Dr Michael Mosley explains why exercising sooner rather than later is key when it comes to Christmas and shares 4 healthy festive recipes
No one’s actively counting calories on 25 December, which is just as well because according to Dr Michael Mosley, creator of the Fast 800 Plan, we can consume anything up to 3-4,000 of them just on Christmas Day. “It’s probably at least 2,000 more calories than we need,“ he says. It's the build-up to Christmas that can be tricky, he points out. “You start eating lots of chocolates and drinking a lot of alcohol as well, which is laden with calories.” In the case of alcohol, it’s not just the calories , but the fact that it presses pause on fat burning and makes you want to consume everything in sight.
We all expect a bit of a wine waist around this time, but to save ourselves the pain and privation of working it all off in the new year (although why wait? says Dr Mosley) there are a few ways to be a little healthier. He offers his realistic tips and shares some of his favourite healthy (and still edible) Christmas recipes. Low carb trifle anyone? You might just surprise yourself.
Make a few healthy Christmas dinner swaps
“It’s certainly very tricky to follow a healthy diet over the Christmas period, but there are easy substitutes that will make things a little healthier. Rather than a big pile of roast potatoes. I recommend more roasted vegetables such as parsnips and carrots. Go for a healthy, Fast 800 Spiced Festive Cake Christmas cake (below), it has no icing rather than something a lot more glutenous."
Ask people not to give you chocolates
“If you are following a healthy diet, then do let the rest of your family know that being offered boxes of chocolates for Christmas is probably not a good idea this year, or ever.”
Keep up an exercise regime
“The temptation is to sit in front of the telly all the time, particularly after a big Christmas meal. But you will find that is not going to help burn off some of those calories you've just consumed in huge amounts.”
Swap calorie restriction for time-restricted eating
“If you’re on a weight-loss plan which involves calorie restriction such as the Fast 800 diet , you will find it very difficult to do any serious calorie restriction over Christmas. You might consider time-restricted eating particularly ending your evening meal earlier. Recent studies have suggested that TRE [restiricting your food intake to a specific window such as eight hours] is beneficial for mild weight loss.”
Plan your day and don’t splurge at night
“In our family, typically, what we do is have a light breakfast around 10 am, a reasonably big Christmas lunch, go for a longish walk, do some exercise, and then have a very light evening meal, of leftovers or turkey soup in the evening with a few vegetables avoiding anything heavy.”
Don’t drink your calories
“Obviously, you're going to celebrate. The only thing is I'd say is to be aware that alcohol is pretty calorific - a smallish glass of wine can come in at about 170 calories and cocktails especially those with lots of cream in it, will be very calorific. And then of course there all sorts of fizzy drinks that tend to come out. I recommend that you alternate drinking a glass of alcohol with a glass of water. That way, you probably won’t drink as much. Try the red wine spritzer [below]”
If you’ve put on a few pounds, don’t wait to shift them
“It is possible to undo any overeating. You could certainly undo the damage afterwards in a couple of days of restricting your calories. The best time to lose weight is soon after you put it on. Without a doubt, it is much easier before your body gets used to the new, fatter you. So, do get stuck in as soon as it's convenient. You do not have to wait for 1 January. You can begin earlier. There is nothing sacred about the first of January! Start following the Fast 800 program, use meal replacement shakes and you will find that weight will fall off very easily, but if you leave it on, it won't.”
Fast 800 Christmas recipes
Number of servings: Six
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time; 20 minutes
750 ml dry red wine
1 orange, sliced into rounds (remove the peel if you would like a less-bitter drink)
8 whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
2 star anise
1. Pour wine, orange slices, cloves, cinnamon and star anise into a large saucepan, bring to a very gentle simmer over medium heat. Try not to let it bubble too much as this is the alcohol cooking off.
2.Cover the saucepan and reduce heat to low - continue to gently simmer for another 15 minutes (or longer for more pronounced spices).
3. Taste and squeeze the orange slices into the wine for a sweeter taste - but be careful, they’ll be hot! Strain the wine into festive mugs and top with your favourite garnish (fresh orange, or spices from the pot).
Low Carb Trifle
Prep time: 1 hour
Cook time: 30 minutes
2 oranges (300g)
8 soft pitted dates
4 tbsp olive oil
300g almond meal (ground almonds)
1 ½ tsp baking powder
400ml whipping cream
300g frozen passionfruit pulp, defrosted
200g frozen mixed berries, defrosted
200g fresh mixed berries, to garnish
1-2 fresh passionfruit, to garnish
1. Preheat the oven to fan forced 170°C/190°C/375°F/Gas mark 5. Line a 20cm cake tin.
2. Wash your oranges and prick them well with a fork. Microwave in a covered bowl for 10 minutes. Allow to cool.
3. Chop and deseed oranges - place in a food processor with the chopped dates, olive oil and eggs - blitz until well combined. Add the almond meal, baking powder and blend into a batter.
4. Pour into the lined tin and spread mix evenly. Bake for 40 minutes, until golden and firm to the touch. Set aside to cool.
5. Make a berry coulis by mixing the frozen berries with a dash of water in a pot and simmering gently for about 7-8 minutes.
6. Whip your cream into firm peaks and cut your cake into 1cm (⅓ inch) slices.
7. Layer your trifle - start with a little of the berry coulis, some passionfruit pulp and layer in the cake - press firmly to the side of your trifle dish to create clean layers. Scoop on a layer of whipped cream - then repeat to fill your trifle dish finishing with a cream layer.
8. Be generous with the topmost cream layer - top with lots of passionfruit pulp and fresh berries. Serve immediately.
Red Wine Spritzer
Number of servings: One
Prep time: 2 minutes
Cook time: Nil
120ml dry red wine, chilled
120ml soda water, chilled
1. Pour chilled red into a pretty glass filled with ice, top with soda water and garnish with an orange slice. Enjoy!
Spiced Festive Cake
Number of servings: 12
Prep time: 20 minutes (longer if you need to cook the pumpkin)
Cook time: 30 minutes
Dried orange wheels
Pomegranate (wedges and arils)
Citrus leaves from a lemon tree
2 cup wholemeal SR flour
¼ cup cacao
½ tbsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp ginger
1 ½ tsp cardamom
½ orange zest
40g blanched almonds, chopped if going in the cake, or leave whole to decorate top
100g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids or higher), roughly chopped
8 medjool dates
60ml hot water
250g cooked pumpkin
1.Preheat the oven to fan forced 160°C/180°C/350°F/Gas mark 4. Line a small (approx 20cm) cake tin.
2.If your pumpkin is raw - roughly chop and steam it.
3. Remove the pits from the dates, roughly chop and soak in hot water in a tall jug or bowl with high sides.
4. Sift dry ingredients in a large bowl and mix (flour, cacao, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, orange zest, almonds and chocolate).
5. Melt the butter and pour over the dates and hot water, using a stick blender - blitz into a loose paste. Add the pumpkin and eggs and blitz to combine.
6. Add wet ingredients to the dry and fold through until just combined (it may look a little stodgy).
7. Tip cake batter into pre-lined tin and bake for 15 minutes. Rotate in the oven and bake for a further 10-15 minutes until an inserted skewer comes out clean.
8. Let it cool for 10-20 minutes before serving between twelve.