What food to include on your Festive Plate
Christmas is a celebration, so enjoying traditional festive foods is part of that celebration, so we personally think we all should embrace that. Many of the festive foods at this time of the year are full of nutritional value so we should embrace that too. In “running through Christmas”, we touched on over-eating and the tendency to have extra large portions – so perhaps it’s not what foods we choose to eat but how much of it is a problem regarding potential weight gain, feeling bloated and sluggish after we’ve eaten which may have a knock-on effect on our energy next day and on our next training run.
The easiest thing we can do is follow everyday plate balance at every mealtime – which is ¼ plate of protein, ¼ plate carbohydrates and ½ plate of non-root veggies. We think on Christmas Day portions may be a little bit bigger but it’s key to get all 3 elements on your plate in proportion.
Protein Choices for your Festive Plate
The obvious choice here is TURKEY! Turkey is a lean low fat meat which is protein rich – Nutrition Data lists a 100g portion of turkey breast containing approx. 17g protein.
Turkey contains BCAA’s Branch chain amino acids which are important for muscle building and it’s also rich in tryptophan. Tryptophan is the precursor to serotonin and melatonin which help to regulate mind/mood/cognition and sleep. Turkey also contains B3, B6, B12, choline, selenium and zinc. So, if you’d like a larger portion for your meal or to snack on later this would be a good choice!
Suggestions for other protein choices;
On Christmas Day most people will choose a food they regard as a luxury – so choosing any kind of meat like beef/lamb/pork or poultry such as duck or goose or fish perhaps salmon or trout cooked in a way you love or if you’re vegetarian of vegan perhaps a nut roast made with chestnuts, walnuts, sage and cranberries all of which are seasonal.
Carbohydrate Choices for your Festive Plate
On a traditional Christmas meal your carbohydrate will come from root vegetables – potatoes, carrots, parsnips are the traditional choices but you could try roasted beetroot, celeriac, sweet potato. The good news about these root vegetables is that they contain lots of fibre and nutrients such as Potassium, folate, vitamin A and C, B vitamins and manganese.
We all know that Carbohydrate is important for fuelling our running however if you are choosing to have lighter exercise and activity on some of the holiday days it’s best to focus on smaller portions of carbohydrates.
For everyday nutrition, you’d focus on ¼ plate in total of these vegetables or a larger portion depending on your training. Realistically you may decide to eat a bigger portion on Christmas Day. Just remember to leave space for other festive foods!
Christmas Vegetables Choices for your Festive Plate
It wouldn’t be Christmas without Brussels Sprouts … people either love or hate brussels, however if you are creative with your recipes we think everyone can love them.
Brussels Sprouts are a great cruciferous vegetable containing;
- Vitamin C– for immune health
- Vitamin K– for bone health (as well as blood clotting)
- Potassium– for electrolyte balance
- Indole-3-carbinol promotes liver function which is important for hormone balance i.e. detoxification and excretion of old hormones
There are so many Christmas recipes using brussels sprouts. You may like to par boil them then slice and mix with chopped nuts or flaked almonds or chopped sun dried tomatoes, if you eat meat then add some chorizo or smoked bacon
Another festive favourite of ours is to make a hug pot of SPICED RED CABBAGE with apples, cranberries and a mix of spices (nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves) and some apple cider vinegar. We make it in a slow cooker and then freeze it in batches so it’s easy to add to any meal. Cranberries contain compounds known as pro anthocyanidins which have anti-bacterial properties and may help prevent urinary tract infections.
So, on the whole if we follow a balanced plate for a traditional festive main meal we are having a healthy meal providing macro and micro nutrients. However, it may be all the extras that are potentially not so healthy or perhaps tempt us to overeat! Let’s no talk about how to use the 80:20 approach so you can enjoy a little of what you fancy …
How do you have an 80:20 approach around food and drink at Christmas?
Try some of these healthy eating strategies to stay on track
- Have one treat every day so you can enjoy festive goodies like Christmas Cake and Sweet Mince Pies
- Choose to eat anything you’d like to on Christmas Day and Boxing Day but then very much aim to get back to normal until New Years Eve.
- Have a small amount of foods you love rather than totally miss out.
- Eat homemade and avoid processed foods which are often loaded with trans fats and additives and extra sugar e.g. a homemade sweet mince pie over a shop bought one!
- Be aware of the hidden extras that may affect body composition, energy and digestion;
- The pre-dinner nibbles – nuts/crisps/savoury pastries/bread – swap for olives/crudites with hummus
- The accompaniments and trimmings – small tastes/portions
- Second portions – do you need it? Try very small portions.
- Desserts – Christmas Pud and others!! Small portions – natural yoghurt
- Chocolates – do for dark chocolate
- Alcoholic calories and non-alcoholic calories
Don’t go without – set your own personal boundaries. We usually suggest an 80:20 approach for everyday nutrition – so allowing yourself 20% of the time off plan – in a normal week that would equate to 4 meals out of 21 meals if you eat 3 meals a day.
Maybe that’s not realistic over the festive period – everyone has to make their own judgement. An approach you may consider is to keep on plan for breakfast and one other meal and aim not to nibble/graze between meals, then you’ll have more freedom to choose whatever you’d like at the other meal and perhaps enjoy a drink too.
Socialising in a Healthy Way
It can be tricky to stay healthy when there is a lot of socializing and friends and family are offering hospitality – on these occasions it can be really difficult to stay on plan.
Our TIPS can be applied all year not just at Christmas.
Ask yourself “where does this occasion fit within my 80:20 approach”? Will you be off plan or on plan? If you’re eating out can you influence choice of food/restaurant? If you’re being a guest at someone’s home can you check menu ahead of occasion and offer to bring a dish which will complement the meal and your health. Keep your blood sugar balance in control by
- Eating and drinking normally all day (no skipping anything) and the next meal/day too
- Eating a nutritious snack before you arrive so you don’t go crazy on the nibbles
AT THE TABLE
Aim to stay away from pre-dinner nibbles and bread try swapping with olives. Set a limit on alcohol and drink lots of water. Follow plate balance principles and portion control, especially of you can self serve.
Consider are you making choices for your benefit i.e. to feel GREAT today and tomorrow and to support your health goals or are you choosing foods/drinks to “fit in”? Remember your friends and family will LOVE you whatever you have on your plate! Enjoy the occasion and the company.