Christmas is synonymous with food for me – a time to shelve my diet and enjoy some self-indulgent treats. But in the past I’ve been tempted to go off the rails and eat way too much, resulting in bloating and discomfort, not to mention weight gain. Eating unhealthy can cause lots of problems, from headaches and nausea to tiredness and stomach pain. Even if you’re not worried about weight gain, eating healthy over Christmas will keep you energised. Don’t worry though, I don’t mean you can’t enjoy sweet treats and a big portion of dessert. Here are my tips to stay healthy at Christmas without ruining the fun!
Moderate your Alcohol intake and stay hydrated
Most people indulge in alcohol over Christmas (hello mulled wine and snowballs!), but problems occur when we over indulge. It’s easy to get lost in the celebrations and have too much to drink which can have a serious effect on our health. Keep track of how much you’re drinking or consider an alcohol-free Christmas if you don’t think you can stop at one or two drinks. There are some great alcohol free wines, beers and ciders now, or consider making a Christmas mocktail! Just be aware that drinks are empty calories.
It’s also crucially important to stay hydrated, so make sure you’re drinking a solid six – eight glasses of water a day. If you’re not a fan of water, you can add some juice or squash to it to make it a bit more palatable.
Reduce your oil usage, explore alternative cooking methods
If you’re cooking for Christmas then you’re probably getting hot and heavy with various cooking oils, butter or even goose fat. Roasted meat, roast potatoes, Yorkshire puddings, buttered vegetables… it’s all adding up. There are plenty of alternative methods of cooking that don’t go so heavy on the unhealthy additions. Consider investing in an air fryer (it’s my most used kitchen appliance now, I bought this budget Tower Air Fryer last year and it’s great value), a steamer or switching out your oils for something much lower calorie, like the low calorie oil spray you can buy in the supermarket. I currently use Fry Light (which you can buy online, but they’re stocked in most supermarkets. Aldi usually have the sunflower oil and occasionally the coconut oil). I even use it for frying eggs and other items and it works incredibly well.
Pass the Gravy
Heavy meat-based gravy made with butters and oils is absolutely delicious, I can’t deny it – but the fact is that a low fat vegetarian gravy is a lot more healthy and still just as delicious. You might be scoffing, but I’ve been following this thick and tasty healthy gravy recipe on BBC Good Food to make gravy from scratch and it’s very very simple. I never would have thought to add ketchup to this recipe but IT WORKS! Don’t look at me like that… seriously, try it. You can use chicken stock if you want, but I use vegetable stock and it makes this recipe suitable for vegetarians and it’s easily adapted to be vegan friendly depending on the stock and ketchup that you use.
Gravy can also be frozen for three months which means you don’t have to scramble on Christmas Day to make it – make it well in advance and then just heat it up. I guarantee no one will be able to tell.
Try not to Stress
Easier said than done. Christmas is known to be one of the most stressful times of the year, often resulting in arguments and tears. There’s so much pressure to have a perfect Christmas that stress levels are inevitably going to rise. Being stressed is not healthy at all – so try to relax and destress this Christmas, by preparing in advance, setting realistic expectations and getting everyone involved rather than shouldering a burden.
If you’re an introvert like me, then these holiday stress survival tips for introverts will be invaluable!
Try some exotic fruit
Pass the apple may not sound like something you’d say at Christmas. And if you have kids you might be struggling to sell the idea of fruit when there’s so much chocolate on display. How about trying some more exotic fruit at Christmas? Something you wouldn’t usually get – served alongside some sweet berries such as strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and a few cranberries.
But what is this? It’s a dragon fruit! Perfect for Instagram – but is it good for your taste buds? Read on!
You might see rather exotic looking fruit on the shelves and think “What on earth does that taste like?” My husband and I usually guess wrong… but I’ve got you covered. Some fruit you should be able to find in the UK supermarkets (or better yet, from farmers shops or fruit sellers) over Christmas are:
Custard Apple (Tropical Americas and West Indies) – A custard apple (also known as a sugar apple) looks a bit like a giant green acorn. It is a very weird, yet absolutely delicious taste. It does actually taste like apple and sweet custard, with the consistency of a pear!
Dragon Fruit (Americas) – The Dragon Fruit (also known as a pitaya) is a type of cactus fruit and it looks absolutely amazing (pictured above) But what does it taste like? It’s a bit like a kiwi and a pear!
Jackfruit (Southwest India and Asia) – Jackfruit has started popping up on restaurant menus all around the UK, the demand for vegan dishes emboldening our chefs. It’s a type of fig, and is a dense fibrous fruit that tastes a bit like sweet pulled pork when it’s cooked. Yes, I’m serious! It does have an odd, musky smell but it’s unique meat-like texture and taste have made it a natural alternative for vegans and vegetarians. This is one to serve cooked rather than server up in the fruit bowl.
Kumquat (Asia) – Kumquat’s don’t look very exotic, looking like cute little oranges. The inside is very citrussy, more like a lemon than an orange, but what is odd about this fruit is you eat the peel, and it’s sweet and delicious! When you eat them whole, this creates a bit of a flavour party in your mouth as the sweet peel and citrus insides collide.
Lychee (Asia) – Lychees look like big extra-fuzzy raspberries. Unlike raspberries, it’s crunchy, with a texture similar to a pear. It has a very distinctive flavour that can’t be compared, so you should really try it! It’s a bit like a grape crossed with a pear with a citrus tang. It’s full of antioxidants and vitamins!
Passion Fruit (Brazil) – Passion Fruit doesn’t look amazingly appealing when you open it up, but it has a lovely tropical taste that blends mango, pineapple, papaya and citrus together to create something unique and utterly delicious.
Pomegranate (Northern India and the Mediterranean) – Pomegranates have been in the UK for a long time, but are still considered fairly exotic. It’s important to have a ripe pomegranate to make the most out of the sweetness. If not ripe, they are very tart with a sharp taste, similar to raw cranberries. When ripe they are a sweet-sour flavour reminiscent of cherries, but with a very different texture. I think these are a bit of a love-hate fruit but worth a try if you’re not sure which side you fall on. I hate them, my husband loves them!
Pomelo (South East Asia) – We love Pomelos but it did take me a while to get used to them! They look a bit like a melon and have a thick rind that is a bit of work to get through, but the fruit inside is worth it. It tastes like a grapefruit, but without the bitter, sour flavour! It’s very filling as it’s quite a meaty fruit so an ideal alternative to a high-calorie snack when you’re feeling peckish.
Anything there take your fancy? Let me know in the comments if you’ve tried any and what you think of them!
Make your own Dessert
Shop bought desserts can contain a ridiculous amount of sugar. You don’t need to sacrifice a delicious dessert to stay healthy at Christmas, but you do need to be aware of what, and how much of it, you’re eating. If eating shop bought you also need to be very aware of portion sizes. You might think something is only a hundred calories, but if you weigh out the exact portion, you can find it’s a lot more. Listing calories as deceptively small portions is a cunning trick that brands often use.
By making a home-made dessert you can monitor exactly what goes into it and have a lot more yummy dessert for your calories.
Play party games and dance to music
Get moving! Play exuberant party games and get the Christmas music playing on the speakers for a bit of a dance-a-thon. It’s all too easy to turn on the TV and collapse on the sofa for a nap after Christmas Dinner (it does sound good doesn’t it?!) but there are plenty of fun ways to keep the family energized and moving.
Make a family walk a tradition
Walking is great for digestion but I know my family tends to spend post Christmas dinner in a haze on the sofa. I’m trying to motivate my family (and myself) to get off their butts and go for a walk after dinner. Fresh air, exercise and some time away the TV has to be a good thing. It doesn’t need to be a long walk – a 15 minute walk around the neighbourhood or to a local park is all you need.
Get Back on Track
Remember that just because you may have accidentally consumed 4,000 calories of cake today, doesn’t mean you stop being self-aware. You may not be eating strict or running a marathon over Christmas, but you can still make lots of small decisions and get back on track to the lifestyle you want to lead. Don’t despair if you put on a few pounds over Christmas and give up on eating healthy or exercising, as it’s very easy to fall into bad habits. January will be a short hop away with plenty of motivation in the form of New Year’s Resolutions. Will you be making any this year?
I hope this helps you think of simple and easy ways to help your family stay a little bit healthier over the coming festive period. At the end of the day it’s everything in moderation. I don’t think we need to start nibbling carrot sticks for starters (unless that’s your jam!) but it definitely helps to have a think about small changes you can make.