Christmas Food Facts, things to know about Christmas food

Keeping healthy over Winter

Guest post by Jayne Hopper, Reach for Nutrition, Brighton

In my last article, get set for autumn, I mentioned about eating a rainbow of coloured vegetables and eating seasonal foods to encourage a good immune system for the upcoming winter. Well, it’s finally here, and brrrrr, I hope you are all fighting fit against the cold, wrapping up warm, with the heating well and truly on!

Fire at The Bull in Henfield

Winter fruit & vegetables

The seasonal vegetables that can help to keep the gut in good working order and are packed full of vitamins and minerals are;  beetroot, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, celeriac, chicory, fennel, potatoes, kale, leeks, parsnips, Jerusalem artichoke, red cabbage, swede and turnips. Seasonal fruits are apples and pears. You are encouraged to purchase these and add them daily to your diet as they are fibre rich, encourage a regular bowel movement, remove toxins and stop any constipation which may cause inflammatory conditions in the body.

Potatoes, Vegetables

Vitamin D

Now the nights are drawing in, some people in the UK will not see daylight at all which is making the majority of the population deficient in vitamin D. Vitamin D is synthesised through sunlight on the skin and a healthy balanced diet.

Unfortunately because we are in the northern hemisphere, we struggle to reach our vitamin D levels during the winter months. Even during the summer months in the UK, we are not getting enough vitamin D due to the fact that we cover up with a high factor suncream and wear clothing to protect the skin, therefore the UVB rays do not reach or penetrate the skin.

Vitamin D is essential for strong bones, as it helps the body use calcium from the diet, however recent studies have shown that a deficiency in Vitamin D could be responsible for a lot of chronic diseases, cognitive decline, autoimmune diseases and depression.
Pumpkin from B&H Food partnership

People at higher risk of Vitamin D deficiency

  • People with dark skin as they need more exposure than paler skin types.
  • If you are age 50 or more the skin doesn’t make as much Vitamin D due to the kidneys being less effective to convert vitamin D.
  • Are pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Are a baby, growing child or teenager.
  • Spend most of your time indoors (e.g. in hospital, housebound, care home).
  • Cover up a lot of your body when outside (e.g. wear the niqab or Burqa).
  • Overweight or have a higher muscle mass. Vitamin D is a fat soluble, hormone-like vitamin, which means body fat acts as a sink by collecting it. If you are obese, or are a body builder, you are therefore likely to need more vitamin D than a slimmer person.

What to look out for

The signs to watch out for are a low mood, especially in the winter months. The condition SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) is a common condition in the U.K. that affects one in 15 people, according to the NHS.

Craving extra carbohydrates, fatigue and anti-social behaviour with disturbed sleep are signals of SAD.

Other signs are head sweating and this can be seen in new born babies if the baby is deficient in Vitamin D. Also because Vitamin D is a fat soluble Vitamin, if you have a gastrointestinal condition such as Chrone’s, Coeliac or other inflammatory bowel disease, that affects your ability to absorb fat. You may have a lower absorption of fat soluble vitamins like Vitamin D as well, causing gut trouble.

Get tested

Another major sign of Vitamin D deficiency in adults and children is aching bones. This is caused by the collagen matrix being unable to absorb the calcium in the skeleton resulting in throbbing, aching bone pain. Your GP can do this simple test, however due to NHS cuts, they may not be inclined to.

This NHS test is simple and not costly at £28 Aim to do it twice every year, once at the beginning of winter (most important) and once at the beginning of summer. The optimum results should be 70 moml’s or more.


You can overdose on supplemented vitamin D so ensure you seek advise on how much to take from a nutritionist or GP. The daily recommended dose is 400iu but if you are under the 70 moml, you will want to take more and this is why guidance is strongly recommended. I propose taking a spray or liquid that is administered sublingually (under the tongue), as it bypasses the liver and absorbs much quicker. Some of the tablets have a tendency to give you constipation.

Another solution is to buy a light box and have 20 minutes a day or have a winter holiday in the sun.

Festive indulging

The parties have begun and it is that time of year you are most likely going to indulge in plenty of food and drink. The Christmas and New Year period is a challenging time, to say the least, to keeping a healthy lifestyle and holding your weight at a comfortable, stable condition. We are under the impression that the frivolities are only once a year, right? So why not enjoy ourselves and worry about it after the festive season? Well, yes, but then do you suffer the consequences of not being able to comfortably fit into your clothes for the first few months of the year?

Did you know that the average intake for a Christmas dinner is 3500 calorie (with all the trimmings, without alcohol).

Christmas Food Facts, things to know about Christmas food

Minimise those party pounds

However, do not fear, there are ways in which you can minimise those party pounds piling on and put a stop to that overindulgent voice at the back of your head saying, ‘go on, it’s Christmas, treat yourself’! Here are a few tips:

1) Wear something slinky. Wearing tight clothing, belt or trousers will make you aware of your figure, and your expanding waistline, therefore putting a stop to the uncomfortable feelings of possible overeating.

2) Three small bites. If dessert is just too tempting and that cake is something you just can not refuse, get into a habit of just nibbling two or three bites only. You could share it with friends. This way you get your cake and eat it!

3) Destroy the evidence. After your three bites, either throw it directly in the bin or pour washing up liquid on it so you are not tempted to finish it off later.

4) Beware of liquid calories. Stick with clear sprits, clear mixers and wine as some sugary cocktails can add up to as much as 400 calories. This will definitely pile on the weight! The most important thing to remember is to ensure you eat when drinking alcohol as the more sugar (in alcohol) that hits your blood stream, the more naughty food you are going to want to eat later when the sugar crashes. If you’re drinking at home, remember once you hit the third glass of alcohol, that is when you start to get the munchies and possibly eat something you wouldn’t normally, so stick to one or two. Try to be aware of your limits.

Cocktails at Drakes Brighton

5) Eat before you go out. If you fill your plate with a quarter of good quality protein, a quarter with complex carbohydrates, and half with vegetables or salad you will not only feel satisfied but you will line your stomach for any alcohol that it could possibly encounter. If when the tray of nibbles appear, you will be less likely to indulge.

6) Have a glass of water. Having a large glass of water before a meal will give you a fuller feeling before you eat. However I wouldn’t recommend this if you have any issues with digestion as it may dilute your digestion juices, causing uncomfortable gas. My suggestion would be to try this on a night when you are not going out.

7) Green is go. Choosing a small plate and filling it up with plenty of salad or vegetables first, before choosing what you want will leave less room to pile on the carbs and fatty foods.

8) Eat small. Go for very small bites and chew until the food is liquid. If you are chatting at a party, you will want to take small amounts as you will be forced to swallow food quickly to answer somebody. Your food takes a minimum of 20 minutes to hit your stomach and the feeling of satiety (fullness) to kick in, therefore eating more slowly will halt you from overeating.

Whatever you do, I wish you a wonderful and healthy Christmas and a very happy new year!