Christmas is an indulgent time when we often drink too much alcohol, eat too much food, have too many late nights and do too little of the good stuff such as exercise. I know that my Christmas day generally consists of huge meals with different parts of the family (last year included 2 lunches!). However there’s no reason why Christmas day needs to be an unhealthy one.
So is it possible to enjoy the weeks leading up to Christmas and still keep your naturopath happy? It can be done! The 80:20 rule is a great way to get some balance in your life at this time of year. By allowing yourself to indulge only 20% of the time, you’ll develop a healthier attitude to food. Maintain a healthy diet most of the time and allow yourself a few treats throughout the season (without the guilt). Of course there will be occasions when you will have no choice but to indulge however the basis of a healthy diet should not go out the window. I find many of my patients write the whole of December off and spend the first few months of the New Year trying to get their health back on track- this is a lot of hard work! Keep the meals that are within your control as healthy as you can to make up for the meals you have less control over. When eating out, choose a healthy option where you can. And of course, indulge at times and enjoy it!
Here are some tips to get you thinking:
- Just because it’s the holiday season there’s no reason to throw health out the window – simply make a few switches. For example, wholegrain sourdough bread on the table is much better than white. When the sweets come out, make sure to serve a platter of fresh summer fruits. Enjoy raw, unsalted nuts rather than roasted and salted. Avoid heavily processed and flavoured crackers and chips and instead aim for plain corn chips, rice crackers, spelt crackers, buckwheat crackers or toast some mountain bread with a little olive oil and salt and cut into cracker sizes.
- Eat a small but healthy dinner before going to a party. The misconception that “If I skip dinner I can eat everything in sight” is silly, leading to too many calories consumed, producing bloating and a ‘food hangover’ the next day.
- Keep up the water and hydration as the heat and alcohol is a recipe for quick dehydration. Follow every alcoholic beverage with a glass of water and sip on mineral or soda water with some lemon or lime between drinks. Often, its about having something in your hands and no one will notice the difference if you opt for a soda water.
- Avoid beer, cider, creamy cocktails and spirits mixed with soft drinks. My general rule for my patients is no more than 1-2 glasses of wine (ideally red for extra antioxidants!). If you feel the need for more alcohol then choose a clear spirit (vodka, gin, Bacardi) with soda water or mineral water. These have no added sugars, colours or flavours. Did you know that tonic water still has a significant amount of added sugar? Use fresh lemon, lime or mint for flavour or ask for a ‘dash’ of juice to keep it more interesting.
- If you are enjoying a large Christmas meals chances are you won’t be hungry for the rest of the day and are often left feeling full and sluggish. Try siping on a soothing digestive tea between meals to aid digestion. Ginger, fennel and peppermint tea are great for bloating. A ‘dandy coffee’ (dandelion root tea) stimulates bile flow and digestive juices to help clear your food through the digestive tract. You could also have the juice of ¼ of a lemon juiced into some room temperature water and sip on this between meals.
- The holiday season is about rest and relaxation – but there’s no need to give up exercise altogether. Try to maintain an exercise routine of 4-5 times/week even if it is just a gentle walk.
- Rather than abstain altogether, simply enjoy everything in moderation. Have one potato instead of three, trim the turkey of its skin, a tablespoon of gravy rather than a pool of it and go very easy on cream and cheese. Fill your plate with salads and vegetables and enjoy a small slice of pudding with lots of fresh summer fruits!
With a healthy attitude you can still wake on Christmas morning, complete some morning exercise activity, and enjoy a bowl of fruit and muesli for breakfast and still look forward to a modest piece of Christmas cake later in the day! Below you will find a list of meal suggestions for a healthy Christmas day to get you thinking. Merry Christmas!
- Breakfast trifle- Layers of natural yoghurt, frozen berries (defrosted), mango slices sprinkled homemade granola with cinnamon
- Individual baked peach crumbles- Cut each peach in half, remove seed. Combine oats or oat bran with a small amount of butter and agave syrup. Mix until becomes a crumbly texture, and squish over the top of each peach. Bake until golden.
- Breakfast frittata- Make a yummy egg frittata using lots of veggies (pumpkin/mushroom/spinach OR smoked salmon with red onion, capers and fetta)
- Wholemeal piklets (sugar free) with fresh fruit and natural yoghurt
- Tamari almonds (rather than the traditional salted nuts)
- Fruit platters
- Beetroot hommus/guacamole/ minted yoghurt dips with veggie sticks, plain corn chips or plain rice crackers.
- Toast mountain bread wraps topped with a drizzle of olive oil and ground cumin
- Use your leftover sugar free wholemeal piklet mix to make some smoked salmon, ricotta and caper bilini’s
- Roasted turkey or chicken with fresh herbs and spices
- BBQ trout with lemon and herbs
- Fresh prawns, oysters and smoked salmon
- Crispy potato and sweet potato wedges baked with sea salt, thyme and rosemary
- Big green salad
- Steamed mixed greens- asparagus, broccoli, snow peas and green beans