Have a healthier, happier Christmas

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Christmas is often laden with expectations, anxieties, overindulgence and family tensions.
So how can you make Christmas happier and healthier?

Take the pressure off

If your family is getting together over Christmas and you know there are some family conflicts, talk to those involved before Christmas day and see if you can resolve them beforehand. You can’t please all of the people all of the time, so ask everyone involved (including yourself) what one or two things really makes their Christmas. Agree on a plan that includes these things, plus exercise and group activities. Allot tasks to ensure one person doesn’t do everything. Bake and freeze food in advance where possible.

Food preparation
Things can slip with extra food, extra cooks and extra time pressure, so remember to defrost food thoroughly and then cook or refrigerate immediately, ensuring your fridge stays below 5°C and there’s room for cold air circulation. Large turkeys take a long time to defrost, so always check the inside for ice crystals. If you’re serving buffet food, don’t leave it out for more than four hours. Chill leftovers rapidly and reheat them thoroughly (just once).

The lunch
No one wants to hold back when tucking into the Christmas dinner, but there are ways to avoid overdoing the calories. When serving nibbles, avoid crisps, salted nuts and chocolates, but offer pretzels or unsalted nuts.
Poultry fat is predominantly in the skin, so when cooking the turkey, prick it then cook it on a rack, so the fat drips down. Keep portion sizes sensible – people can always go back for seconds. Forget goose fat roasties, use a healthy oil spray and microwave, steam or boil vegetables in minimal water until just soft. Add herbs or lemon juice rather than butter.

Drink wisely
Even small amounts of alcohol affect judgement and reactions. Absorption depends on many factors, so no set amount guarantees you’re under the legal driving limit – and Scotland has a lower limit than the rest of the UK. Don’t exceed NHS recommended weekly limits: 21 units for men and 14 units for women. Alcohol and salty snacks contribute to dehydration, making people irritable, so don’t forget to also provide jugs of chilled water jazzed up with winter berries or citrus peel.

Try to enjoy the day – take time out to relax, and remember: a burnt turkey isn’t the end of the world!

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