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Eat and drink smart this Christmastide, with this calorie and exercise guide

SINGAPORE — A slice of log cake here and a glass of wine there. Before you know it, you would have put on a few extra kilos. Registered dietitian and diabetes educator Ujjwala Baxi said that it is not unusual for people to put on anywhere from 2kg to 4kg over the festive season.

Eat and drink smart this Christmastide, with this calorie and exercise guide
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SINGAPORE — A slice of log cake here and a glass of wine there. Before you know it, you would have put on a few extra kilos. 

Registered dietitian and diabetes educator Ujjwala Baxi said that it is not unusual for people to put on anywhere from 2kg to 4kg over the festive season. 

She warned that the “lethal combination” of salt, sugar and fat in calorie-dense festive treats can also be addicting over time, making it difficult for a person to eat simply and enjoy subtly flavoured foods.

Fitness expert Chung Tze Khit, managing director of Gold’s Gym Personal Training, said that there is a tendency for people to eat more when everyone comes together for a social event.

And did you know it takes only about 7,700 excess calories for a person to gain 1kg of fat?

“If you were to eat an extra bowl of rice, which translates to about 250 calories, or reach out for an extra sandwich or bread, it is easy to put on 1kg of fat,” Mr Chung said.

Many types of festive foods are also packed with carbohydrates, sodium and sugar, which can lead to water weight gain, he added.

“If you have always been on a low-carb diet, the effects of water weight gain might be even more pronounced,” he said.

Ms Ujjwala, founder of the nutrition counselling company Poshan – Cure thru Diet, said that other short-term effects of overeating include gastric health issues such as constipation, acid reflux, bloating and belching, while long-term health hazards include high blood pressure, heart problems and obesity.

While you are enjoying some of the popular festive treats, make sure you find time to stay active and keep energy levels up to manage the calorie count.

Note that the calorie content will vary with different brands, and the number of calories you expend for each activity also depends on factors such as your weight and exertion level.

CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES

The damage: Around 200 to 300 calories for four pieces, depending on the brand and fillings.

Work it off: An hour of zumba or hip-hop dancing, or 75 minutes of brisk-walking.

Photo: iStock

LOG CAKE

The damage: Depending on the type and where you buy it, a slice of log cake can set you back by 300 to 500 calories. It is also high in fat, with some brands containing 20g of fat in each slice.

The Health Promotion Board’s Healthhub.sg website states that fat should make up around a quarter of total energy intake. Based on a 2,000 calorie diet, the total fat allowance would be around 55g to 65g a day.

Work it off: Run for about 30 minutes, cycle for 45 minutes or do almost two hours of house cleaning.

FRUIT CAKE

The damage: A slice of homemade fruit cake contains around 175 calories and 4g of fat.

Work it off: About 25 minutes of cycling, an hour of walking, or an hour of vacuuming.

Photo: Karolina Grabowska

GINGERBREAD COOKIES

The damage: Around 150 calories for each cookie.

Work it off: About an hour of house cleaning or 25 minutes of cycling.

GLAZED HAM 

The damage: A serving of glazed ham (85 g) contains around 130 calories. Note that glazed ham is packed with sodium, with some brands containing around 800mg of sodium per serving.

If you polish off a few slices of ham at a go, you would have exceeded your daily recommended salt intake of less than 5g a day (equivalent to one teaspoon or 2,300mg of sodium).

Work it off: Around 30 minutes of brisk walking or 47 minutes of house cleaning to work off a serving of glazed ham.

ROAST TURKEY

The damage: This is one of the lower-calorie and lower-fat holiday treats. At around 140 calories for one serving, a serving of turkey breast meat contains just 2g of fat.

It is also a rich source of protein and other nutrients such as vitamin B6 and the amino acid tryptophan, which may help improve mood and help you sleep better.

Work it off: About 14 minutes of running or 15 minutes of swimming.

Photo: Maryna Voronova and Zkruger

GRAVY AND CRANBERRY SAUCE

The damage: Go easy on the cranberry sauce and gravy when pairing them with your roast meats. Just two tablespoons of homemade cranberry sauce contain 51 calories and a serving of turkey gravy contains 25 calories.

Work it off: To burn off two tablespoons of cranberry sauce, you need to run for five minutes or mop the floor for 15 minutes.

BEEF STEW

The damage: A serving of this high-protein dish will set you back by around 400 calories for one serving. You will also be consuming 556mg of sodium and 17g of fat.

Work it off: Run for 40 minutes, or cycle for an hour, or do vigorous weight lifting.

Photo: Cottonbro

SPARKLING WHITE OR RED WINE

The damage: Around 130 calories each glass.

Work it off: About 15 minutes of walking up the stairs or 15 minutes of a basketball game, more than an hour of household chores, or 20 minutes of running.

WATCH YOUR PORTIONS, CHEW SLOWLY

Being aware of the calorie content of each food item is the first step to prevent overeating. These extra tips below from Ms Ujjwala and Mr Chung will help you keep your weight in check this festive season:

  • Opt for tasting or child-sized portions so you can taste a wider variety of food choices without getting carried away.

  • Be aware of the complete menu beforehand, and decide which food items you really want to eat before the event

  • Bulk up with protein and high-fibre foods before moving on to carbohydrates-rich foods such as potatoes, pasta and bread.

  • Eat and chew slowly because it takes around 20 minutes for your brain to register that you have eaten and feel full.

  • Drink enough water throughout the day to avoid excessive hunger and overeating.

Source of calorie content and energy expenditure from MyFitnessPal.com and Calorielab.com. 

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