As December arrives, so does a flurry of emails from concerned clients, mainly worrying about how to enjoy Christmas whilst also looking after their health and keeping their nutritional intake balanced.
Those who have worked hard all year to lose or maintain their weight start to fret as they get busier and more stressed, knowing that they are more likely to eat on the run (often grabbing high carb sugary snacks), or indulge in canapes and high sugar drinks whilst attending parties and social events.
And of course there’s the main event itself: Christmas Day.
As a nutritional therapist people often think that I never indulge and only eat healthily 365 days a year.
No cake! No biscuits, no alcohol!
Sounds like no fun to me.
However, tis the season to be jolly and I’m a big believer in not restricting yourself, finding a good balance in your diet and enjoying yourself and the food you eat.
Research actually shows us that having a little bit of what you fancy is positively good for us. In my view we should be focusing on eating well for life. So when festivities and other celebrations come, it’s okay to enjoy some treats.
If we try to be good when everyone is having fun, we’re more likely to secretly eat. Or then have a binge on the wrong stuff and feel guilty about it afterwards.
So, enjoy yourself; some might say it helps us to live longer if we enjoy ourselves every now and again…
Remember it’s in your control to have a healthy relationship with food. If you have an indulgent night out, enjoy it and look to eat healthily for the following week.
It’s all about balance.
So here are a few of my very simple tips for enjoying the traditional Christmas fare without the guilt. Remember it’s easy to pack your diet with plenty of healthy ingredients, it’s not just about the Christmas pudding, Quality Street and alcohol.
The supermarkets are awash with delicious seasonal produce at this time of year. With a little willpower you can control what goes on your plate.
Say yes to turkey
The traditional Christmas turkey is the festive meat of choice for so many. This lean, protein packed meat is fantastic for us, a great source of iron, zinc, potassium and phosphorus. Also rich in tryptophan which may help support serotonin production, so good for our brains and a good nights sleep. So go ahead and enjoy!
No Christmas passes me by without purchasing a lot of Brussel sprouts! They are such a fantastic source of fibre – in fact you’ll find about 16% of your daily need in a cupful of cooked Brussel sprouts. Fibre is important for balancing our cholesterol levels, regulating bowels and can help stabilize blood sugar and keep us feeling fuller for longer.
Sprouts are also an excellent source of Vitamin A, B6, C and K, folate and manganese. So all hail the humble sprout and make it your vegetable of choice this December.
Don’t guilt over chocolate cravings
If you feel the need then reach for the dark chocolate, besides being super yummy it does have some wonderful health benefits. Rich in flavanols, dark chocolate (in moderation of course) can help guard the body against conditions such as heart disease and is also packed with iron, magnesium and manganese. Just don’t have too much in the evening as it also contains caffeine, which may affect your sleep.
Enjoy juicy Clementines
I used to always get one of these in my stocking and it warms my heart when I see the boxes and bags of them lined up in the supermarkets at this time of year. They are a great source of fibre and water and can really aid with digestive health.
Just one clementine contains most of your daily vitamin C needs and helps keep your immunity boosted – perfect for staving off that nasty common cold. They also can help you maintain good blood pressure: packed with potassium and a low content of sodium, so may gently support healthy blood pressure… (Make sure you stock up before the family descend!)
Get some exercise
Christmas is a time of year where the majority of people are on holiday and spend it with friends and family, so why not encourage everyone off the sofa and out for a walk in the crisp Christmas air? You’ll all feel the benefits – walking is easy, free and best of all studies show regular walking improves fitness and reduces your risk of heart disease!
Try something new!
It’s easier than ever to make healthier versions of treats and snack and, fibre packed goodies. Why not try out my spiced apple cake? You can find the recipe here.
Make time for me time
It’s easy to get stressed and overwhelmed at Christmas – people to cook for, buy presents for, entertain and host. Stress can leave us reaching for the easy-to-eat-on-the-go sugary nasties… Make sure you set aside some time for yourself during the festive period: a relaxing bath, reading a book, half an hour of yoga or even starting each day with 5 minutes of meditation.
It will do wonders for you and help you keep on track of positive eating.
And if all else fails ask Father Christmas for an afternoon at the spa!
So on Christmas day, I certainly will be enjoying my Christmas pudding and a few chocolates (and they won’t be the low sugar variety!) But then I’ll be back to my usual eating regime, which is keeping my food as healthy as I can at least 85% of the time…. and enjoying my red wine and dark chocolate when I fancy it!
Happy Christmas all from The Family Nutrition Expert!
Catherine Jeans is a nutritionist based in Norfolk. She is known as The Family Nutrition Expert and has featured as nutritional expert in numerous publications including the Sunday Telegraph. Catherine is author of the 30 Day Sugar Detox Programme.