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The Christmas treats that aren't that bad for you!


It's the best time of the year. In this ancient tradition, the grocery chains have just launched their festive menus. And of course, The Mail was the first to queue on Sunday to try it out – and put it under our nutritional microscope.

There are prets snack pots with pigs in blankets and subways of slightly scary looking sausage sub with a bacon coating. Starbucks has a Truffle Deluxe Hot Chocolate, while McDonald & # 39; s has a Double Big Mac made from four beef patties (I'm not sure what that has to do with Christmas, but it comes in a festive-looking box).

The trend seems to be: to hell with healthy eating.

Pictured Eve Simmons tried out some of the celebratory favorites offered by takeaways, cafes, and restaurants and was surprised to find the treats weren't as bad for you as you'd think

And as always, the organic food Stasi will lie in the arms and claim that there are "hidden" dangers of succumbing to these delicacies.

But however indulgent and caloric, is it really that bad for us to eat the odd deep-fried croissant donut (thank you, M&S) when we're trying to get into the festive spirit? The answer, surprisingly, probably isn't.

It is true that if we consume more than the recommended daily calorie limit over the long term (around 2,000 for women and 2,500 for men) and not exercise, the excess energy is stored as fat. But it's not enough to add 500 calories to this daily requirement every day for a week – that's the equivalent of a Christmas roast sandwich for lunch, for example – to appear on the scales. According to nutritionist Alexia Dempsey, you'd gain roughly a pound of body fat. "But," she adds, "we sway a pound or two a day just by emptying our bowels so it doesn't make a big difference."

Even without activity, the body quickly adapts to a short period of excessive consumption, thus preventing our weight from increasing.

Dr. Giles Yeo, an expert on obesity and genetics at Cambridge University, explains, “When body fat suddenly increases significantly, the brain triggers the release of chemicals that control hunger and abundance signals and hormones to accelerate obesity Amount of energy that we burn in the following days. & # 39;

Essentially, when we eat enough to gain weight in a short period of time, the body begins to stop us from wanting to eat more.

Dr. Yeo adds, “Anyone who's ever had a big blowout for Christmas will recognize the craving for lighter meals that starts in January. This is due to both psychological and biological mechanisms that help us lose weight by February after Christmas without really trying. "

And studies confirm this: Most healthy people who consume excessive calories for a few days naturally eat below the daily limit for the following week.

Regarding the 6,000 calories we are likely to consume on Christmas Day alone, Duane Mellor, a professor of nutrition at Aston University, says, “In the short term, a lot of extra food stays in your digestive tract. A few days will result in minimal, if any, weight gain. "

Research shows that nut-rich meals are only partially digested, the rest ends up in the toilet, while up to a fifth of the calories in meat-rich dishes are consumed during the digestive process.

Hooray! Christmas tree shaped brownies are on me!

Regarding the 6,000 calories we are likely to consume on Christmas Day alone, says Duane Mellor, a professor of nutrition at Aston University, “In the short term, a lot of extra food stays in your digestive tract. A few days will result in very little, if any, weight gain. "

Regarding the 6,000 calories we are likely to consume on Christmas Day alone, says Duane Mellor, a professor of nutrition at Aston University, “In the short term, a lot of extra food stays in your digestive tract. A few days will result in very little, if any, weight gain. "

There are of course those who, thanks to these goodies, say no and call them junk. There is no denying that many of them are high in sugar, fat, salt, and ultimately calories. And yes, diets high in junk food are linked to illness and early death. But Christmas only comes once a year and you won't have a balloon in a week or two.

In fact, it takes years to get really overweight. A 2011 study of 100,000 adults found that obesity tended to occur over two decades, with participants gaining around three pounds a year consistently. And the researchers blamed a number of surprising factors, including sleep deprivation, lack of fruits and vegetables, and an over-reliance on bottling sugary drinks for energy.

A serious risk of excess fat is that it can build up in the liver, which increases the chances of developing type 2 diabetes and liver disease. "But you need to indulge in excessively fatty foods for weeks on most days to recognize this risk," says Dr. Yeo. “At Christmas, people might do this a few days a week, not every day.

"What you eat regularly for the other 50 weeks of the year is most important for a healthy weight." And having fun during times of celebration is equally important – for both physical and mental health. "

With that in mind, we've examined some of the festive foods that have popped up on Main Street to see what the damage is – and put them on the taste test.

The biggest shock? Many are much healthier than you might expect …

Getting fat is harder than you think

Underground Tiger Pig: £ 3.59

Underground Tiger Pig: £ 3.59

Underground Tiger Pig: £ 3.59

Cals (per 6 inch sub) 423

Sugar 6.3 g

Total fat 14g

Sa fat 5.2 g

Fiber 7.4 g

Protein 23g

Salt 2.2 g

Health judgment

Nobody would expect a sub filled with a sausage wrapped in bacon and smothered in the creamy sauce of your choice for low calorie consumption – yet somehow Subway made it through.

They don't publish the full lists of ingredients so it's all pretty mysterious. Subway bread always looks synthetic and insignificant, but it has a remarkable amount of fiber – as much as half a can of chickpeas.

Oddly enough, this sub only contains a fifth of the recommended daily intake of saturated fat, which was another surprise. We suspect the pork they used was stuffed with rusks or some other filler – a common trick – that would cut off the fat and add to the fiber. If you have a foot-length sub, double up on all of the nutritional information.

Taste test

Honestly a disappointment. The sausage was bland and rubbery. The only taste came from the sweet, tangy pepper sauce. Full marks for not being so bad for yourself, none for being nice.

Rating:

Marks & Spencer Santa Yumnuts £ 1.50

Marks & Spencer Santa Yumnuts: £ 1.50

Marks & Spencer Santa Yumnuts: £ 1.50

Cals (per yumnut) 391

Sugar 28g

Total fat 20g

Sa fat 10g

Fiber 0.7 g

Protein 3g

Salt 0.4 g

Health judgment

Look, organic food certainly isn't. A yumnut is a croissant-donut hybrid – a deep-fried, flaky, pasty ring that is saturated with sugar and, in this case, covered with cheerful, festive frosting with Christmas motifs.

At nearly 400 calories, a single yumnut would make up your total recommended breakfast intake, but with few positive nutritional benefits aside from the fact that the high fat content along with the megadose of sugar and carbohydrates would likely keep you full for a long time since fat is the digestive process slowed down.

Taste test

It was very good. Of course, it's an absolute sugar bomb, and I would have preferred it without the icing, but that's the whole point of the package. The yumnut gets full marks for the taste … but only one point for the diet.

Rating:

Pret Christmas Lunch Baguette: £ 3.99

Pret Christmas Lunch Baguette: £ 3.99

Pret Christmas Lunch Baguette: £ 3.99

Cals 707

Sugar 9.9 g

Total fat 29.1 g

Sa fat 5g

Fiber 4.1 g

Protein 31.8 g

Salt 3.6 g

Health judgment

A chunky 9-inch baguette filled with turkey, mayonnaise, port, and orange-cranberry sauce, pork filling, rocket leaves, and crispy onions.

At around 700 calories, it's not far from the recommended 600 calories for a main meal, but 31g of protein along with fiber and filling carbohydrates should mean you shouldn't be tempted to have a snack later.

Turkey is naturally lean and contains only 5g of saturated fat, which is roughly a quarter of the recommended daily allowance. The two and a little teaspoons of sugar mainly supplied by the cranberry sauce is a third of your daily limit, but still less than in a plowed sandwich.

Taste test

Warmly filled with moist turkey – and if you can only get through halfway without loosening the top button of your pants, we say hello.

Rating:

Pret S & # 39; mores Hot Chocolate: £ 3.15

Pret S & # 39; mores Hot Chocolate: £ 3.15

Pret S & # 39; mores Hot Chocolate: £ 3.15

Cals (per 12 ounce cup) 418

Sugar 42.5 g

Total fat 21.6 g

Sa fat 13.7 g

Salt 0.4 g

HEALTH CHECK

S & # 39; mores are an American campfire tradition – a toasted marshmallow between a chocolate square and a cracker.

This drink is more inspired than a literal copy: hot chocolate, made from skimmed milk and cookie-flavored syrup, topped with whipped cream, chocolate chips and a marshmallow. It's no surprise that it is sugary. There is a teaspoon more than you can get in a can of Coke. It also has more than twice as much saturated fat as a McDonald & # 39; s cheeseburger.

There are plenty of calories in a drink here – one fifth of a woman's recommended daily limit.

It's unlikely to be that filling, so definitely on the occasional end of things.

Taste test

Sickly. I didn't finish it. It looks festive and cute: & # 39; Melvin & # 39; the little marshmallow snowman mascot deserves half a point for the treat, but unfortunately it's the only redeeming feature as the frothy cream melts quickly and the whole thing looks good rather empties.

Rating:

Starbucks Truffle Deluxe Hot Chocolate: £ 3.10

Starbucks Truffle Deluxe Hot Chocolate: £ 3.10

Starbucks Truffle Deluxe Hot Chocolate: £ 3.10

Cals (per 8 ounce cup) 177

Sugar 15.8 g

Total fat 12g

Sa fat 8g

Salt 0g

Health judgment

Made from mocha whipped cream and sprinkled with shavings of chocolate truffles, this contains four teaspoons of sugar and provides a fair amount of your recommended daily intake of saturated fat (20 g for women, 30 g for men) in a single drink.

And since we are consuming about 35 percent more than the recommended limit on average, this should be taken into account as diets high in saturated fat have been linked to poor heart health, weight gain, and illness in general.

But there are still fewer calories than a pint of beer and roughly the sugar equivalent of three large glasses of wine – which you might miss while the pubs are still closed.

Taste test

It's unsurprisingly sweet and very, very rich. You have to get through the mocha cream before you get to the drink – by this point I was feeling full and slightly sick.

Rating:

McDonald & # 39; s Salted Caramel Latte: £ 1.69

McDonald & # 39; s Salted Caramel Latte: £ 1.69

McDonald & # 39; s Salted Caramel Latte: £ 1.69

Cals (per 12 ounce cup) 164

Sugar 20g

Total fat 5.8 g

Sa fat 3.8 g

Fiber 0.7 g

Protein 7.8 g

Salt 0.5 g

Health judgment

You have to give it to McDonald's to keep even the overly looking goodies relatively healthy.

The five teaspoons of sugar in this salted caramel syrup-laden preparation are of course not ideal – and if you drink frequently, they can lead to later hunger pangs and / or rotten teeth. It's still a lot less than a can of Coke, however.

And despite the caramel-topped whirlpool, it's still only a latt and a half of saturated fat and just a little more calories than a big Starbucks cappuccino.

You are also getting more protein than a large egg here – defeating the myth that all sugary drinks are just empty calories.

Taste test

Doesn't taste as sweet as I expected and the cream melts quickly which makes the caramel colored coffee easier to drink. Pleasant and comforting, but 12 ounces is more than enough.

Subway Mince Pie Cookie: 49p

Subway Mince Pie Cookie: 49p

Subway Mince Pie Cookie: 49p

Cals (per cookie) 194

Sugar 19g

Total fat 7.4 g

Sa fat 3.1 g

Fiber 1.1g

Protein 2.1 g

Salt 0.4 g

HEALTH CHECK

Flavored with cinnamon and nutmeg, these cookies each contain five teaspoons of sugar (the recommended daily allowance is seven), which is much higher than most chocolate chip cookies

You get the same amount in a Cadbury Flake.

Despite the addition of apples and hazelnuts, there is only a tiny amount of intestinal-friendly fiber. With less than 200 calories, it's roughly what the NHS recommends for daily snack intake. However, when you go for a festive apple crumble biscuit from Sainsbury's Taste The Difference, you're getting half the calories and a quarter of the sugar.

Taste test

Strange. I would have much rather had a regular chocolate chip cookie. It doesn't taste a bit like a ground beef pie, and the spices are an odd mix with the sugary goosebumps of a biscuit.

Rating:

Pret pigs in blanket snack pot: £ 2.89

Pret pigs in blanket snack pot: £ 2.89

Pret pigs in blanket snack pot: £ 2.89

Calories (per 90 g pot) 251

Sugar 2.8 g

Total fat 17.8 g

Sa fat 6.8 g

Fiber 1.8 g

Protein 14.5 g

Salt 2.7 g

Health verdict

As for snacks, you could do a lot worse – a medium-sized bag of cashews would bring you back twice as many calories and a third more saturated fat.

The high percentage of pork – mixed with spices and starch obtained from potatoes – provides two and a half eggs, which are promoted by the satisfaction of protein and a small amount of intestinal protective fibers.

The NHS recommends limiting processed red meats, including some sausages and bacon, to 70g daily due to the risk of colon cancer – and at 90g this pot will get you above that level.

However, this is easy to make up for – don't eat red meat the next day.

Taste test

Like Christmas in a pot. These pigs in blankets are cute and smoky with a hint of flavor with every bite. You will be disappointed when there are none left, but still satisfied.

Rating:

McDonald & # 39; s Double Big Mac: £ 2.89

McDonald & # 39; s Double Big Mac: £ 2.89

McDonald & # 39; s Double Big Mac: £ 2.89

Cals (per burger) 694

Sugar 9.1 g

Total fat 38g

Sa fat 15g

Fiber 3.6 g

Protein 43g

Salt 2.8 g

HEALTH CHECK

A Double Big Mac is now far from the worst, thanks to a number of recipe formulations designed to make McDonalds burgers healthier.

The three bap slices, four patties, one slice of processed cheddar, two swabs of sweet relish, lettuce, onion, and cucumber are only 90 calories more than the 600 calories the NHS recommends for lunch, and less than the average size avocado Toast.

And with one and a half worth of muscle building protein, you won't get hungry later.

There are two catches: the two teaspoons of sugar, probably from the taste, and the high saturated fat content – half of your daily intake.

Taste test

Messy business – I left a toss of lettuce on the floor. Big Mac fans will love it, however.

Rating:

Pret Vegan Christmas Nut Roast: £ 3.69

Pret Vegan Christmas Nut Roast: £ 3.69

Pret Vegan Christmas Nut Roast: £ 3.69

Cals 600

Sugar 15.4 g

Total fat 30.3 g

Sa fat 3.2 g

Fiber 9.5 g

Protein 13.7 g

Salt 2.4 g

Health judgment

A meatless version of the classic Christmas lunch sandwich: whole grain malt filled with toasted butternut squash, rocket and pesto, vegan mayonnaise, crispy onions and caramelized pecans.

The nut and seed content, as well as the pumpkin, help ensure that almost a third of the daily recommended fiber is expelled – important for digestive health and to keep you full longer. Nuts also make it surprisingly high in protein – as much as two boiled eggs – while it's very low in saturated fat.

Yes, there are four teaspoons of sugar, but it's just right for a main meal. Like many pre-made sandwiches, it's salty and vegan doesn't mean losing weight, but as long as you are aware of it, it's not an unhealthy option.

Taste test

Very cute. A nice change from the usual cheese and pickles, but not one that would ever become a staple.

Rating:

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