Wednesday 18 September 2019

Karl Henry: Be aware of the calories you're dishing up this year

Week three plan: Keep up the measurements to stay on track

The average Christmas dinner is a whopping 1,000 calories per serving
The average Christmas dinner is a whopping 1,000 calories per serving
Don't forget to squat

Today is week three of my fool-proof plan to get you into the shape of your life for Christmas and beyond. By now your clothes should be starting to feel looser, you're sleeping better, have more energy and recovering faster from your training sessions. All of these are the by-products of becoming healthier and fitter. Remember, there are many ways to see progress - not just on the weighing scales.

This week I'll be talking about your waistline, Christmas calorie shockers, and what you have to do to burn them off.

But don't worry, I'll give you your homework for the week at the end.

If you regularly read this column, you will know that I am passionate about measuring things for your health. One of the simplest and important measurements is your waistline - remember to keep filling in the spreadsheet that you started in week one.

You see, the larger your waist, the greater the risk of health issues and illness. In fact, the greater the risk of pretty much all ailments that affect us during our lives. Reduce your waistline and you are healthier, happier and at a much lower risk.

Seems pretty simple, doesn't it?

Well, it is. Your waistline not only tells us about risk factors, it also reveals a lot about your gut health. Minimise the effects of poor gut health - such as bloating - through eating better and focusing on chewing your food more.

As always, it starts with a measurement. I recommend that you measure your waistline by using your belly button as a start and finish point. This ensures that you don't cheat or measure differently each time. Get a tape measure, place it around the body and meet it at your belly button - some recommendations are for the narrowest part of the body, but that can be confusing.

Ideally your waistline should be below 40 inches. EU regulations are somewhat lower, but I think that 32 for women and 37 for men is too low and puts people off even trying to measure. Above 40 inches places you in the high-risk category, so let's just aim to get below the magic 40. Remember, even if your waistline is far higher, by just measuring on a regular basis this is getting you on a path to health, every inch you lose will improve your well-being - so just go for it.

The tools and information I have given you over the past two weeks will help to reduce your waistline. Eating less processed food, cooking more, drinking more water, as well as moving and sleeping more, will all help you achieve your desired goal.

This is especially important at this time of year when those calorie-laden foods are coming your way.

Last week we looked at the amount of calories in alcohol, which is always shocking. But don't forget, from now to Christmas you are far more likely to go over your daily intake as all the endless nibbles are generally super-high in calories.

The average person eats up to a whooping 5,241 calories on December 25 - especially when snacks and alcohol are added in.

Here is a list of 10 of the common foods you may be eating:

⬤ Mince pie - For this little slice of delight expect between 200-300 calories

⬤ Turkey - A 90g serving of turkey breast, roasted, is 149 calories

⬤ Three Quality Street sweets - 132 calories

⬤ Christmas ham - A 100g slice of cooked, glazed ham will set you back 115 calories

⬤ Fox's Classic Chocolate Biscuits - 67 calories per one biscuit/13g

⬤ Roast potatoes- 150g of these crispy delights contains 149 calories

⬤ Tayto Crisps, cheese and onion - (25g) 133 calories

⬤ Christmas pudding - A 115g wedge (without cream or custard) has 333 calories

⬤ Baileys - A 37 ml glass of this creamy liqueur contains 129 calories

⬤ Cadbury's medium-sized Selection Box - 892 calories (don't eat it all in one go)

Life is all about balance, so don't be afraid to treat yourself, but it is important to be aware of the amount of calories in your food and what you have to do to burn them off. One hour of fast walking for example will burn off 400-500 calories, 10,000 steps will burn off the same, and a one-hour run will burn off 100 calories per mile.

Week three to-do list:

Get cooking...

1 Start with the recipe of the week and as always batch cook, so you can cook extra and store it for later. Cooking food from scratch is one of the easiest ways to improve your health almost instantly and it can be so simple. The more you can build up your freezer with healthy foods, the better. Make sure to stock anywhere you spend time with the foods that you want to eat or drink.

Sign up...

2 Sign up for an event early next year to work towards — such as a run or a charity event.

Stand up...

3 Stand up for one hour each day. Standing is good for your health, burning 50-80 calories extra per hour. It’s also good for your core and your posture.

Jog on...

4 This week I want you to do 30-minute jogs — or jog for as long as you can and walk the rest.


5 Do three wall squats each day. Simply stand against a wall, place your feet out in front and bend your knees. Lowering your back, until you are in a sitting position, simply hold for as long as you can and repeat three times.

Don't forget to squat

Don’t forget to keep up your plank and your squats from the previous two weeks as well.


Recipe - Chicken & red lentil curry

⬤ Prep time - 5 mins ⬤  Cook time - 30 mins ⬤ Serves 4


⬤ 1 tsp rapeseed oil

⬤ 1 small onion, peeled and finely diced

⬤ 1 clove of garlic, peeled and crushed

⬤ 1 knuckle-sized piece of fresh ginger peeled and finely chopped

⬤ 4 chicken breasts (125g each), cut into 2cm pieces

⬤ 1 tsp chopped coriander, plus extra leaves to garnish

⬤ 1 tsp ground cumin

⬤ 1 tsp ground turmeric

⬤ ½ tsp chilli powder

⬤ 1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes

⬤ 300ml chicken stock

⬤ 100g red lentils

⬤ 200ml low-fat coconut milk

⬤ 100g baby spinach leaves

⬤ sea salt and freshly

⬤ ground black pepper


1. Put the oil in a large non-stick frying pan or saucepan and heat on high until the oil is hot.

2. Add the onion, garlic and ginger, then reduce the heat to medium and fry until softened. Stir from time to time.

3. Add the chicken, coriander and spices and cook for five minutes on a medium heat. Stir occasionally.

4. Add the tomatoes, stock, lentils and coconut milk. Season to taste, stir and then bring to the boil.

5. Reduce the heat to a light simmer and cook for 20 minutes or until the chicken is fully cooked.

6. Lentils really soak up liquid, so add a little more water, or chicken stock if the sauce is thickening too

much and the mix is starting to look heavy or dry.

7. Finally, stir in the spinach, which will wilt down quickly with the heat.

8. Garnish with a few fresh coriander leaves if you like and serve with basmati or brown rice.

* Every week, features The Real Health podcast with Karl Henry, in association with Laya Healthcare. In this week's podcast, TCD Professor Luke O'Neill on the science behind a longer, happier life

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