‘Tis The Season….To Be Healthy?

Molly Horne weighs up the merits of a glass of buck’s fizz versus cold pressed green juice.

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Well, I know which one I would prefer to start my Christmas morning with (clue: orange over green). But today we are increasingly told to ‘eat clean’, with a balanced diet to improve our wellbeing and live life to the full. The question is, can we afford to step off the health treadmill for a day or two – indulging in all things naughty and nice. Because that’s the tradition, right?

Many people are tempted to say ‘it’s only once a year – where’s the harm?’ But according to Louise Marin, dietician and author of Momentums E-cook-book, ‘the average person consumes around 6,000 calories on Christmas day.’ For an adult female, that’s equivalent to the recommended calorie intake for three whole days! And once you’ve overdone it by 300 per cent, you can bet it takes longer than that to offset the damage done.

On the other hand, if you are usually a fitness fanatic or wellness warrior you are better placed to spoil yourself (just a little) during the holidays. Shoreditch-based health blogger Jamie Armfield (25), confidently reassures those gym bunnies that a few days off training won’t do any harm – and anyway the Christmas menu isn’t all bad:

“It’s all about living a balanced lifestyle, and turkey is a great source of protein that will bring lots of iron, potassium and vitamin B6 to your meal.”

When it comes to choosing our feathered friends, Jamie recommends sticking to organic: “the meat has higher nutrient quality because of the lower risk of contaminated feed.” She adds, “Don’t be shy about piling on the vegetables!”

Perhaps you are prone to pushing them around the plate, but Jamie reckons Brussels sprouts are the season’s super food.

“Those little Barbie-sized cabbages are packed with vitamin B and C, which help to prevent heart disease and cancer. They also contain a lot of fibre to improve your digestive system so you won’t feel too bloated.”

Jamie encourages her 1.5K Instagram followers to watch out for the dehydration effect of alcohol. “Keeping yourself hydrated is key! I don’t drink alcohol myself but what I would recommend is keeping your drinks afloat with ice – that way you are diluting your alcohol consumption and hydrating your body.

“I try my best to east sensibly during the Christmas period,” she adds. “It’s very easy to go overboard, a lot of determination and focus is needed.”

‘Determination and focus’ – it’s beginning to sound a lot like an assault course instead of Christmas. Is the health and wellbeing shtick kicking the fun out of Yuletide?

Mike Wilson, who trains at Reebok Healthy Club in Canary Wharf, seems to think so.

“When it comes to Christmas no one is stopping me from having second helpings of cheese and biscuits.”

The 21-year-old sports therapy student claims that Christmas shouldn’t be a time for worrying about piling on extra pounds. Instead he reassures us that “it’s actually healthy for you to treat yourself once in a while.”

Mike adds: “it’s totally fine to let yourself loose over the festive season – that’s what New Year’s resolutions are for!”

Sounds comforting – momentarily. But I can’t help thinking: a moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips. So is there a balance to be found, somewhere between keeping to the straight and narrow and losing our pathway altogether?

Maybe we could alternate between eating ‘clean’ and a little bit dirty.

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Health blogger Jamie says breakfast is a must: start your Christmas morning the right way with foods that supply slow releasing energy such as a generous bowl of porridge or a protein rich meal like scrambled eggs, salmon on toast. Jamie says, “Having protein for breakfast helps to stabilise your blood sugar levels, which will keep you from wandering to those nice-yet-naughty Christmas snacks!”

OK, now we all have something sensible in our tummies, let’s crack open the first bottle of fizz – and enjoy!

According to Jamie, the next thing is not to slouch on the couch. Whether it’s going for a brisk Christmas walk or helping around the house, Jamie advises that “keeping active is key in order to kick start your metabolism right before the real feast begins later on in the afternoon.”

Fair enough, so where’s the nearest pub that opens on Christmas Day, and how long does it take to walk there?

Back from the boozer, finally sitting down at the table. Vegetables, protein, carbs – yes, yes, yes, says Jamie. But turkey fat is a no, no, no. “If I told you that you could cut out 100 calories from your Christmas dinner, would you believe me?” Jamie goes on to say that “the skin on the turkey is where the fat is stored. Removing this allows 40 kcal off your plate from each portion.”

Yes, I do believe this; but I also know that the skin is the tastiest part! Now that’s what I call a dilemma….

Concern for keeping up appearances may be the decisive factor here. If you dress to impress on Christmas Day, Jamie suggests, you’ll already be thinking of the new dress you’ve got lined up for New Year’s Eve, so you’re less likely to turn yourself into a pudding shape by eating too much.

Whereas Mike, who shares his Christmas Day with his five siblings, says, “It’s tradition to wear a festive jumper – the more room to breath after Christmas dinner!”

But both of our advisers recommend a winter stroll an escape route from the Christmas coma.

Mike says: “You don’t have to run to the North Pole and back, but taking a lap or walking the dog around the block will definitely help to digest your food with your metabolism still working, improving your mood also.”

According to the NHS, the average person only gains one pound between Christmas and New Year. This suggests we shouldn’t overdo the anxiety about over-eating. That’s why I’m suggesting observe the rules….partly by breaking them.

Of course it’s up to you how much rule-breaking you go in for, but no one is replacing the chocolates in my stocking with sprouts and carrots.

Looking ahead to self-motivation in 2016, however, let’s hope Santa makes it down the chimney with a pair of running trainers and a nutribullet.

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