The Nutritionist: The Six Week Eat-athon

Mince Pie Martin Briscoe

How's the liver-loving campaign going? Bought (and eaten) your first pack of mince pies already, washed down with brandy butter and some mulled wine?

Studies have shown that 50% of the average annual weight gain is most likely to be gained in the six weeks between mid-November and Christmas. So we're about one week in to the six week eat-athon which usually finishes with the consumption of a whopping 6,000 calories on Christmas Day (that's three times the daily guideline amount of 2,000 calories for females). And unfortunately, that weight gain will (for most of you) still be there when Christmas comes around next year.

Over the next couple of weeks I will be taking a closer look at the nutritional value of some of the foods we tend to stuff our faces with during this six week eat-athon. The first on the list is the seasonal must-have, mince pies.

Did you know the female record holder ate 46 mince pies in 10min? With an average 250 calories per mince pie, this equals 11,500 calories, the recommended calorie intake of 5.75 days! Now I'm sure you don't eat that many mince pies, but let's have a closer look at this serious calorie punch.

So we've established an average mince pie contains 250 calories, 1/8th of your daily guideline amount of 2,000 calories. Put this into the mince pie calculator, and it tells you if you go swimming for an hour you burn off 1.4 mince pies. (But who has the time to do more exercise with all those festive dinners, ice skating events and shopping evenings. And be honest, do you really fancy showing off your body in an all-too-revealing swimming costume at this time of the year?) The mince pie might be small in size but high in sugar, containing up to 25gram per pie - that's a total of five teaspoons of sugar in one mince-pie!

Considering your body can only ever deal with one teaspoon of sugar circulating in your system, you know what this will do to your blood sugar, insulin, and energy levels. The fat content isn't much better - some of the mince pies out there contain a whopping 8g of total fat, and that's not the healthy kind of polyunsaturated fat. So if you happen to eat 2.5 mince pies (which can happen too quickly, I know) you can easily reach your recommended daily allowance of 20g of saturated fat. The puff pastry offers little to no fibre, and can cause you to feel bloated and sluggish should you tend to be wheat or gluten intolerant. Protein levels are low so you won't be satisfied for a long time, and you'll want more mince pies in no time.

Now add a teaspoon of single or double cream (or brandy butter) and you can easily hit the 500 calorie mark. If you can't resist a humble mince pie, keep these figures in mind, start reading labels, and try one of the gluten-free and lower calorie/fat versions out there.

After all, you don't want to be first to cross the finish line of the six week eat-athon!