The Great British Christmas Stuffing

Christmas dinner is on the horizon. The meal of all meals. I can’t wait!

According to research by food historian, Dr Annie Gray, combined with polling by AB Sugar, 50% of Brits plan on eating a traditional turkey meal on Christmas day, the remainder mainly going for beef, goose or lamb.

Now I don’t want to dwell on the negative, on what should be a very enjoyable time of year but many of the British public are unaware of the calories they will be consuming on Christmas Day. The above research (based on  2000 people) reports we think we only consume an average of 2,652kcal.

This has to be an underestimation – we eat and drink far more than the usual 2000-2500Cal. When asked about the calories to be consumed, 46%  said they didn’t give it a thought either on Christmas Day or any other day. Now I am not saying this is wrong on Christmas day but we should become more aware of what we are consuming on all the other days. The other findings of this research can be found here and here

So this got me thinking…………What is in our Christmas dinner? We go for the traditional turkey with all the trimmings, we roast our potatoes in goose fat, just because it’s Christmas. We add butter to the veg, offer sauces galore and still make room for 2 puddings and an after dinner mint. After all, it is a special occasion!

So I am using my husband for my own prospective research; n=1 but he is what I consider to a typical (6’4) male, likes his grub, a meat lover with a thing for Christmas pudding. We listed everything he would imagined he would be eating on THE day and using some nutritional software, determined the Calorific values of each item, based on typical portion sizes.  Of course this is not an exact science; we could repeat this again after recording exactly what he eats on the day. Portion sizes will vary and of course, as will the ingredients and methods of cooking. It will also make a difference if the food is shop bought or homemade to mum’s, nanny’s or Mary Berry’s favourite recipe, but you’ll get the gist.  So let’s get started,

We shall begin with breakfast: Perhaps you go for your normal cereal and toast, or push the boat out with smoked salmon and scrambled eggs? Me, I treat myself to a croissant. My husband is more savoury and chooses a Bacon sarnie. Either way, we will kick things off nicely with ~360-540 Calories, plus a few cups of tea and coffee.

Croissant with butter and jam 296 Calories
Bacon sandwich 471 Calories
1 glass of bucks fizz 66 Calories

Christmas dinner is often a late affair, so no doubt as we act as the family waiter and waitress, washer uppers and entertainers for the day, we will need some extra sustenance.

Nibbles and snacks may typically be a mince pie and/or a handful of peanuts – these come in at around 200 and 300 Calories respectively.

Moving onto dinner, my ‘participant’ husband would like to have the following (eyes bigger than his stomach comes to mind) –

Starter (let’s say it’s a prawn cocktail with a slice of wholemeal bread and butter, cut into triangles) ~400 Calories

Followed by……..

Turkey (mixture of breast and leg, with skin on) 310 Cals
Baked ham 70
Roast potatoes in goose fat 180
Roast parsnips in goose fat 150
Buttered Carrots 55
Brussel Sprouts 32
Red Cabbage cooked with apple 54
Bread Sauce 55
Cranberry Sauce 45
Stuffing 30
Gravy 41
(2) Pigs in blankets 120
Christmas pudding & Custard 447
1 After Eight mint 22
1 Irish coffee 225
1 glass of port 78
2 glasses of sparkling wine (or other drink) 190

The dinner itself is coming in at 2,501Cal and with breakfast and snacks, the running total is now ~3500Cal.

It’s no wonder we tend to stay indoors on Christmas day and have a sleep on the sofa after dinner. All that digestion is pretty draining! So try to get up and about, take a walk and get some fresh air.

Finally, we move onto the evening buffet when we can’t understand how we can possibly be hungry. Partly driven by a nice spread and partly through giving up on any plan to ‘eat in moderation’ as that all went out the window at 2pm, we plough on….and so my husband may tuck into this:

Turkey and salad sandwich of course! 150
The customary pork pie 267
Crisps 127
Selection of crackers 135
Small selection of cheeses (Brie, Camembert, Cheddar & Stilton) 350
Homemade Trifle 280
A few chocolates 126
A few beers 670
A cream liqueur / port 80

So his day of pretty-much-continuous eating rounds off at around 5,600.

Within this, there are roughly 260g of total fat (nearly 300% over our daily allowance), 120g saturated fat (nearly 400% of our daily allowance), 240g of sugar (nearly 10 times the suggested 25g allowance) and 18g of salt (three times our recommended limit). WOW!

To be honest there is not a huge amount of alcohol included here, many may drink more and / or eat less. I can see however, that it is possible to consume the 6000Cal during Christmas Day that has been suggested by other research. No wonder the average person gains a few pounds (typically 5lb) over the festive period. We are not going to eat like this routinely, nor should we as many of these luxury foods are particularly rich in fat, saturated fat and sugar (with cream-based sources, use of butter and other unhealthy fats, sweets and desserts).


Please enjoy every mouthful of delicious food you have and do not feel guilty about treating and indulging yourself on this special day.  Just try to be more aware and keep things in moderation when it comes to the run up to Christmas dinner and watch all those leftovers during the days following! If you would like to know how to hold back a little, the British Dietetic Association’s Sian Porter has a great list of tips to help make your Christmas that little bit healthier. You can read these here


Penny for your thoughts........

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