It is undoubtedly the biggest all-day banquet of the year. It starts with the celebratory cooked breakfast with a croissant thrown in for good measure.
Then there’s the abundance of calorie-laden canapés we’ll graze on while dipping our hand into the box of Quality Street and sipping mulled wine or bubbly.
The main event is next up with the long-awaited turkey and all the trimmings. Think rich sauces, potatoes roasted in goose fat and pigs in blankets. Followed by some Yule log, Christmas pudding or indulgent trifle.
The annual Christmas feast is our biggest culinary treat of the year, in which we can clock up a staggering 6000 calories in one day – three times the recommended daily average.
Of course it’s just one day, and no one wants to give up the luxuries at Christmas, but according to Scotland’s top health and fitness experts you can enjoy Christmas Day and indulge without the calorific spend and increasing waistline.
Here is our guide to surviving Christmas and fighting the festive bulge.
START AS YOU MEAN TO GO ON
Christmas Day doesn’t have to start with a cooked breakfast. Top Scottish nutritional expert, Nikos Jakubiak, performance nutritionist at sportscotland institute of sport, explains: “The problem for many people is that while we eat enough food, we don’t necessarily eat the right foods which will provide us with the micronutrients we need.
“By choosing more nutrient-rich foods, you will feel satisfied for longer and you will have more energy.”
So instead of bacon rolls or the full fry-up, why not try smoked salmon with scrambled egg on a bagel? Or if you want a more traditional Scots breakfast, porridge.
“One of the best breakfasts you can have is porridge,” adds Nikos. “It will kick start your metabolism, help make you feel fuller for longer and prevent you from snacking.”
And, whatever you do, stay away from the croissants and pain au chocolats which can clock up nearly 500 calories per portion.
Nikos explains: “For most of us Christmas Day is about indulging. When it comes to breakfast you have to ask yourself: do you really want to start your day with high calorie and high fat foods?”
THE GREAT ESCAPE
One of the biggest problems on Christmas is that we spend so much of the day sitting about, generally watching the TV.
So this year, get out in the fresh air and work up an appetite for your festive banquet. A half hour stroll will burn off around 100 calories, while a half hour jog can burn around 400 calories.
If you just can’t face going outside, try a workout in the home – if you have a Wii this will be both entertainment and exercise.
Or, if you want some serious calorie burning action then take advice from top Edinburgh personal trainer Will Sturgeon of Will Power Personal Training.
He explains: “Start off with a power walk, jog or even use your steps for 20 minutes. Then, do a series of body weight exercises such as tricep dips, press ups, sits ups, squats and lunges.
“For maximum results, alternate two minutes of a specific body weight exercise with two minutes of aerobic activity such as skipping or jogging on the spot. Don’t rest between exercises and ensure you complete a 20-minute circuit. This should burn around 600 calories a session.”
Another reason we clock up so many calories on Christmas Day is the sheer volume of tempting nibbles that can be found lying around. But bulging waistlines, beware: a single mince pie contains around 250 calories, while a meagre handful of roasted peanuts equals 155 calories, a handful of crisps and dip equals 200 calories and two mini sausage rolls around 120 calories. And just four Quality Street chocolates amounts to nearly 210 calories.
Nikos says: “Snacking is a big part of socialising at this time of year, with boxes of chocolates and other treats often left out. It’s a good idea to make some healthier options available too, such as chestnuts, walnuts and plain popcorn. Hummus with crudités including carrots and cucumber are another good alternative.”
With all the food generally comes far too much alcohol, adding to the calorie count – on average, beer contains about 180 calories per pint, while a large glass (250ml) of red wine contains 160 calories and there are 150 calories in a glass of white. Spirits contribute around 50-60 calories per measure, although with sugary mixers that can quickly double.
But is there any reason to hold back? after all, it’s Christmas.
“Most of us will indulge in a little alcohol,” admits Nikos. “So long as you do so in moderation it is okay, but we should be mindful that alcohol in any form is something our bodies naturally work to expel.
“Red wine is a good option as it offers antioxidants, but I appreciate it isn’t for everyone. Drinking with meals is always a good idea too.”
THE MAIN EVENT
From the indulgent starter, turkey with all the trimmings to the rich sauces, heavy puddings, brandy butter and the booze, the calories quickly clock up. So, how can we cut back without losing out?
Nikos explains: “Turkey is a lean meat anyway but if you are looking to shave off a few calories it’s best to avoid the skin as much of the fat is stored there. Vegetables are full of antioxidants so are a great food type to eat lots of in general. Load your plate with veg to ensure you fill up on the right things.”
Cutting potatoes into larger chunks before roasting in olive oil can help as these absorb less fat than smaller ones. Ditch the cocktail sausages wrapped in bacon and opt for vegetarian stuffings. Homemade is always best as you can monitor what goes in your stuffing. Opt for cranberry sauce rather than bread sauce and, when making your gravy, skim the turkey juices and use what’s left.
And then there’s pudding.
Nikos suggests: “If you decide you want to save calories here and avoid the traditional Christmas pudding, I recommend a delicious fruit salad. You can make it really colourful and visually appealing too. If you can’t resist Christmas pudding, avoid taking creamy accompaniments in excess. Alternatively, Opt for yoghurt or crème fraîche instead; by avoiding creamy accompaniments you’ll also save calories.”
Keep extras such as mince pies, cream, cheese and biscuits to a minimum.
Okay, so despite all the advice above you’ve still overindulged...but don’t sit and wallow. According to the experts, you can get back in shape quickly.
“To transform your body the healthy way you do need much longer than a few weeks, however you can lose weight and tone up fast”, explains Will.
The key, he explains, is aerobic activity.
“All of your toning exercises should be done in an aerobic style,” says Will. “Rowing is perfect as it tones the upper back and arms, plus it works the core and legs. It is a full body workout with the all-important high calorie burn.”
Will advises that you put the machine up to a resistance level of eight and ensure you always work at a power output of 100-150 watts. Then, do one minute of full rowing followed by one minute of rowing just with your arms, keeping your legs stationary. Keep alternating for ten minutes.”
He adds: “And if you prefer fitness classes then opt for those which increase the heart rate, such as body pump, step class or a dance class such as Zumba.”