Friday, 23 December 2011
How to Make Christmas Dinner Healthy and Sporty
Not long until Christmas now and with Christmas, we typically associate this festive period with lots of food, lots of alcohol and most likely weight gain. But for elite and professional athletes, training goes on and diet cannot be overlooked. But for those of you that carry on training and want to eat healthily there are ways where we can enjoy Christmas dinner. I hope these tips provide you with some ideas in making your Christmas dinner low in fat.
Turkey is actually one of the leanest meats around. Make sure you don't eat the skin as the skin is high in saturated fat. Turkey is also packed full of B-Vitamins which are needed for energy production.
Use Coconut Oil or Extra Virgin Olive Oil
When roasting your potatoes, parsnips and Turkey, use coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil instead of goose/duck fat. Goose and duck fat are high in saturated fat and replacing them with either of the above is a much healthier alternative. Stick some whole garlic gloves in your roast as it is packed with the phytochemical allicin which has numerous health benefits ranging from anti-bacterial properties to cardiovascular benefits. Parsnips are also packed with carbohydrate and are a good source of energy.
Chesnuts are interesting from a nutritional perspective because they are low in fat, high in carbohydrates (which is why they taste sweet) and packed with potassium. Potassium is an important electrolyte that is lost in sweat. Chestnuts are also high in vitamin C and folate. Folic acid is required for the formation of red blood cells and DNA synthesis. So use a chestnut based stuffing instead of a sausage based one.
Sprouts, Carrots and Vegetables
Sprouts are packed full of antioxidants and a range of other vitamins and minerals. Similarly all vegetables are healthy just make sure you don'y overcook the vegetables. Have them al dente so you don't kill all the nutrients.
Cranberries are packed with phytochemicals which have several health benefits. Just make sure that if you are making it yourself, you don't add too much sugar, and if you buy ready made versions, pick the healthier lower sugar versions. Read the labels, the larger ingredient will appear first on the list.
It might sound unusual but have a healthy low fat soup for starters. Soup fills you up and if made with plenty of vegetables and low in salt, it can be a great starter. If it fills you up, you are likely to eat less! Just skip the cream and croutons to avoid the extra calories
Contrary to popular belief, christmas pudding is actually low in fat and high in carbohydrates. If you are buying a ready made one, just be sure to read the label. Typically, a small serving of Christmas pudding has less than 6 g of fat. It is very high in high glycemic carbohydrates though so watch the portion sizes. Swap the brandy cream for probiotic yogurt to make an even healthier version. The probiotics will protect the immune system and will help your gut with digestion after so much rich food.
Although gravy is high in salt, as you will have used a healthier fat to cook the roast it will be a much healthier version. Just make sure you don't use too much.
Use skimmed milk when making the bread sauce and add some garlic to add flavour (also see above for health benefits)
Everything in moderation. If you are training throughout the Christmas period and have some important competitions coming up then watch the alcohol intake or avoid it completely. It does increase inflammation and reduce recovery time as well as being a diuretic.
Mince Pies and Everything Else
As with anything, moderation is key. One mince pie is ok, but most desserts should be eaten in small portions.
Make sure you stay in energy balance. Read about this concept I have previously written about here
So there you have it. Some athletes may not get time off over Christmas but that doesn't mean they can't enjoy Christmas dinner! Listen to your body. If you are full you are full! Don't try and 'squeeze in a dessert.'
Have a great Christmas! Just watch those calories.