Here’s to a healthier Christmas!

Article

02. 12. 2020

Christmas holidays are around the corner and there’s a sense of joy and festivities in the air,  but also the dread of those extra holiday kilos. Due to the current limitations, we are faced with because of the COVID-19 pandemic, most of us are moving and exercising a lot less and the holidays almost always mean we are indulging that little bit more.

Most of us want to indulge and enjoy the peace during the Christmas times, we‘re looking forward to the fairy tales on TV and the heavenly Christmas baking, and let’s not forget the potato salad! But food isn’t the only looming danger, alcohol is out there to get us as well… Alcohol has a high energy content- 2 glasses (400 ml) of good dry wine are 200 kcal, which in combination with those strategically placed bowls of mixed nuts just calls for trouble.

So how can we maintain our figure and prevent that classic post-holiday depression when we can’t quite zip up our favourite jeans and are too scared to step on the scales?

Whether we like it or not, it will not happen without some physical activity… so if we want to indulge a little more during these festive times, we will also have to start moving more. However, we know that not everyone is a runner-type who usually doesn’t have to worry about weight gain. But if you’re at least the “let’s go on a walk/hike!” type, then perfect! All is not lost. As we age, it becomes increasingly more difficult to control our weight which means that we need to spend more time thinking about our food and its composition than before.

It´s Christmas Eve!

When Christmas eve comes around, so does the much-anticipated Christmas dinner with its potato salad and carp, dumpling soup and dessert… a true feast! And you find yourself wondering why you shouldn’t let yourself indulge for this one evening a year?

A Christmas feast without a side of remorse

Let’s try to imagine the optimum result of a Christmas dinner, where you don’t guilt-trip yourself for gaining two kilos after a single dinner. Your Christmas day should start light, knowing that an evening rich in all kinds of goodies is awaiting us. So try not to overeat during the day, rather, aim for smaller portions and maintain a regular diet (unless you are doing the traditional fast). It is also important to take some time for physical activity- why not a little midday walk for two hours at a 3-4km/h pace?

  1. A serving of dumpling soup (250ml) gives us roughly 120-150kcal, assuming that we have a normal helping of dumplings -e.g. 3 average-sized dumplings.
  2. One serving (approx. 200g) of classic potato salad with mayonnaise equals about 270-300kcal, or 1 large and full tablespoon (approx. 68g) gives you 90kcal.
  3. A portion of friend carp (150g) is around 350kcal.
  4. Dessert is usually in the form of some Christmas cookies, cake or similar sweets. One slice of Czech Christmas cake (called stollen in Germany, or similar to the Italian Panettone) weighing at 50g is around 200kcal.

Out of interest: if we have, for example, 4 pieces of Linzer cookies with our coffee (55kcal per cookie on average) we’ll already be at a total of 220kcal. Beehive’s/Wasp nests are slightly more energy-dense- 4 pieces (on average 83kcal per piece) add up to 332kcal.

  1.   A little toast is almost always part of any festive dinner… but even here we are faced with a choice that can influence our overall energy intake- try choosing a drier wine or some vermouth. In addition to carbohydrates, the calories in alcoholic beverages are also obviously in the content of alcohol, 1 gram of alcohol = 7 kcal. Thus, the less% alcohol and carbohydrates, the fewer calories. So we can count a 200 ml glass of alcohol as  100-200 kcal for a toast.

For example:

  •   Champagne 200 ml = 160 kcal / 38 g carbohydrates
  •   Prosecco 200 ml = 130 kcal / 4 g carbohydrates
  •   Dry white wine 200 ml = 126 kcal / 0.8 g carbohydrates
  •   Cinzano dry 200 ml = 96 kcal / 0 g carbohydrates
  •   Beer 10 ° 500 ml = 185 kcal / 10 g carbohydrates
  •   Beer 12 ° 500 ml = 237 kcal / 20 g carbohydrates

 

If we add it all up, a Christmas dinner including a toast can total at about 1200 kcal and over 60 grams of fat (mayonnaise, frying fat, butter in cookies, fat in liver and fish).

If we look at the nutrient reference values (NRVs) for an average person, this single dinner will equal about 60% of our total recommended calorie intake (2000kcal) for the day and 100% of our fat intake for the day (30% of our total energy intake).

If we eat and drink in moderation throughout the day leading up, and make sure we get some physical exercise in one form or another, we really don’t need to worry about gaining weight even after such an energy-rich dinner. Sit back and enjoy the festive atmosphere with friends and family- and perhaps persuade everyone to go for a walk after dinner!

Maintaining optimal body weight is not only connected to our diet and physical activity. The role of our mental health is something that should not be overlooked- the joys of life and a healthy dose of optimism should never take the back seat. Nevertheless, if your clothes start feeling a little tighter and those extra Christmas pounds still make an appearance, don’t hesitate to make an appointment with your nutritionist who can advise you on how to get back to your optimal weight again.

What about exercise? Which one should you choose?

The table below will help you calculate how long you have to walk and at what speed to "burn off" a Christmas cookie for example.

An example: A woman (weighing at 70kg) walks at a speed of 3km/h in slightly undulating terrain (slow walk without significant shortness of breath): 70kg x 2.4 = 168kcal/hour (2.4 is the coefficient for 3km/h walking on slightly raised terrain). Therefore, in order for this woman to burn off the calorie content of the 4 Linzer cookies she ate, she should go for a walk for a 1 ¼ hour (60min/168kcal x 220kcal). It goes without saying that the faster she would walk, or the more difficult the terrain would be, the less time she would need to walk for. So if this woman walked at a speed of 5km/h uphill: 70kg x 5= 350kcal/h, it would be sufficient to walk for 40minutes.

 

kcal/hour/kg

Walking at a 2km/h pace on flat ground       1,7

In slightly undulating terrain  1,8

In undulating terrain   1,9

In hilly terrain 2,0

Walking at a 3km/h pace on flat ground       2,3

In slightly undulating terrain  2,4

In undulating terrain   2,5

In hilly terrain 2,8

Walking at a 4km/h pace on flat ground       3,1

In slightly undulating terrain  3,3

In undulating terrain   3,5

In hilly terrain 3,8

Walking at a 5km/h pace on flat ground       4,2

In slightly undulating terrain  4,3

In undulating terrain   4,6

In hilly terrain 5,0

 

Christmas carrot-cookies

  • 100g carrots
  • 200g softened butter
  • 100g powdered sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 tsp vanilla sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 300g wholegrain spelt flour
  • Jam

Method:

Beat together the eggs and sugar (including the vanilla sugar). Into the mixture add your softened butter and beat some more. Add the carrot (finely grated) and incorporate along with the flour. Flip your dough out onto a flat surface and knead until smooth. Let it rest in the refrigerator for an hour. After taking it out of the fridge, roll it out and cut out circles. Bake at 180 celsius for 15 minutes. Stick the baked and cooled cookies together using a jam of your choice.

This recipe makes approximately 30 cookies with an average weight of 20g a piece. Each cookie contains about 90kcal. In comparison to traditional christmas cookies, these healthier alternatives contain about 2x more fibre (thanks to the wholegrain spelt flour and the carrots).

 

Have a festive and healthy Christmas holiday!

Mgr. Ing. Jitka Jirků, nutritional therapist, Canadian Medical

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