There’s no denying that the December holiday period is a time of indulgence. We allow ourselves to eat more of the unhealthy foods we usually avoid, using social outings and family gatherings as excuses to tantalise our tastebuds with guilty pleasures. But, if you’re keen to make a change this year and avoid Christmas weight gain, start by banishing these 10 key offenders from your diet.
Salted nuts tend to be tastier than their raw counterparts, particularly in partnership with a cool glass of vino on a hot summer’s evening. Yet, even a couple of handfuls can dramatically increase your daily sodium intake and negate any nutritional benefit. If you’re a nut fiend, opt for raw, unsalted varieties. Research has shown that regular intake of raw nuts protects against heart disease and type 2 diabetes and helps to lower cholesterol.
Pork crackling is one of the guiltiest dishes to grace the Christmas dinner table, but if you’re concerned about Christmas weight gain, it’s time to break with tradition. It’s no secret pork crackling is high in sodium, saturated fat and calories. Need inspiration for a tasty and healthy accompaniment to your roast pork? Try some stewed apple and pear, roasted chestnuts, or a sweet potato, parsnip and ginger mash.
Adding a dollop of cream to your dessert is one easy way to undo your healthy eating plan this Christmas. While it’s mighty tempting, cream can contain up to 50 per cent fat. Luckily, there are healthier alternatives. Low fat Greek yoghurt is a fantastic cream substitute, and even natural yoghurt combined with honey can provide a similar texture, without the added calories.
In 2008, researchers from the Queensland University of Technology pointed out that a 75-kilogram woman needs to walk 6.2 kilometres to burn off one mince pie (360 calories). “While we may want to say ‘Bah! Humbug!’ to such information at this time of year, it is important to remember that we can consume a lot of energy with very little effort, and this energy then takes a lot of time and exercise to get rid of,” researcher Professor Nuala Byrne said. If you’re craving a tasty treat to enjoy with your mid-morning cuppa, try Healthy Chef Teresa Cutter’s muesli slice, which has just 157 calories.
End-of-year drinks and cocktail parties bring fried food platters out in droves. Deep-fried anything is generally bad for your waistline, but don’t be thinking that it’s any less guilty because it’s seafood. It ain’t. Fried seafood contains unhealthy amounts of trans fats and research has linked fried fish consumption with dramatically higher risks of heart attack and stroke. Plus, fried seafood tends to come hand in hand with chips and wedges. Choose fresh seafood, like prawns and smoked salmon instead.
While sausages are a summer BBQ favourite, the wrong varieties can be loaded with saturated fat, calories, cheap dyes and dodgy meats. Make sure you know where your sausages have come from. Choose premium brands and buy them from reputable suppliers. Turkey and chicken sausages have less saturated fat than other varieties, but make sure there are no added preservatives in your sausages.
We often think of dips as a healthier snack option, but even if the dip itself isn’t all that bad, you can unintentionally fill up on unhealthy dipping foods, like crackers, corn chips and bread. Cream-based spinach and artichoke dips are best avoided as they’re high in calories. If you’re keen to get your dip on this Christmas, go for homemade guacamole or hummus with raw carrot and celery sticks.
Chocolate is one of the most abundant treats at Christmas time, yet even small amounts of milk or white chocolate can easily up your daily calorie intake. The good news is you don’t have to banish chocolate from your diet altogether: Dark chocolate is widely touted as the “healthy” chocolate by experts, as it contains antioxidants beneficial for heart health. Look for chocolate that is 70 per cent cocoa or more: The higher the percentage of cocoa in the bar, the better the nutritional benefit.
On their own, potatoes aren’t so bad for you. They’re high in potassium, vitamin C and vitamin B6. It’s how they’re cooked that’s the problem: We often roast potatoes in oil or even animal fat. This makes for a decadent Christmas dish, but it’s no good for your health — or your waistline. For those who are still keen on eating potatoes, simply boil them and then add some fresh chopped parsley. You can also substitute sweet potatoes which are nutritional powerhouses: They contain vitamins A, B6 and C, as well as potassium, magnesium and iron.
Most of us are aware that alcohol leads to weight gain and, unfortunately (or fortunately), alcohol can be virtually impossible to avoid in the holiday season. If the thought of expelling alcohol from your Christmas diet entirely is all too scary, choose lower-calorie alcoholic drinks: Opt for dry white wine over sparkling wine, and go for diet tonic with your gin. Limit your alcohol intake by volunteering to be the designated driver, drink plenty of water between drinks, eat a substantial meal when you’re drinking and don’t drink more than a couple of glasses a day.