As we gear up for the holiday feasts, many of us start with plans of embracing a healthier diet during the Christmas season. But let's face it—intentions and easy don't always go hand in hand. It's like that old saying, "if we fail to plan, we plan to..." not eat a healthy diet. Sure, planning takes a bit of time, but if you're serious about turning those good intentions into reality, well, a little strategising might just be the Christmas miracle you need. After all, who said healthy eating can't have a side of festive fun and a sprinkle of planning magic?
To be perfectly honest with you, I never intend to have a healthy Christmas day. In fact one of my favourite things to do is to plan a whole banquet of desserts to taste and enjoy. To me, it is the one day of the year where anything goes! Well, almost anything 😁.
What I do plan to do is to try and make plenty of salads or vegetable sides available, have our favourite Christmas fruit (eg cherries, lychees, plums) on the table, and plenty of water. I also plan to eat the healthier foods early on, so that I don't over-eat with the less than healthy foods that I will eat.
Another thing I like to do is for the desserts to make individual serves. Again, this reduces the left-overs that tempt us for the next week, and if you have guests, they can take home the serve that was made for them if it hasn't been eaten on the day.
The other challenge over this period is all the parties. This does take some serious planning! My first advice for those of you who are trying to reduce the calorie load during this time, is to go to a party after having a healthy snack. Don't turn up starving if you want to make healthy choices.
My next tip would be to bring a plate of colourful and healthy food to share. You can be sure
that others will be grateful for the option to have something healthy. This might be a veggie laden plate with a dip, or a fruit plate with some melted chocolate for dipping in (or just a fruit platter). Charcuterie boards are also popular options where you can put all sorts of healthy snacks including some nice cheese and wholegrain crackers.
Another tip is to try and increase your energy output over this period. I know this sounds pretty crazy to be talking like this over one of the busiest time of the year, but if you are planning an indulgent evening or day, and you want to stay on track with your goals, try increasing your exercise routine. Look for moments in the day where you can walk a little bit further, or do some planned exercise. Maybe plan one of your social catch-ups while walking with friends. It might start something new and help keep you motivated into the new year!
In the vein of the last tip, reducing your energy intake before a party can also help. I am definitely not advocating for starving yourself over the day as it is almost guaranteed that then you will over-indulge at the party or gathering. Being overly hungry leads to very poor food decisions. So just don't do it! When I suggest reducing energy intake over the day, that could look like using a smaller plate for meals and thus reducing the portion. Instead of your usual sized snacks, you could halve them. Or instead of eating high caloric meals and snacks, bulk the meal with more veggies. Veggies often have the lowest amount of kilojoules (unless you are eating starchy and deep fried veggies).
Drinks are another way to reduce your energy intake before or during a party or event.
Instead of choosing a drink with high kilojoules (calories), choose a drink like water or sparkling water that has zero energy but is thirst quenching. This is also a good option to break up drinks at a party. Keep up your zero calorie fluids between caloric options.
For most of us, Christmas is a season. So there are plenty of opportunites for healthy eating amongst the parties and festivities. Make sure all the meals you are making or choosing outside of any special events and parties are loaded with vegetables, are not full of deep fried food, are trimmed of meat fats, are rich in low GI carbohydrates (mostly fibre full carbs - think grainy or with added fibre - go to the Low GI website for more tips on this).
My final tip is to advise you not to buy the snack food too early! Why do I say this? Well, we all know what happens - I fall victim to it, so I know what I'm talking about. If you buy the snack food early, it is too easy to dip into it when you are feeling hungry or relaxing. So leave it as late as you can, without getting stuck in the Christmas rush. The other option you might want to consider is to do an early online order of the Christmas food you want. Then hopefully you won't miss out on it, but it is not sitting in your house tempting you, or others.
Navigating a healthy diet during the Christmas chaos has it's challenges but they don't have to be an all or nothing option. Peruse these tips and use the ones that don't make your inner Grinch cringe. And, don't forget to sprinkle some joy on those Brussels sprouts or wherever you find it – because laughter is the best seasoning. Spread goodwill and kindness like confetti, and remember, the real gift is enjoying your Christmas feast without feeling like you need a New Year's resolution redemption. Cheers to a season of merriment and moderation! 🎄✨