You have done really well. You have eaten healthily all year, cut down on sugar and processed foods, you are cooking fresh meals from scratch, drinking plenty of water and getting your 10,000 steps in.
And then, the festive season has arrived. The shelves in the shops are stacked with treats and alcohol, the parties and lunches begin and your diary is packed with engagements. On top of that you are juggling Christmas shopping and preparation alongside your work load!
Christmas is a time to enjoy spending time with family and friends. To celebrate the year together and all you have achieved. It’s a time of work parties and social engagements and with that comes plenty of food and drink.
It’s a wonderful time yet it can be full of over indulgence meaning many of us enter January feeling exhausted, unhealthy and carrying some extra, unwanted weight.
So how do you maintain your healthy lifestyle, enjoy the abundance and treats of this seasonand come out the other side feeling great?
Realistically Christmas is not the time to lose weight. If you restrict yourself and deny yourself a few treats, you are not going to enjoy yourself and may even end up binging.
I believe you can still enjoy yourself and not fall totally off the wagon by just keeping a few healthy practices in mind. In this blog post, I want to show that you can still enjoy your favourite Christmas treats by adopting a balanced approach that will set you up for long-term health.
I mention balance a lot and it really is key. If you are prone to an all-or-nothing approach, then be mindful of this. If you go all in and binge over this festive period, you are not only going to gain weight; you are going to feel worse, sluggish with less energy, which can lead to further bad choices. It’s easy to get back into that cycle and then be tempted to crash diet. I have said it before, and I will say it again – crash dieting in January just does not work.
The easiest way to maintain your desired weight, stay healthy and keep feeling great is to eat a balanced diet all year round.
Here are my tips to a healthy holiday.
Eat your veggies
Vegetables should be at the core of any diet. Ensure you always have plenty of veg in your house so you can add it to every meal. Aim for half your plate to be full of vegetables. Choose vegetables that are in season and try to eat as many different coloured fruits and veggies as you can every day – this really supports your gut health as you will be getting a diverse range of nutrients.
A way to experiment with new veggies is to shop at farmers markets or order an organic veg box – you may find something new you love!
Some winter veg includes beetroot, Brussels sprouts, cabbage carrots, cauliflower, celeriac, celery, horseradish, Jerusalem artichokes, kale, leeks, mushrooms, parsnips, potatoes, pumpkin, shallots, swede, Swiss chard, turnips, watercress, winter squash.
A great way of getting a lot of veg into a meal is by making soups and stews – which you can also freeze for a busy month (more on that below).
Avoid overstocking on festive treats
It’s easy to get carried away stocking up on all the foods that are on offer, buying much more than you actually need.
Think strategically. For instance, how many mince pies do you really need? You don’t want to end up with more treats such as these left over in January and be tempted to eat them rather than throw them away.
Buy a few of your favourite treats, and aim to keep to your usual healthy eating regime. Stock your fridge with plenty of seasonal fruit and veg as well so when you are hungry you are not tempted to eat them all!
Cook from scratch using fresh ingredients
Rather than opting for stored bought Christmas cakes, puddings, and mince pies, try to bake them yourself. This way, you will control exactly what goes into your food so there won’t be any excess sugar and additives.
You can make these things in advance as they all keep really well.
Look at your diary before you shop for the week. If you know you will be out a lot, then shop accordingly to avoid waste. Stock up on vegetables so you can cook healthy meals when at home.
Batch cook some healthy meals so you have some food ready for those rushed days. When you are busy and feeling tired, it’s tempting to opt for takeaways or ready meals. By having some healthy food prepared in the fridge and freezer you will make better choices.
If you have a busy few weeks ahead packed with social engagements, plan to make your meals at home super healthy to ensure you are getting all the nutrients you need. For example, every morning you may decide to drink a smoothie or superfoods green drink like I always have every morning.
That way you will not only be balancing your meals, you will recover quicker from any over indulgence.
I would also recommend taking a good probiotic to support your gut health during this period.
Eating out and socialising
When eating out, I always say to just enjoy your food without feeling guilty. Yet we have all been to that Christmas party where the buffet has been rather brown! My tip here is to have a healthy lunch and eat a little something before you go to the party. That way you are not only preparing your stomach for some alcohol, you won’t feel so hungry so won’t stock up your plate with too many sausage rolls or pastries.
Some Christmas meals ask you to choose your meal option in advance – this is a great opportunity to choose the healthier option on the menu. If you have a choice of two courses then go for the starters and main rather than main and desert.
If you know you are going to eat a rich meal in the evening, then start the day with a smoothie and then eat a light lunch with plenty of vegetables – that way you are not overloading your digestive system.
Or, if you are having Christmas drinks and you know you may end up skipping a meal, have a really big, late lunch to see you through and prepare your stomach for the alcohol.
Drink plenty of water
Christmas drinks are a big part of the season and festive cocktails and glasses of fizz are tempting. My tip is to drink a glass of water after every alcoholic drink you consume. You could also make a few of your drinks alcohol free, choosing a 0% beer, 0% gin & tonic or mocktail.
Make sure you drink your 2 litres of water a day to keep yourself hydrated and help your body process what you consume.
Start your day with a large mug of warmed water with lemon juice to cleanse and hydrate your body when you awake.
Get enough sleep
With all this partying comes late nights. Alcohol can also disturb your sleep. Make sure you maintain as regular sleeping patterns as you can and get plenty of rest.
December can get really busy with work as we try and finish off projects and tick off our to-do list before the holidays. This can become stressful if we let it and can also lead to a bad nights sleep.
Remember to manage stress levels with mindful breathing, or some gentle yoga or meditation. Do this before bed to calm yourself and clear your mind.
Keep up your exercise routine
Balance out the extra indulgence by getting in your 10,000 steps a day and maintaining your normal exercise routine. As you plan your meals for your week – plan for your exercise. Look at your schedule, if you are going to miss a few exercise classes or trips to the gym because of a social occasion, can you work out at lunchtime instead? Or take your walk first thing in the morning?
I hope these tips help. Like I said, it’s all about balance and above all else you should enjoy this season without guilt. Be proud of what you have achieved this year and go into the new year feeling amazing.