How to Have a Delicious Christmas and ever Gain a Pound

The festive season requires some guerilla tactics if you don’t want to arrive at ew Year wearing what you ate at Christmas!

So, here are some simple tips,so you can thoroughly enjoy the pleasures of good food, drink and company for vegans, vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike and keep your weight in check.

1. Always eat protein with carbs. Combining protein with carbohydrate works because protein, being made of amino acids, makes the digestive environment more acidic, and this slows down the breakdown of carbohydrates. So, the food spends more time in your stomach, making you feel fuller for longer.

2. Add lemon juice and vinegar. If you increase the acid level of your food by adding lemon juice (citric acid) or vinegar (acetic acid) you get a similar effect. In a study on diabetics two tablespoons of vinegar to a meal lowered its glycaemic load (as measured by plotting the rise and fall in blood sugar levels after the meal) by 20%. The vinegar resulted in less high blood sugar spikes.

This study provides some scientific basis for the old wives’ tale about cider vinegar and weight loss. In practical terms, this might mean eating a salad with a vinegary salad dressing, drinking a citron pressé (minus the sugar) with food, or adding balsamic vinegar for flavour to a meal. For example, try ‘steam-frying’ Brussels sprouts and adding a little balsamic vinegar in the last few minutes of cooking. Research has also found that adding lemon juice or vinegar reduces the formation of ‘anti-glycation end-products’ (AGEs), the harmful oxidant compounds that are formed when food is cooked.

3. Load up on soluble fibre. Soluble fibre, for example the variety found in oats, barley and chia, really fills you up and lowers the GL of a meal. A study conducted by Dr Joseph Keenan of the University of Minnesota Medical School in Minneapolis, showed that eating barley makes you feel less hungry. So make the most of the colder weather to eat lots of porridge or make a warming dish such as my Mushroom and Barley Risotto (see recipe below). One of my favourites when I have guests staying is Chia Pancakes with Pear Compote (see recipe below). Also, have a teaspoon of Carboslow (glucomannan) fibre or three capsules, with a glass of water before a meal.

4. Wait 20 minutes before dessert. This allows your ‘appestat’ (your internal appetite gauge) to kick in. Even better, go for a stroll after your main meal, then have your dessert afterwards, which also helps stabilise blood sugar levels. If you eat immediately after exercise your body burns it off faster.

5. Drink ‘dry’ and limit juice. More and more evidence is linking regular consumption of both sweetened soft drinks and even ‘natural’ fruit juices with increased weight gain and diabetes risk. The same increase in diabetes risk was not observed in those drinking grapefruit juice, which has a low GL, or orange juice. Even so, you need to be careful not to overdo the orange juice.

The best fruit to eat, and drink, are those high in a type of sugar called xylose, which means berries, cherries and plums. So, if you need to use a juice, maybe in a dessert recipe, use Cherry Active. For example, have a Plum Crumble, sweetened with a little Cherry Active (which you can buy online at www.holfordirect.com or make some delicious Plum Amaretti Slices (see recipe below).

For alcohol, choose the driest drinks – for example, a dry red or white wine or Champagne or a neat spirit such as whisky. For a real treat try Faust, my favourite...

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