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Seven meals, each serves 4.
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Well we are getting into the festive season now, and it seems that you have a love/hate relationship with it. However much we love it, everyone is concerned about the damage that will be done to their healthy living plans, especially with the sports facilities closed for such a long time. I have had so many requests to continue with my Christmas survival ideas, so this week; here is the low-down on Christmas dinner;

The original Christmas dinner has the potential to be a brilliant nutrition-packed meal, with its emphasis on low-fat turkey meat and lots of tasty vegetables. So why is it that the average Christmas dinner seems to contain almost an entire day’s calories? If you go for the turkey, roast potatoes, bacon, vegetables, pudding with brandy butter, and a couple of glasses of wine you are looking at around 1400 calories and 56.8g fat. Many people will bump it up to 2000 calories or more, with the addition of larger portions, seconds, sausages, more wine, and chocolates. So how can we turn this binge into a healthy feast?

Well, many of the essential ingredients of a Christmas dinner are bursting with nutrition;

The Good:

• Turkey meat is rich in iron, zinc, phosphorus, potassium and B vitamins, and also contains an ingredient to boost the happy hormones in your brain. Turkey is naturally low in fat; the darker meat is slightly higher in fat, but also rich in iron. Remove the skin and consume half the amount of fat.

• I think the second yummiest ingredient has got to be the roast potato. Potatoes are fabulous, providing us with energy, potassium, and vitamins B and C. If you want them to be healthier, then leave on the skins when you roast them to boost their vitamin and fiber content. Instead of drenching them in oil, invest in an olive-oil spray, and spray lightly before roasting. When you serve them up, don’t go wild, exercise restraint. If you are super-virtuous, then have boiled spuds with olive oil and chopped chives, baked potato or roasted sweet potato- start a new tradition!

• There is no forgetting the sprouts. These humble vegetables are bursting with goodness; powerful cancer-fighting ingredients, vitamins, minerals and fiber. Treat them kindly and steam them rather than boiling the poor things to death. If you feel like experimenting, then roast them for 30 -40 minutes in a little olive oil, give them a shake half way, and add some flaked almonds. Roasted sprouts are milder and sweeter - give them a go!

• Make sure that all of your other vegetables are lightly steamed, this keeps in the wonderful beneficial nutrients, try; carrots, rich in antioxidants, green beans, peas, little sticks of swede, or make a cauliflower mash by steaming a head of cauliflower and mashing with some wholegrain mustard.

The Bad:

• Streaky bacon, at 6g of fat and 90 calories per rasher (eek), wrap it around a sausage, and you are bumping up that cholesterol and fat even further. Why not leave out the bacon and sausage, or choose low-fat Quorn sausages instead of regular ones.

• Mince pies and Christmas pudding are rich in minerals and some antioxidants because of the dried fruit content, but they are high in fat and sugar. Buy a small Christmas pudding so that everyone can have a nice portion, but it isn’t hanging around afterwards for seconds and snacking. Just one mince pie and a slice of Christmas cake can add 460 calories and 18g of fat- ouch! Why not make apple pies with a little mincemeat added for a change. Make a big fruit salad and put it in the fridge, then everyone can snack on this in stead of picking away at pies and pudding.

The Ugly:

• Well Brandy butter is basically sugar and butter with brandy added. It is packed with fat, refined sugar and cholesterol; thank goodness we only have it once a year. If you want to cut out some serious calories, you could have Christmas pudding with half-fat crème fraiche, which is a delicious addition to the sweet pudding, and so much healthier.

• Why does everything about Christmas have to be so big? Filling the house with JUMBO bags of crisps and peanuts, biscuits and chocolates will not do anyone any favors. All are high in fat, sugar or salt; easy to eat, and bad for you. Get some bags of clementines, and dried fruit and nuts, you will be hard pushed to pig out on shelled nuts because it takes so long to get into them! Resist the urge to buy bumper packs of things which will linger in the cupboard waiting to be munched.

• Sitting down in front of the TV after your lunch is the worst thing that you can do. If you want to beat the bulge and the bloating, then get the whole family out for some fresh air. A good walk will banish that post-dinner lethargy and stop the Christmas pudding from settling on your thighs.

Well I hope that this has given you some hope; there are so many good healthy foods around at this time of year, so place the emphasis on these, and resist the Bullying supermarkets attempts to make you buy enormous packets of Pringles and barrels of salted nuts. Eat, drink and be merry, but eat and drink the right things, and you will be feeling much more merry by January!

Until next time, take care and stay healthy!

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