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Christmas eating

/ Health & Fitness

Christmas can be a time of indulgence and excess, not to mention rich food and drink. This is in no small way down to retailers who gain from getting us to eat more. It wasn’t always like this, we only have to think back to the time of rationing in Britain from 1940-1954 when overeating didn’t really happen and the population had to make the most of Christmas with the limited food choices they had.

We have come a long way since food rationing came to an end and now in the modern age we are now faced with lavish TV adverts which underline this ‘go on, it’s Christmas’ message. A message that is pervasive and excess is encouraged, even allowed, even though many people would probably be happier without it all. There is a need to go along with this to prevent being labelled a Scrooge!

Simple things you can do to help manage appetite, energy and possibly weight gain during Christmas

Remember that what we eat and drink is broken down in the digestive system so that we can benefit from its nutrients and also, so that it can be used as fuel, mostly in the form of glucose, to make energy.

Cells are essentially sealed and insulin is required to open channels to allow glucose to get into the cell. Insulin is produced once glucose becomes more concentrated in the blood. If glucose levels exceed that which can be distributed to make energy then the excess is stored for later use.

Low levels of glucose in the blood are experienced as hunger and fatigue (leading to overeating) whilst excess can lead to weight gain and so it makes sense to keep glucose levels fairly even to avoid both.

In general carbohydrates are broken down quite rapidly, especially simple ones (those low in fibre) as these require very little digestive effort and so can affect blood glucose levels very fast. This would include cakes, biscuits, chocolates, sweets etc.

Complex carbs – those that are richer in fibre – take longer and so a serving of porridge leads to more even levels of glucose in the blood than one of sugared processed cereal.

Protein is fairly slow to break down and the one that keeps us fullest for longest. So we need to make sure we are having adequate intakes.

Therefore, by combining the food groups – that’s protein with complex carbs and a little fat – it is possible to manage energy levels and appetite so that you don’t feel overly hungry but still eat enjoyable food. In theory this should make it easier to indulge in some Christmas luxury because you want to rather than overeating and ending up feeling guilty and exhausted.

A typical day

A typical day might be some porridge oats with a few almonds and chopped apple for breakfast, a cracker with hummus mid-morning. Follow this with a protein with salad and maybe granary bread at lunch (that might be chicken, tofu, beans, and fish), an afternoon snack of Satsuma’s and walnuts followed by protein with plenty of vegetables in the evening.

In short, combining protein with fibre-rich complex carbs should result in an easily managed appetite so it’s you’re able to enjoy a little of this or that without falling off the wagon completely.

Timing is important so try to eat something every two and half to three hours.

If you are going straight out from work then have something to eat before you go – any protein and any carbohydrate – an apple and some nuts or half a tuna sandwich, both are suitable.

When it comes to alcohol remember that it is more slowly absorbed after food so eat something before you enjoy some wine or cocktails, focusing on olives and nuts rather than crisps.

The big day

On the Big Day itself start off with porridge oats spiced with nutmeg, chopped apple and a handful of almonds.

Mid-morning try a slice of smoked salmon with oatcakes or granary toast. The traditional festive lunch of turkey, roast potatoes and plenty of vegetables fits in well as does a small amount of Christmas pudding afterwards.

A couple of hours after lunch you might have an apple and a slice of Stilton while in the evening a bowl of vegetable soup followed by turkey and vegetables would be ideal.

It doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy some chocolate or a mince pie at some point. And it’s easier to eat far less when glucose levels aren’t leaving you in the hunger zone which can lead to overeating.

The main thing to remember – calories in and energy out is the basic rule of weight management. Overeating anything has the same outcome so don’t think that a high protein diet is a get-out-of-jail-free card if you eat too much.

Used wisely it is a handy way to manage possible excesses so that even if Christmas does last until the Twelfth Night, you can start the New Year without having to succumb to the dreaded detox!

Happy Healthy Eating!!

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