improves fat burning. A 2008 study by the University of Michigan showed that just one bout of exercise can increase fat burning.

10. Don’t over purchase
Top10festive4Looking around the typical supermarket in the run up to Christmas anyone would think that we were stocking up in preparation for a major war. The reality is the shops are only closed for a couple of days. So rather than the usual pre-Christmas food shopping frenzy, where you feel compelled to buy the 2 for 1 offers on tins of biscuits and giant tubs of honey roasted cashews that you end up eating through to February, try shopping in moderation and be more realistic about what you actually need.

Finally…if it all goes horribly wrong, take a deep breath and start the next day a fresh with a sensible approach to festive eating and drinking. Don’t fast or feast, just be festive. It is what you do the rest of the year that really counts.

Lisa holds one to one nutrition consultations at her Harley Street clinic ( . She is also the in-house nutritional therapist for Saviour Snacks ( where she selects only the healthiest products to go into their delicious healthy snack boxes.