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Enjoy Christmas - and eat for health!


Public Health Agency

Type: News
Region: Republic of Ireland
Northern Ireland

With the festive season now in full swing and people's minds turning to the culinary delights over the Christmas period, the Public Health Agency (PHA) has come up with top tips on how to enjoy the holidays without overindulging on calories and fat.Food is one of the central elements of celebrating over Christmas. However, many of us can end up eating a little too much, resulting in an average weight gain of 5lbs (2kg) over the festive season. And getting that weight off in the New Year is a lot harder than putting it on!On Christmas Day itself, we can eat as many as 6,000 calories - three times what is needed for an average woman aged 18-54.But enjoying Christmas time does not have to mean that weight gain is inevitable, and the PHA advises that making a few minor changes can keep, your Christmas  enjoyable, but also healthier.Angela McComb, Health and Social Wellbeing Improvement Manager, for the PHA, gives some simple suggestions for a happy and healthy Christmas.The main eventFor starters traditional vegetable soup is a great choice of starter as it is low in fat and packed full of vegetables. You could also serve melon to start with, or even some smoked salmon which is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids which help to keep our hearts healthy.Turkey (without skin), especially the breast meat, is naturally low in fat, and stuffing flavoured with fruits or herbs, such as apricots, sage, parsley and thyme, is lower in fat than one made with sausage meat. For lower fat gravy, cool turkey juices in the fridge or freezer then skim off the fat and use as normal.Traditional Christmas vegetables such as Brussels sprouts, peas and carrots are all good sources of vitamins, but be careful and avoid adding butter or oil to these.For the potatoes, use whole potatoes for roasting, rather than small chunks which absorb more fat; par-boil them, drain, then toss in a roasting tin with a small amount of unsaturated oil, like olive, rapeseed or sunflower oil rather than lard or goose fat.Enjoy the Christmas pudding and consider lower fat alternatives to brandy butter and fresh cream - try low fat crème fraiche or make your own custard using skimmed or semi-skimmed milk.  If you enjoy a glass of wine, it's worth remembering that alcohol is high in calories, and can contribute to unwanted weight gain.The nibblesPerhaps the most difficult aspect about Christmas food is that it is right in front of us all day and it can be so tempting! Try keeping the tempting treats like mince pies, chocolates and crisps out of sight and make sure there are plenty of healthy options available:Mandarins and satsumas are a great source of vitamins, and eating two counts as one of your five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.Choose reduced fat crisps, or raw vegetables with low fat dips, or eat them less frequently.Nuts tend to high in fat and they're often coated in salt. Why not try roasting a few chestnuts instead, and these are also low in fat.REMEMBER- being active will help to burn off some of those extra calories, so encourage the whole family to wrap up warm and get out for some walks over the holiday period.  It's also fun and a chance to spend time together.Eat, drink and be healthy this Christmas - it only happens once a year, so really enjoy it. Be smart and  avoid a pattern of eating more than you would normally, as this can quickly become a habit that is hard to break!For more healthy recipes visit





Rights: Public
Suggested citation:

Public Health Agency. (2011) Enjoy Christmas - and eat for health! [Online]. Available from: [Accessed: 6th April 2020].


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