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Null's got Christmas all trussed up

Null's got Christmas all trussed up

By Hayley Birch

Negotiating your way through the gastronomic minefield that is 25th December takes more than just a sturdy stomach. It calls for some considerable skill, and a scientific approach.

Though you may deny it, your stomach is actually of finite capacity. So if you’re planning to make it to the turkey sandwiches later on, you’re going to need to know exactly how many mince pies you can stuff into it at lunch time. Christmas Day is fraught with these kinds of mind boggling conundrums - a cheeky chipolata would round off lunch nicely, but will I have space for the other half of that chocolate orange later? And like it or not, it’s not just about eating endurance.  These days you have to consider what it’s doing to your health. But don’t worry, The Null is ahead of the game this year.
We’ve done all the sums and come up with a foolproof method for making it through your own personal excess, without compromising on your favourite foodstuffs.

FACTOID: A ‘modest’ Christmas dinner, including pudding, weighs in at over a kilogramme.
First off, you have to know your limits. So just to put things in perspective, let’s remember that as a man, you’re allowed 2,500 calories a day, and as a woman, sorry, only 2,000. So put the selection box down; eight different types of chocolate bar is no way to utilise those precious few calories.

But of course, it’s not calories you’ve got to contend with. There’s also fat to consider (men - 95g, women - you get 70g) and salt: 6g a day for everyone. And don’t forget, these are upper limits, not targets.

By our reckonings, a modest Christmas dinner, plus a decent sized portion of Christmas pudding and custard, is going to cost you (at a conservative estimate) 1,493 calories. If you go back for a second helping of turkey, with some gravy and – oh why not push the boat out - an extra pair of pigs-in-blankets, you’re looking at more like 2,152. That’s already well over your daily allowance, ladies, not to mention the criminal 109g of fat and 9g of salt. And gents, that leaves you barely enough for a couple of cans and a chocolate tree decoration later on.

Figgy pudding - don't go until you've got some The problem is, and predictably so, that the items posing the biggest health hazards are the ones bringing the most joy to our dinner plates, as illustrated by the Null Xmas Excess Index (below). We studied eleven crucial Christmas dinner components to find out which were harbouring the most calories, fat and salt. Pigs-in-blankets topped the bill with a score of 10, mainly due to the whopping 27g of fat and 3g of salt your arteries will encounter just in that first helping. Sprouts, at the opposite end of the scale, score a saintly 1.0. But it’s custard that emerges as the real dark horse in the health stakes, coming in just above carrots, at 2.4, whilst remaining a firm favourite in the taste stakes. 

Null Xmas Excess IndexIf your entire festive eating experience revolves around pudding, why not skip the whole turkey and trimmings palaver and tuck into three helpings of Christmas pud and custard instead. You can achieve a very respectable average Excess Index of 4.7 and it will still bring you in 500 calories and 55g of fat under a traditional dinner.

Now, clearly in an ideal situation you want your Excess Index as low as possible. For a fairly sensible 750 calories, you can pull off a near perfect score by scoffing a stomach-churning 94 sprouts. Perhaps more feasible is an average index of 5.0. Depending on your preferences, there are plenty of ways to achieve this. But to make things a little easier for your brandy soaked brain, we’ve come up with a quick fix solution. 

If you stick to the same Excess Index for each item, altering the proportions accordingly, you can optimise your Christmas dinner at exactly 5.0. The weight stays roughly the same, so you should feel just as uncomfortably full, but instead of those 1,500 calories, you’ll be consuming a more acceptable 1,004. You’ll also halve your fat and salt intakes, as well as being able to enjoy your turkey sandwiches guilt-free.

The downside, unfortunately, is that you’ll have to force down 19 sprouts and cut your share of the pudding to
a measly sixteenth.

Click for full table versionSo, there you go. Christmas dinner without the belly-ache. Now that’s all well and good, but here at The Null we’ve looked at this spangly new all-in-moderation version and scratched our heads a little bit, and to tell the truth, we don’t like it. Two thirds of a pig-in-a-blanket simply won’t cut it on Christmas Day. And all this talk of food has made us mighty hungry, so we’re all off to carve up the Christmas cake and crack open the mulled wine.

Click to enlarge

Find out more about Hayley and read more of her articles here.

Still feeling festive? Give these other Crimbo related articles a go over

- Not Fair - Sprouts bad for bugs
- Thoughtful - Wrapping with a conscience
- Informative - The humble Christmas tree
- Name calling - Festive research

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09 Dec 2010
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