Health: Eat, drink and be healthy at Christmas

Glenda Pollard
Glenda Pollard
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You can still enjoy your favourites without piling on the pounds. Katie Baldwin has some top food tips for the big day.

For most, it’s the centrepiece of celebrations – the huge Christmas dinner.

From goose-fat roasted potatoes to mince pies smothered in brandy butter, this is the time of year when indulging is not only allowed, it is encouraged.

However the worrying after-effects of all these treats are likely to take up home on your waistline.

On average, people consumer 6,000 calories on Christmas Day – three times more than needed.

That could not only lead to indigestion, after the festive season you may well be a few pounds heavier and rather less healthy.

However there is another way.

Leeds dieticians Glenda Pollard and Julie Leaper, from Spire Leeds Hospital in Roundhay, say it is still possible to enjoy turkey with all the trimmings, by trying alternative ways of cooking or avoiding unhealthy ingredients.

Before lunchtime, they advise eating a good breakfast.

“Eat a proper breakfast of porridge or wholemeal toast to stop you from snacking before lunch is ready,” Julie said.

“Also serve Christmas lunch later in the day, for instance around 3pm, so you are less likely to feel hungry in the evening when everyone else is tucking into leftovers. If you do get peckish try a festive salad of lean meat with strips of mango and mixed salad leaves drizzled with fat-free dressing.”

Their tips could cut around 500 calories from the traditional festive feast – without sacrificing the taste.


Turkey is a good source of protein and is leaner than chicken and, without the skin, is low in fat and provides B vitamins needed for energy production. Light meat has fewer calories than dark meat so choose breast over legs and thighs. Prick the skin before cooking to allow fat to drain out and place on trivet so it’s not sitting in fat. Remove skin before serving.

Whereas 100g of butter-basted turkey with the skin on has 146 cal, 100g of skinless turkey has 104 kcal.


Chestnuts are low in fat and a good source of vitamin C. Use instead of sausage meat and add cranberries to add flavour. Omit some of the butter and use egg whites instead of whole eggs to save on fat and calories. There are 252 calories in 100g of sausage meat stuffing but 199 in 100g of chestnut stuffing.

Roast Potatoes:

Potatoes are a good source of carbohydrate and are almost fat free before roasting. Baked potatoes with low-fat soured cream or crème fraiche are a tasty alternative or sweet potato mashed with a pinch of cumin is a healthy and low GI. In 100g potatoes roasted in oil there are 149kcal, while 100g sweet potatoes have 85kcal


Gravy can be high in fat and salt, which in excess can increase blood pressure. Pour the turkey juices into a jug and wait for fat to rise to the surface, then pour or spoon off the fat before using the juices to make gravy. Alternatively, use the water the vegetables have boiled in for the gravy.

Bread Sauce:

Use semi-skimmed milk and add a clove of garlic for extra flavour. Full fat milk has 9g fat per 250 ml, while semi-skimmed has 4.3g.


Brussel sprouts are a good source of folate (a B vitamin) and vitamin C, which may help protect against heart disease and cancer. They contain fibre which helps keep the digestive system healthy. Don’t smother them with butter, use fresh herbs or lemon zest to add flavour. One teaspoon of butter adds 37kcal while herbs and lemon zest have almost no calories.


Use pure vegetable oils, olive oil or sunflower oil rather than lard. If you have to roast your potatoes, toss them in light coating of oil or use a brush. Spray cans of oil can also help reduce the amount used. Try cutting your potatoes into larger chunks so they will absorb less fat.

Christmas pudding:

Christmas pudding is fairly low in fat, if you leave out the suet, and high in carbohydrate. It provides B vitamins, potassium, iron and calcium. Serve a small portion rather than your usual mound and use a low fat custard made with semi-skimmed milk. Or use fat-free Greek yoghurt instead of brandy butter or cream.

While 5g of brandy butter has 81 calories, 45g of low fat custard has 27 calories and 30g of non fat Greek yoghurt has just 16 calories.

Guilt-free treats

You can still indulge – just make some switches.

To reduce fat and calories in mince pies, leave off the top layer of pastry or switch to filo pastry and use more apples in the filling instead of all mincemeat.

Swap your box of soft centre chocolates for a high quality bar of dark chocolate with a high percentage cocoa content and try to stick to two squares.

And when drinking, sip your drinks, top up spirits with soft drinks and alternate with non-alcoholic ones.

PIC: Tony Johnson

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