Turkey stuffing, Christmas pud, creamy eggnog… all these treats are an integral part of the holidays but they can be highly calorific when eaten in large amounts. It’s also tempting to load up on Quality Streets and mulled wine while you’re waiting for your next meal, so when you think back over the last few week, how did all your feasting affect your waistline?
 A recent survey done by a supplement company found that people are eating a staggering 8,530 calories on Christmas day – that’s more than four times a woman’s daily recommended amount! This doesn’t include Boxing Day leftovers or New Year’s Day indulgences, which often take the form of liquid calories. 
On average, people consume about 6,000 calories on Christmas Day, but the real damage is done through sustained snacking from about mid-November (when mince pies start appearing on supermarket shelves) to February, when it’s still cold enough to hibernate indoors and polish off the last of the chocolates. While one day of indulgence is usually okay, eating in moderation and exercising through the winter is essential to stay in good health overall.
 If you’re interested in the documented health risks of overindulgence, they include indigestion, gallbladder pain, drowsiness while driving and the risk of heart attack. Those with existing health problems such as diabetes or hypertension should be extra cautious of their intake of salt, fat and calories at Christmas. One of the best ways to stay safe during the holidays is to have comprehensive medical insurance, which means you can avoid waiting lists to see a doctor at this busy time of year.
Can one day of indulgence really be harmful?
In Medieval times, Christmas feasts may have run for longer than a week, when it was possible to feast on rich food every day. Even if nowadays we eat all our recommended daily calories at breakfast on Christmas morning (a glass of champagne, smoked salmon, eggs and some cheeky Christmas cake at 11am would just about do it!), some people can rebalance this overload quite easily. 
Unfortunately for most of us, the tendency to overindulge starts long before the 25th of December –during those long winter evenings when a mince pie is a lot more appealing than a healthy apple! Something to remember is the Eighty Twenty rule: if you eat healthy meals 80% of the time, you can indulge 20% of the time and come out unscathed. Of course this relies on your knowing exactly what’s in your food at all times (including the hidden calories!) and making judgement calls about natural ingredients and healthy fats. 
Christmas dinner dos & don’ts
Don’t spend your Christmas dinner worrying about the calorie content in your food and drink – that’s not enjoyable at all! Do learn how to balance the foods you enjoy, so you can consume a moderate (rather than an extreme) number of calories and do spend your time appreciating the good company and conversation alongside your delicious meals.
Image by Victor Bayon (Flickr)

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