‘Tis the season for indulgence, but don’t forget that holiday food can be included as part of a healthy, balanced diet too!
The average person puts on 4lbs of body fat during Christmas and New Year, but by regularly moving your body and being mindful about your food choices without depriving yourself over the holidays, you can begin 2019 feeling fit and healthy and ready to tackle the year ahead.
We tend to crave more indulgent and comforting foods during winter – snacking on festive chocolates and biscuits throughout the day and treating ourselves to roast dinners and stodgy puddings with custard and brandy cream. Let’s be honest: Christmas wouldn’t be the same without these festive foodie favourites, and it’s the perfect time to celebrate and indulge a little with our loved ones.
However, we still want to feel confident and motivated to get back in the saddle come January, so moderation and some choice picks will be key to surviving these tempting weeks ahead and staying on track of our health and fitness goals.
We researched our favourite festive foods and found some surprising health benefits – some might even help you to cycle faster!
During winter, we like to swap our usual energy bars for a decent slab of Christmas cake! Nutritionally, they have a lot of similarities: Christmas cake is stuffed full of dried fruit which is an excellent source of fructose – a type of carbohydrate perfect for cycling – as well as fibre which is beneficial to your gut. The icing gives a quick boost of carbs and the relatively small amount of fat keeps you fuelled for longer, without feeling heavy in your stomach. Even the marzipan underneath the icing is a good source of fuel and one a lot of bike riders choose to eat all year round. It’s easy to eat and doesn’t freeze into a solid, tooth-breaking lump like some bars – all round it’s a winner!
Why does everyone insist on a bowl of nuts at Christmas? Is it just an excuse to get the nut crackers out? Regardless of why, they’re a great choice of snack to leave around the house. Nuts cracked directly from their shells contain more of their natural oils and nutrients compared to those you buy already shelled. Of all the nuts in your fruit bowl, Brazil nuts are a particularly wise choice as they are a great source of fibre and protein, plus vitamin E, calcium, potassium, iron and copper. They’re also one of the richest sources of anti-oxidant called selenium that protects your body’s cells from free-radical damage and helps to produce DNA. All good things to protect your body from ageing!
If you find one of these at the bottom of your stocking, someone obviously loves you! Satsumas are a great source of vitamin C which can help endurance athletes like cyclists avoid upper respiratory tract infections during the winter months. Like all fruit, they are high in fibre and good for your digestive tract, so get peeling and enjoy!
As a white meat, turkey is lower in fat compared with most red meats and is of course high in protein, so a great choice of great recovery food for tired legs. Like Brazil nuts, turkey is rich in selenium – something most of us don’t get enough of – as well as a whole host of B vitamins which fight fatigue and keep our red blood cells healthy. In many ways, it’s a shame that turkey tends to only come out at Christmas as this is one meat we could include in our healthy diets all year round.
Often served as part of a starter or found on a festive buffet, smoked salmon is a great food choice all year round. It’s a good source of protein, B vitamins, magnesium and selenium! Smoked salmon also contains plenty of omega-3 fatty acids linked to a lower risk of heart disease. Importantly, it contains vitamin D, something most of us lack in the winter months, so eating extra oily fish around this time of year can only be a good thing.
Cinnamon makes its way into a lot of festive foods, from mulled wine to Christmas biscuits, it truly is the spice of Christmas! Cinnamon is a powerful anti-oxidant and has anti-inflammatory properties, both of which are good for people who exercise regularly. Another benefit is that it helps with regular insulin production, so has a positive effect on your blood sugar levels, helping to keep them stable and level throughout the day.
Devils on Horseback
The more traditional recipe is of course pigs in blankets – sausages wrapped in bacon – but this variation is just as sticky and tasty with fewer calories from fat and the added health benefits of eating prunes! Prunes are very high in fibre which is good for your gut, and if you’re feeling a bit stodgy and heavy from eating too much indulgent food, it can help to, well… get things moving. Prunes are also a good source of potassium, an electrolyte that assists in a variety of vital bodily functions. This mineral helps with digestion, heart rhythm, nerve impulses and muscle contractions, as well as blood pressure.