A nutritionist’s view: Having a little bit of what you fancy is ‘positively good for us’

Dark chocolate and red wine are said to be good for you. Picture: Jennie Fairhurst/PA Wire

Dark chocolate and red wine are said to be good for you. Picture: Jennie Fairhurst/PA Wire - Credit: PA

How much can we indulge at Christmas? A nutritionist's view!

I'm a nutritional therapist, which means that everyone expects me to eat healthily all the time.

No biscuits, chocolates or cake… and certainly no wine or spirits!

But the thing is, I'm a big believer in balance, and there's no greater time to find the right balance at Christmas.

Research actually shows us that having a little bit of what we fancy is positively good for us.

So those who have a little bit of chocolate or some wine, actually tend to live longer.

Why is that? Is it because of the flavonoids in chocolate which help keep our heart healthy?

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Yes, if you eat dark chocolate (not so much in the sweeter milk varieties!)

Or is it the resveratol polyphenol in red wine that's good for us?

Yes, this compound has been associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.

But is there something else going on?

Could it be that us humans don't do very well on an overly restrictive diet?

Is it that having a little bit of what we fancy is positively good for us?

In my view, it's a combination of all those things.

I believe that food should be enjoyed.

We should be able to have a social drink with our friends and family.

And our children need to understand that it's okay to sometimes indulge in desserts and sweet treats, but after a meal, not to replace it.

I've been reading a lot recently about The Blue Zones in the world… places such as Okinawa in Japan and Sardinia, where they have the highest concentrations of centenarians.

There are a number of common habits of people all around the world who live to be over 100.

These include eating quite simple diets, they often grow their own food and they commonly meet most days with friends or family to enjoy each other's company, often with a glass of wine or other kind of alcohol.

Now I'm not saying you should over indulge and be drinking wine every afternoon!

But I do think it's important to have a healthy relationship with food and alcohol.

Enjoy a little bit of what you fancy… but in moderation, and don't feel guilty about it.

Pack your diet with plenty of healthy ingredients, and try to eat as well as you can 85pc of the time, particularly keeping a watch out for sugary foods.

The rest will take care of itself.

In my view we should be focusing on a lifetime of healthy eating.

When festivities and other celebrations come, it's okay to enjoy some treats.

If we try to be good when everyone is having fun, we're more likely to secretly eat.

Or then have a binge on the wrong stuff and feel guilty about it afterwards.

I also teach my clients how to make healthier versions of treats and snacks.

So when I'm baking for my kids, the majority of the time everything is low sugar and packed with fibre and goodness.

This way I don't even mind them eating my bakes for breakfast!

When you know how, it's actually quite easy to live a low sugar diet, and have your cake and eat it.

So on Christmas day, I certainly will be enjoying my Christmas pudding and a few chocolates (and they won't be the low sugar variety on that day!)

But then I'll be back to my usual eating regime, which is keeping my food as healthy as I can at least 85pc of the time…. and enjoying my red wine and dark chocolate when I fancy it!