Is it really almost a year since we made all those New Year’s resolutions to get fit and eat well?  And how many are still in place!  This year why don’t you make life easier, and guilt free, by making some healthier eating choices during the festive period rather than waiting until after.

At this time of year, there are lots of tempting goodies on offer but many are laden with bad fats: Hydrogenated vegetable oils and trans fats.  These are fats that have been chemically altered, often to improve product texture and shelf life.  Unfortunately they have also been linked to all kinds of health problems.

In contrast essential fatty acids or “good fats” are beneficial for health.  There are two main categories: omegas 3 found in oily fish and linseeds (flax), and omega 6 found in sunflower and sesame seeds and their oils .  Saturated fats are found in meat and dairy products, and do play in important role in our diets provided they are eaten in moderation.

So how do you know where to avoid the bad fats and enjoy the good fats. Try some of these tips:

  • At parties avoid snacks such as salted nuts, crisps and deep fried canapés.  Instead opt for brushetta with a topping such as tomato or mushrooms.
  • Crudites with dips such as hummous or guacamole are another good option.  Although nuts contain saturated fats, they are also laden with vitamins and minerals so a few here and there are a good choice – provided you choose the unsalted variety!
  • Olives, both green and black contain important levels of vitamins A and E and minerals. The oleic acid found in olives has been shown to help lower cholesterol levels.  Try to choose ones that are either unmarinated or marinated in olive oil.
  • Select canapés with smoked salmon, an oily fish rich in Omega 3 oils.  Pates containing smoked mackerel or trout also fit this bill

Drinking at Christmas and New Year

Talking of parties, what drinks can you enjoy without feeling too guilty or hungover the next day!

  • Did you know that red wine contains resveratrol, a potent antioxidant that may protect against cardiovascular and other disease.  The skins of red grapes are full of flavanoids, another antioxidant so opt for a glass of red instead of white – but stick to only one or two.
  • Spritzers are another way to enjoy a drink whilst keeping an eye on your alcohol levels: top up half a glass of white wine with soda water.
  • Mulled wine lists cinnamon and cloves amongst it’s spicy ingredients – both are reputed to support the immune system, so if you are if you are nursing a cold..……….
  • If you are sticking to soft drinks, try a cranberry or pomegranate juice instead of the usual ones on offer.  Both contain Vitamin C and are reputed to be tonics for the heart!  Topped up with sparkling mineral water, ice and lemon, they make a refreshing alternative.
  • Tempted to have something a little stronger?  Choose one of these cocktails: the tomato juice in a classic Bloody Mary contains yet more antioxidants in the form of lycopene. The Seabreeze is a mix of vodka, cranberry and grapefruit juices, served with a lime wedge – positively bursting with Vitamin C!

If you find yourself at a Christmas party and want to eat a healthier meal, stick to these rules to help your waistline:

  • Start your meal with a bowl of vegetable soup, which counts towards your “5 and day” and is not too filling.  Alternatively, a salad of mixed leaves such as rocket can stimulate your digestion but is not too bulky.
  • Compared to chicken, duck and goose, turkey is low in saturated fats and is an excellent source of B vitamins.  It also contains significant amounts of zinc and other minerals. So roast turkey (without the skin) is an excellent healthy option.
  • Most restaurants offer a fish dish which is great low, fat option. Oily fish such as tuna and salmon will also provide you with the omega 3 oils whereas white fish is a good source of easily digestible protein.  If they come with a rich sauce, ask for this to be omitted or served separately and then you can choose how much you want.
  • Have only one or two roast potatoes and fill the rest of your plate with a variety of vegetables, all contain important nutrients as well as fibre to help your digestion.  Fibre can also help reduce cholesterol and support the liver during this period of eating rich foods.
  • Puddings are invariably a minefield!  If you have a starter and main course, think about whether you really want a pud on top of all that.
  • Most restaurants wlll be able to offer you a fruit bowl.  Desserts such as poached pears in wine are always a healthier, low fat option.

As you can see, a little forethought before you go out, can help you make healthy choices without having to say no to every tasty morsel on offer!