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Staying healthy these holidays

Juliana Mare

Mon Dec 23 2013


CHRISTMAS is probably the easiest time of year for weight gain. Juliana Mare chats to personal trainer Alex Allen to get some tips on how to survive the merry season.

When there’s a table full of cranberry stuffed turkey, honey-glazed ham, seafood platters, plus potatoes and gravy, even the strictest of fitness gurus would struggle not to slip up on their diets. And let’s not even mention the endless list of Christmas desserts and biscuits that are freshly baked every year.

While the food tastes amazing, stepping on the scales on Boxing Day sometimes makes you rethink your food choices.

Personal Trainer at Fit ‘n’ Fast gym, Alex Allen says while Christmas is a time for celebrating and enjoying good food and drinks, moderation is the key.

“Don’t go back for seconds on the stuffing or mash potatoes,” he says.

“Have as much turkey and vegetables as you like as turkey is a lean meat, low fat and high source of protein.”

When it comes to traditional Christmas food, ham is a holiday favourite. To cut back your sugar intake, use glazes that don’t have honey in them. The Allen family’s healthier glaze recipe uses lemon juice, marmalade, Worcestershire sauce and a dash of brown sugar.

Alex says the marmalade gives the recipe a lovely tangy, bitter flavour that’s nowhere near as sickly sweet as honey-based glazes.

For my family, it never feels like Christmas until someone in the house has started baking. This year, our goal is to bake the same traditional biscuits and cakes using healthier alternate ingredients.

Skinny Taste is a health food blog by Gina Homolka, a firm believer in the “everything in moderation” approach to weight loss. Her website is dedicated to good, wholesome meals that taste amazing but cut back on the nasty ingredients. Consequently, her blog has become my Christmas baking guidebook.

With cookies, biscotti, macaroons, cake pops, crumbles and meringues in her Holiday repertoire, there’s bound to be something on the blog that will have you itching to don your apron and get baking.

Some of my favourites include low-fat gingerbread cookies (56 calories each), Rudolph the red velvet cupcakes (132 cal), eggnog pancakes (98 cal) and of course, what Christmas would be complete without chocolate chip cookies? (85 cal)

You may have to make a special trip to the supermarket for these recipes as they often require ingredients like unsweetened applesauce, molasses, whole-wheat flour and unsweetened cocoa powder.

While food and diet constitute a high percentage of weight loss, exercise also plays a vital role however it can be hard to squeeze in a workout over the busy December month.

The first thing we loose over Christmas is our willingness to keep active, Alex says. If you do cut back on your regular fitness routine, try using stairs instead of escalators when shopping, avoid fast foods in the food court and opt for salads or roast meals and cook meals that are large enough for leftovers to avoid the urge to order takeout.

Got a spare five minutes at home in-between wrapping presents and preparing meals? Alex says push-ups, squats, dips and lunges are all exercises that can be completed at home and here’s his recommended circuit:

Push ups x 20 seconds
Squats x 20 seconds
Dips x 20 seconds
Lunges x 20 seconds
And a 20 second rest.

That’s 100 seconds total, repeat the circuit three times and that’s your five-minute power workout complete. Make sure to count how many reps per exercise and try to beat it next time.

While it’s important to enjoy yourself over Christmas and relax, Alex’s main tip is to be sensible. Don’t overindulge on treats, try to train and stay active as much as possible and avoid napping or sleeping after large meals.

Got any healthy Christmas recipes you’d like to share? Let us know in the comment section below. Happy Holidays!