Say “Christmas” or ‘Holidays” and you think of the party build-up and the Big Day itself, both of which involve eating and drinking ourselves into a merry stupor! So “Healthy Christmas” sounds like an oxymoron :(
I’m not suggesting you swap your roast dinner for a Ryvita and a thin smear of cream cheese, and pass on a glass of bubbly to sip on tap water… but there are some ways to tweak your festive lifestyle to give it a more healthy twist.
So, if you don’t want to see the New Year in with a brand new layer of podge settling on your hips, here are my damage limitation tips!
1. Beware the snack attack!
‘Nibbles’ are a Christmas staple. Before dinner, after dinner, with drinks… wherever you turn, there are salted peanuts and Pringles… and somehow you JUST, CAN’T, STOP, EATING, THEM!
So, first rule: Make sure your hectic festive schedule doesn’t mean you skip meals. If you eat good food regularly, you’ll reduce your urge to binge on unhealthy, MSG-filled crisps and party fodder.
If you’re hosting a party, you can make easy substitutions to make your party food more nutritious and less fattening.
Pretzels, popcorn and Twiglets, while not highly nutritious, are way lighter on calories and ‘bad’ fats than crisps, but still tasty finger foods. You could also use rice cakes and oatcakes as the base for little canapés.
Choose unsalted nuts, and natural olives, which are full of ‘good’ essential fats and delicious eaten in their naked form. Rainbow crudités, with carrots, cucumber and red pepper, served alongside homemade hummus and salsa are simple, healthy and delicious!
Ask your butcher to make cocktail sausages for you – and whack them under the grill — instead of buying shriveled pre-packed cocktail sausages and pastry-laden sausage rolls.
Make open-top mince pies to cut down on pastry consumption.
If you’re not the party host, take some of your own healthier treats to the party – I’ve yet to meet a host that isn’t grateful of all contributions!
2. Drink sensibly
It’s Christmas, you’re probably going to drink, and that’s fine. But if you don’t want booze to turn into bulge, you need to be savvy.
First off, and with my mum hat on, don’t overdo it. Binge drinking gives you a massive overdose of empty calories – good-for-nothing calories that are destined to turn into sugar in your body and settle as fat around your middle. Then there’s the hangover – in which you use coffee and junk food to drag yourself through the day. It’s all bad news.
So, understanding that moderation is key, what drinks should you indulge in? Well, the good news is that champagne is lowest in calories out of almost all the alcoholic beverages available. So, you can have one or two glasses of fizz, guilt-free, washed down with plenty of water.
Calorie wise, spirits like gin and vodka with diet mixers are actually quite lean. But, in all honesty, as I’m not a fan of ‘diet drinks’, I’d rather nurse one nice big glass of really decent red wine and be done with it!
Warning: steer clear of eggnog, which clocks up 350 calories per serving.
3. Christmas dinner
I’m not suggesting for one minute that you spend time worrying about your Christmas dinner’s effect on your body. For one meal a year, I think we can all let our hair down and enjoy the moment. But there are easy ways to make it healthier, which won’t spoil a thing!
For your starter, a clear soup would be refreshing, tasty – and healthy too! The main course presents an opportunity to include lots of veggies – just keeping them naked, rather than covered in sauce or butter – makes them 100% diet-friendly. Grilling sausages and bacon, rather than frying, adds health kudos, as does roasting spuds in coconut oil, instead of goose fat.
For dessert, if you’re not obsessed with traditional Christmas pud, you could opt for a lighter option like poached spiced pears with a dollop of fromage frais, or cranberry sorbet, instead of double cream,
4. Cut the stress
I’ve said it before, but stress = fat. When you’re emotionally stressed, or you exert stress on your body by eating the wrong foods, your body produces the hormone cortisol, which decreases muscle mass and encourages belly fat storage.
Saying to you “don’t get stressed at Christmas” is like saying “don’t get older on your birthday”… Yes, the festive season, with its financial pressures and social demands, can run us ragged, but we need to stay as chilled as possible for the sake of our health.
The key to this really is planning – so that you never feel like you’re sinking under the reams and reams of your To Do List. Get present buying out of the way quickly, write a meal planner, shop for non-perishable foods early… Get ahead of the game!
The next tip is to crowbar in some ME TIME. Take advantage of the glut of mindless movies on the box to have an hour or two curled up on the sofa. Read a January issue magazine to project yourself into a calmer zone. Get a warm bath. Whatever you do, make time for YOU amid all the madness.
5. Move your body
Your yoga class might have packed up for Christmas, it might be too cold and damp outside to inspire you to run, but somehow you need to make sure you don’t slip into an exercise-void over the Christmas period. A daily brisk walk is a positive start – maybe a ramble along the beach?
A cycle ride would be great – and something you can involve the family in over the holidays. You could find an ice rink and do some skating – how festive is that? Whatever you do, keep moving !
What are your plans this Christmas – will ‘healthy’ be on the cards, or forgotten until it’s time for New Year Resolutions? And talking of New Years resolutions, I’ll drop in my Facebook update from today too…
“All that healthy eating, get good sleep, daily walk, workout more, don’t drink much, take care of yourself…. stuff you’re thinking: ‘I’ll do that In January?’
Do it now” ;)