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If you open the average person’s fridge sometime between December 1st and January 7th, you could be forgiven for thinking you were opening the door to an industrial refrigerator in the world’s unhealthiest restaurant. Either that, or it looks like an explosion in a chocolate, cheese and pie factory.
Generally, you’re hard pushed to find anyone who keeps a healthy fridge over Christmas. Even those people who are usually pretty healthy push their bags of salad, boxes of fruit and packages of chicken and turkey breast to the back of the fridge to make room for the most calorie-laden foods on the planet.
One main issue is simply just the quantity of food people buy over Christmas. Everyone seems to prepare for the world and his wife coming round, and we can’t be seen to be ill-prepared, should distant relatives call in for a visit, or friends stop by on their way off to a party and expect to be treated to a pre-drinking snack.
Most people know what’s good and what isn’t, but by delving into the good and bad of Christmas foods, it may help you make wiser choices this holiday season. Let’s kick off with the bad.
Sounds healthy right? Cranberries are a fruit after all.
Not so fast. Have you ever tasted cranberries? They’re possibly the most bitter food known to man, yet cranberry sauce is incredibly sweet. Unfortunately, that sweetness is created by mountains of sugar. Just a teaspoon of your regular cranberry sauce can contain up to 5 grams of sugar.
With pastry and sugar all in one tiny package, you’re looking at a pretty unhealthy food. While they do contain fruit, mince pies are generally full of raisins, currants and other dried fruits. The problem with dried fruit is that all the water has been removed, and you’re left with the most sugary part, making dried fruit a complete dieting no-non.
The one thing mince pies do have going for them is that they’re usually pretty small. Though on the downside that makes it pretty easy to eat a lot of them.
Anything with “cake” in its name is never going to be healthy. Just like mince pies and cranberry jelly, traditional Christmas cake is laced with sugar, but it is also topped with the dreaded icing – every dieter’s worst nightmare. Avoid this holiday diet-wrecker completely if you can.
Many people will try to claim potatoes as a vegetable to make themselves seem healthier, but in reality, potatoes are far closer to a starch, like rice, bread or pasta, than one of their greener cousins. Potatoes are incredibly high in carbohydrates, making them a food to watch out for on any diet under normal circumstances, but when done in traditional Christmas style – ie. roasted in plenty of fat, they’re even worse.
Don’t try to make them healthier with vegetable oil either. While the name may suggest vegetable oil is a healthier alternative, it’s absolutely not. You use the same amount of oil as you would anyway, meaning the calories are the same, but vegetable oil is full of polyunsaturated fats. The typical Western diet is far too high in polyunsaturates as it is, and an excess of these can lead to atherosclerosis and increases inflammation. Stick to animal fat for your potatoes – you won’t save any calories, but you will do your ticker a favor.
Every household in the country has tins of candy adorning every room over Christmas. While individual sweets may be so small they don’t cause much damage, you can easily get through a whole tin throughout December, and often eat them without even realizing it.
Key tip – don’t keep boxes of sweets open and on display at all.