Michael van Straten
Michael van Straten

Are You Going To Eat An Elephant Again This Year?

8000 calories is normal on Christmas Day

No wonder Santa is always fat and jolly! This festive season has turned into an annual binge which gives us all the excuses we need to munch our way through thousands of extra calories. We pig out on mountains of food that normally you’d run a mile from. But you can have a merry Christmas without piling on the pounds and everything ending in tears.

You always do it and every year you say ’Never again’, but by Christmas Eve you’ve forgotten all your resolutions – you’re half a stone heavier, bloated, uncomfortable, lethargic and probably spotty into the bargain. A few simple substitutions, a bit of willpower, a modest amount of planning and you won’t be starting 2010 fighting your way through the sale crowds for a bag full of bigger clothes.

Of course, every family has its own Christmas rituals but for years now I’ve been checking up on my patients by asking them to keep a diary during the holidays and write down everything they eat and drink. With the greatest goodwill and the utmost trust in their honesty I know from experience they all tell as many porky pies as they eat.

People seem to have very selective memories when it comes to food and no-one ever forgets a single portion of salad, an extra helping of Brussels sprouts, or the two tangerines they ate before bedtime. On the other hand it’s amazing how easily three or four chocolates, the ladle full of cream on a mince pie, the wedge of cold Christmas pudding leftover as you stack the washing up, all seem to slip the mind when it comes to writing down your true confessions.

Making allowances for the odd errors and omissions, my researches have revealed a terrifying conclusion – the average Brit chomps their way through 8000+ calories and the equivalent of more than two half pound blocks of fat. And that’s just on Christmas Day. Unbelievable though it seems I didn’t make it up, it’s all down in black and white and here’s how you accumulate all those high fat, high sugar and high salt calories that pile on the pounds and clog up your arteries.

a quick bacon buttie; 370 calories, 18 g fat

During the morning:
4 oz mixed nuts; 730 calories, 68 g fat
2 mince pies; 460 calories, 22 g fat
2 handsful of crisps; 160 calories, 10 g fat
2 cocktail sausage rolls; 560 calories, 44 g fat
2 small glasses of sherry; 120 calories, no fat

Christmas Dinner:
Small portion smoked salmon with brown bread and butter; 310 calories, 11 g fat
2 glasses of Champagne; 200 calories, no fat

Turkey; 150 calories, 6 g fat
Stuffing; 230 calories, 15 g fat
2 Chipolata sausages; 120 calories, 10 g fat
Streaky bacon rolls; 200 calories, 18 g fat
Roast potatoes; 120 calories, 4 g fat
Roast parsnips; 100 calories, 6 g fat
Brussel sprouts cooked with chestnuts; 70 calories, 1 g fat
Boiled carrots; 14 calories, no fat
Boiled new potatoes; 75 calories, no fat
Butter on vegetables; 200 calories, 24 g fat
Gravy; 90 calories, 8 g fat
Cranberry sauce; 50 calories, no fat
Bread sauce; 100 calories, 4 g fat
3 glasses red wine; 250 calories, no fat

Christmas pudding; 300 calories, 10 g fat
brandy sauce; 150 calories, 6 g fat
cream; 150 calories, 15 g fat
glass of dessert wine; 120 calories, no fat

Stilton; 280 calories, 25 g fat
Cheese biscuits; 60 calories, 1 g fat
2 glasses of port; 160 calories, no fat

2 After dinner chocolates; 80 calories, 4 g fat
2 coffees with cream; 140 calories, 28 g fat
brandy; 50 calories, no fat
a few more nuts; 260 calories, 27 g fat

Christmas cake; 380 calories, 15 g fat
Cup of tea,

During Morecambe and Wise:
2 mince pies; 460 calories, 22 g fat
another handful of nuts; 730 calories, 68 g fat
3 chunks Turkish Delight; 150 calories, 1 g fat

Late night snack:
Cold turkey; 150 calories, 6 g fat
Stuffing; 230 calories, 15 g fat
Cranberry sauce; 50 calories, no fat
2 glasses wine; 165 calories, no fat

This actually adds up to 8744 calories and 512 g fat which is more calories than the average active woman needs for four whole days and more fat than you should eat for an entire week. And what do you think happens to those 6700 unnecessary calories? You guessed, they end up on your hips and bum and you could be half a stone heavier.

It doesn’t have to be like this and for the first time you could make Christmas healthier and happier without sacrificing any of the real pleasures. All it takes is making sure you follow these simple tips.

Ditch the bacon butties and start the day with a ripe fresh mango, a chunk of pineapple and a carton of live yoghurt. Both fruits contain digestive enzymes which are good for the stomach and the yogurt gives you millions of the good bugs that boost your natural resistance and keep your insides healthy. You’ve already saved 270 calories and 18 g fat.

As you’re opening the presents, dashing round the kitchen and putting the finishing touches to the table, nibble on vegetable crudités with spicy dips, fresh nuts and raisins instead of the roasted and salted variety, and drink a good sized glass of white wine spritzer (half wine, half fizzy water). Believe it or not this will save you 1700 calories and 120 g fat.

When it comes to Christmas dinner, it’s easy to make enormous savings and still have a fabulous meal. Have wholewheat crackers instead of bread and butter with the smoked salmon and cut out 160 calories and 7 g fat.

Cook all the roast vegetables separately from the turkey. Just drizzle them with a tiny amount of olive oil and sprinkle with some rosemary and sage which tastes great and are also good for the digestion. This on its own saves another 400 calories and 25 g fat.
It’s also important to cook the stuffing in a separate dish not inside the bird as you get rid of loads of fat and you’ll also avoid the risk of food poisoning as the stuffing isn’t being kept at a bacteria-friendly warm temperature as the turkey sits on the dining table. Instead of putting the chipolatas in the roasting pan, grill them on a rack to remove most of their high fat content.

Get rid of the fat when you make the gravy and lose another 200 calories and five teaspoons of fat by not putting butter on the vegetables. All this adds up to around 1000 calories less and we haven’t even got to the pudding, cheese and chocolates.

Now’s your chance to be a genuine revolutionary. I don’t know anyone who actually wants to eat Christmas pudding at the end of this meal and few people even like it, so why not break with tradition, dump the duff and make an exotic fruit salad including kiwi, paw paw, pineapple, mangoes and lychees. Your guests will breathe a sigh of relief at not being forced to eat a leaden lump of traditional pud and they’ll love this healthy dessert, especially if you serve it with a tangy yoghurt sauce. Use low fat live yoghurt, honey, cinnamon, the grated zest of a lemon and a few fresh mint leaves.

The combination of fruit enzymes, mint and beneficial bacteria will prevent indigestion, speed up the breakdown of fats and leave you feeling altogether more virtuous and comfortable. There’s also a bonus – you’ve cut out another 700 calories and 40 g, that’s eight teaspoons, of fat.

Now it’s time for the cheese but instead of the traditional very high fat Stilton, have a piece of really ripe Brie or Camembert. Enjoy them with a wonderful English apple like Cox or Russet and reduce your calorie intake by 80 and fat by 6 g.

Skip the cream in your coffee and instead of those expensive Belgian chocolates have a basket of succulent fresh figs. Avoid the nuts, give the Christmas cake to the Sally Army and dump another 800 calories and 70 g fat.

Probably the worst sin of all on Christmas Day is to stagger from the table, collapse into your armchair and be a couch potato in front of the TV for the rest of the afternoon. That’s when you nibble on the nuts, give in to your chocoholic addiction and finish off the last of the mince pies with a cup of tea.
Don’t do it! Get yourself and the family out for a 20 minute brisk walk, regardless of the weather, and you’ll not only burn up a few calories but you’ll avoid the final insult of yet another 1300 calories and 90 g of totally unnecessary fat.

You’ll also spare yourself the traditional Christmas telly belly in which your desperately overfull stomach is folded in half and squashed inside you in the armchair as it rumbles, grumbles and gets increasingly uncomfortable – have you ever tried doubling over a large full bag of frozen peas?

You may think it’s more difficult to be careful when you’re a guest in someone else’s house on Christmas Day. It isn’t. Not even if mother in law is in charge. You may not be able to influence how everything is cooked but you can insist on smaller portions, you can say no to the second mince pie, the third roast potato and the fourth spoon of cream. You can also easily decline the butter on the veg, the bowls of salted cashew nuts and the constant offers of sweets and chocolates.

Stay healthy this Christmas and don’t eat an elephant!


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