Temptation is all around at this time of year, and it’s not going anywhere. With office parties, social gatherings and festive dinners in the diary, tempting snacks parade themselves at every opportunity, yet feeling as though you have to say ‘no’ to everything won’t fill you with Christmas cheer. With that in mind, we’ve sought advice from two Dubai-based nutritionists. Carole Holditch, founder of Good Habits, reveals what should be on your naughty and nice lists this party season, while Ahlaam Ali, founder of Powwer Eat, offers tips on how to reduce the impact of your big dinner.
Cheese straws ‘Cheese and pastry is a double diet blow,’ says Carole. ‘Plain breadsticks have about half the calories.’
Salted nuts ‘Aside from being laden with belly-bloating sodium (not a good look in your LBD), some nuts contain huge amounts of fat.’
Mince pies ‘Buttery pastry and spicy mincemeat is delicious, but you’d need to jog for about 30 minutes to burn off the average 250 calories in this festive treat. If you can’t resist, try trendy open-topped pies with less pastry.’
Cocktail sausages ‘Not as innocent as they look – high in saturated fat.’
Vol-au-vents ‘These puff-pastry nibbles score heavily on fat and calorie content. Look for filo pastry for a healthier alternative.’
Smoked salmon on toast ‘An excellent choice, especially on wholewheat toast. Salmon is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, protein, minerals and vitamins.’
King prawns ‘High in protein but low in fat and calories, prawns are a tasty but saintly snack. The protein will help you feel full for longer.’
Olives ‘Each olive has only about five calories and less than a gram of fat.’
Sushi ‘This is the ultimate guilt-free canapé. The fish, veg and rice in the cute little rolls are low in fat and calories and will help fill you up.’
Blinis with caviar ‘Caviar is a source of protein, vitamin D and B12 – though it’s also high in cholestrol and sodium, so don’t overdo it.’
Popcorn ‘Low in fat and high in fibre and powerful antioxidant polyphenol – choose it over crisps.’
Chicken skewers ‘Low in fat and full of protein, a few pieces will keep hunger at bay. Avoid dips – sweet chilli is sugary, and satay is high in salt and fat.’
Bubbly ‘Mulled grape and eggnog may be festive, but they’re laden with sugar. If you have to drink at all, bubbly is the best option – a standard flute only contains about 90 calories.’
Tomato, mozzarella and rocket bites ‘With fewer calories and less fat than harder cheeses, mozzarella is a fairly healthy choice, while rocket is packed with vitamins.’
Mini cupcakes ‘If you can’t resist a sweet treat, a bite-size cupcake makes portion control easy. Pick one with water icing instead of buttercream to cut calories.’
Good Habits is a lifestyle guide rather than diet regime, with regular group meetings around town. www.goodhabitsuae.com.
Take control of your turkey dinner
According to Ahlaam Ali, the average person consumes about 3,240 calories on Christmas Day, courtesy of a roast dinner, pudding, mince pies, drinks and, of course, snacking throughout the day. It’s a huge total compared to the recommended daily intake of 2,500 for men and 2,000 for women (and that’s for those who aren’t trying to lose weight).
But there are ways round this calorie minefield. ‘Allocate yourself a certain number of calories at the beginning of the day,’ says Ahlaam. ‘Portion control will work like a dream. Also, pace yourself – it takes 20 minutes for your brain to receive the message that your tummy is full.’ The trick, apparently, is to eat slowly so you don’t overeat before your brain has a chance to register that you’re full.
‘One portion of turkey (the size of a tennis ball) with veggies on the side should be about 500 to 600 calories. Decide on one glass of grape, one helping of pudding and a mince pie, which should cost another 500 calories. Then leave out some calories for munching throughout the day with family, and make sure there are some healthy options to eat while everybody else is devouring their third loaded dessert.
‘Also, it can’t hurt to take a little walk for a couple of hours after Christmas dinner. This is a much more appealing option in Dubai, where the weather is fantastic.’
Powwer Eat offers tailor-made diet programmes, counselling and weight-loss coaching. www.ahlaamali.com.
Carole’s quick tips to avoid festive calories
• Stand rather than sit when chatting – you’ll use one extra calorie per minute.
• Dance rather than eat. Dancing burns around seven calories per minute and is great for toning calves and thighs. Use every possible moment to keep moving.
• If you know you have a party coming up, cut back in the days beforehand so the extra calories won’t have such a big impact.