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Practical tips and ideas for Christmas

It’s almost that time of year again and whilst planning your festive calendar spare a thought for your arteries this Christmas.  Some sensible planning and forethought can help cut those Christmas calories and saturated fat to a healthy level.  Here’s our best Christmas heart health advice from HEART UK - the Cholesterol charity. 
Plan…….plan……..plan

  • Set yourself realistic targets for Christmas - such as keeping your weight stable over the 2 week holiday, not gaining more than 2 lbs overall or sticking to just one “saturated fat treat” per day and share these with the family so that they can support you. 
  • In the run up to the party season there are bound to be lots of opportunities to over indulge.  Obtain menus in advance and identify dishes low in saturated fat.  Download our fact sheet on Eating Out and Eating Out - Best Choices.
  • To avoid offence when visiting friends and family give them plenty of notice of your dietary needs.
  • Stock up on healthy snacks over Christmas, including unsalted nuts, dried fruits, and exotic fresh fruits. Take a look at our Six Super Foods that actively help lower cholesterol and download our fact sheet on healthy snacks.
  • Ask friends and family not to buy you sweets and chocolate for gifts. Identify a range of alternative gifts you do like and at different levels of spend.
  • If you are going to indulge – try to keep this to just 2 or 3 days over the Christmas period.

Christmas Day

  • Start the day with a healthy breakfast.  Breakfast eaters are less likely to be tempted to eat unhealthy snacks during the morning. 
  • Remember to keeping plates and glasses small - it helps to limit portion sizes and you don’t feel guilty leaving unneeded food on the plate.  Try to leave the table still feeling comfortable.

Christmas Day lunch

  • Pick a healthy starter such as a clear soup, melon, fruit juice or smoked salmon
  • Enjoy healthy portions of vegetables.  Provided they are not covered by sauce or butter they are really low in fat and calories.
  • Go for the breast of the turkey – it is the leanest and try to avoid the skin.  If making gravy from the juices be sure to let the fat settle and then skim it off.
  • Now for the trimmings - you can make savings by grilling your sausages and trimming and grilling the bacon.  Use low fat milk in the bread sauce and opt for a fruity stuffing in the turkey.  
  • Roast potatoes are a must for most but forget the goose fat or lard – make straight for the olive oil, sunflower or rapeseed oil.  They are still high in fat but only contain a fraction of the saturated fat

Drinks        

  • Most people will have a drink or two over Christmas, but remember alcohol is high in calories and can raise triglycerides.  Check the number of units in your favourite tipple and try to stick to no more than 1-2 units a day for women and 2-3 units a day for men.  Make sure you have some alcohol free days too. 
  • Look out for exciting alcohol free recipes for punches and cocktails
  • Make the most of mixers to extend drinks such as a white wine spritzer (white wine and soda/fizzy low calorie lemonade) or a well diluted spirit
  • Alternate alcoholic drinks with soft drinks or why not offer to drive and stick to non-alcoholic drinks 

Snacks

  • Try not to snack too often, but when you do choose sensible options
  • Take advantage of the healthy snacks around at Christmas such as fresh fruit, dried fruit and nuts.
  • Take your pick of traditional snacks such as vegetable sticks and dips, toasted current buns, English muffins or bagels, cereal bars, low fat hummus and pitta bread, oatcakes, digestives and crackers or a fruit scone.
  • A plain Christmas cake contains less fat when compared weight for weight with a traditional sponge but keep portions modest
  • Look out for cake recipes that use vegetable oil instead of butter such as a moist carrot cake or go for a fat-less sponge like a swiss roll. 

Relax, unwind and keep active

  • It's a holiday - plenty of time for being physically active like taking a brisk walk or going for a bike ride with the family
  • Make sure you make some time for yourself.  Christmas can be stressful and it’s important to share those chores and take time out to relax.  Have a luxurious hot bath, cuddle up to watch a great movie, play a board game or read a good book.

Christmas Food Swaps and savings

  • Why not swap a traditional mince pie with a mincemeat filo parcel.  Using thin sheets of filo pastry can save you up to 8g of fat per portion.
  • Serving your Christmas pudding with low fat custard (made from skimmed milk or soya milk) rather than Brandy butter saves you up to 15g of fat per portion
  • Swapping milk chocolate for dark chocolate may not save any calories but the fat in dark chocolate won’t directly affect your cholesterol levels unlike milk chocolate.

Cholesterol lowering foods

Don’t forget to make the most of foods that actively lower cholesterol over the Christmas period.   These include nuts, foods fortified with plant sterols and stanols, soya dairy alternatives, tofu and foods rich in soluble fibre such as oat cereals, oatie bread, beans, peas, lentils and some fruits and vegetables such as aubergine, okra and citrus fruits.      

It’s normal to eat differently at Christmas and to indulge in foods you might not eat at other times of year but why not make this a Christmas that you don’t end up regretting well into January.  We hope you enjoyed our top tips for a heart healthy Christmas.