How to keep up the good work over the Festive Season

by Rachael Forrest


As a nutritionist, I am often asked about how to maintain the benefits of nutritional therapy whilst still being able to relax and enjoy Christmas festivities. 

There are many obstacles to keeping up the good work. Over-consuming food and alcohol as well eating unhelpful foods all contribute to feelings of toxicity and sometimes demoralization over personal goals and progress. Here are some simple tips to help keep you on the right track.

Food

1. Eating a healthy breakfast such as porridge with cinnamon and apple would be excellent. It is calming to the digestive system and gives you a feeling of fullness which helps you to avoid snacking on unhealthy foods during the morning. 
2. Have a good lunch with plenty of vegetables. The more you eat at lunch the less you will want to snack in the afternoon and eat at night. If this is a cooked lunch like Christmas dinner, load up your plate with vegetables, gravy, and turkey and limit the bread pudding, cranberry sauce and stuffing. Enjoy your meal, chew it thoroughly, savour the flavours and stop when you have had enough. 
3.If you are having Christmas pudding, limit your portion and the sauces on the side. Eating with a teaspoon will make a smaller portion go along way. 
4. If having cold meats, eat with plenty of salads and pickles and limit the bread, potatoes and pasta. 
5.When eating in the evening try to eat before 7pm and limit or eliminate carbohydrates including pudding. If you desperately want a pudding, find somebody to share it with you and eat it slowly in small mouthfuls. 
6. Limit or eliminate cheese and dairy products but, if you've just got to have it,  eat cheese with celery, cucumber, grapes and apples rather than biscuits. 
7.Have fresh fruit, or fruit salad for a dessert. Add a small amount of port, glace ginger or cinnamon if you want to jazz it up a bit.

Drink

If you are concerned about the amount of alcohol you might be drinking, you can check your consumption here:
www.drinkaware.co.uk/selfassessment
 
From a health point of view it is recommended that you don’t binge on alcohol as this is when the most amount of damage is done to your liver.  Drinking the same amount of alcohol spread out over the week would be easier for your body to manage than having it all on one day. The UK guidelines for drinking are 14 units per week for women and 21 units for men, this is assuming that there are no health considerations, such as poor liver function, or that no medication is being taken.

Calorific content of alcohol is high – 1 gram of  pure alcohol has 7 calories, 1 gram of fat has 9 and 1 gram of carbohydrate has 4.
 
The higher the alcohol content the higher the amount of calories from the drink. So, for example:
A measure of spirit will typically be 59 kcal, 
half a pint of beer 128 kcal, 
a flute glass of champagne 95 or 175ml glass of champagne 130 kcal
175ml glass of red wine 119 kcal

The addition of fat (eg cream) to your drink, greatly increases the calorific content:
143 kcal for a small 50 ml measure of advocaat 
198 kcal for a 50ml measure of Baileys!
 
There is a company which offers a lower calorie alternative to some of the wines and beer we would normally drink which could be an option if you are watching your calories: www.skinnybooze.co.uk

Traditional beers, such as real ale do have some benefits as they contain B vitamins from the action of yeast.  Brewers yeast is considered a health supplement because it contains these vitamins as well certain minerals such as chromium. Some beers such as Guinness contain extra minerals like iron. Overall beer can be calming if it contains hops which explains why so many people like a half pint or a pint to de-stress after work. Do be aware that hops also have some oestrogenic properties which is not helpful for the prostate gland in men.  They are not recommended with fertility issues and seems to contribute to increase in fat around the abdomen – the typical “beer belly”.

Spirits can generally be quite helpful if you mix and blend them with fresh fruit, especially berries.  You can gain a lot of benefits from the antioxidants, minerals and vitamins - see recipes for the mocktails below. Mixing them with concentrated fruit juice from carton has the opposite effect because it is adding a lot of extra sugar without any of the benefits. 
 
Mixing with water, for example with whisky, can be helpful as it dilutes the alcohol. If you're drinking a quality whisky it still tastes good but you won't be getting so dehydrated. Mixing with coke increases the sugar content and mixing with diet coke increases the brain toxins and can make hangovers worse.

Bloody Mary:  especially if it contains a stick of celery can be very helpful, particularly if you eat the celery – not so helpful if you just twizzle it around in your drink!
 
Tequila: some people consider tequila better as the type of sugar used to make the alcohol, doesn’t raise the blood sugar as much – it is considered by some to be better for diabetics.
 
Mulled wine: with plenty of spices, especially cinnamon is excellent, as long as you don’t add sugar. The addition of a small amount of xylitol would work to sweeten the mixture.

Mocktails – recipes from Enabling Health

 

Non-Alcoholic Sangria – serves 8
270ml boiling water
2 black tea bags (or 2 teaspoons loose-leaf tea in an infuser)
2 cinnamon sticks
80g sugar
400ml pomegranate juice
140ml freshly squeezed orange juice
1 orange, sliced into thin rounds
1 lemon, sliced into thin rounds
1 lime, sliced into thin rounds
1 apple, cored and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
400ml carbonated water
 
Pour boiling water over tea bags and cinnamon sticks and steep for 5 minutes. Discard tea bags and stir in sugar to dissolve. In a large jar or pitcher, combine tea, cinnamon sticks, pomegranate juice, orange juice, orange, lemon, lime, and apple. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour and preferably overnight. Just before serving, stir in carbonated water. Serve in glasses over ice.

Virgin Mary
3 ounces tomato juice
1/2 ounce lemon juice
Dash of Worcestershire sauce
Celery salt
Ground pepper
Hot pepper or Tabasco sauce
Celery stalk for garnish
Pickle garnish for garnish (optional)
 
Combine and enjoy!

Berry indulgence - Serves: 1 
2 cups of frozen berries of your choice
Fresh apple juice
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice -
180ml fizzy water
Cubes of ice
 
Blend and serve over more ice. Very refreshing and all the lovely antioxidants refresh the liver to cope with excesses of the Christmas eating.