Healthy Christmas Tips
There are so many reasons to love the Christmas season. Every family has their own special traditions and it is the only time of the year when we can actually step away from our usually heavy schedules to get together and enjoy great company and mountains of delicious food that we often only prepare for the festive season. We all have our special signature dishes and secret family recipes that we only ever make for Christmas dinner. After all, if we made them all year round then they wouldn’t be so special anymore. Of course, all of this food needs to be washed down and the usual fluids to complement the offerings on the table are usually wine, beer or something a little stronger.
The only problem with the Season to be jolly is that it can last for over a week. It starts on Christmas Eve, or earlier, and pretty much continues until the New Year’s celebrations are over. You might have a family get together at your home, then you also embark on the infamous Relly Run where every day between Christmas and New Year you are celebrating somewhere else. The copious amounts of food and drinks all overloaded with course after course of calorie rich foods. After all those days you feel bloated and merely the thought of another bite of Christmas ham or pudding makes you shudder. If this sounds familiar to you then the 2nd of January probably feels like one enormous hangover, laced with an even bigger food coma. Suddenly that stick of celery in the fridge starts to look strangely appetizing and the only fluids you feel like gulping is plain old water.
You don’t need to go into holiday overload every Christmas and there are things you can do limit the overeating and drinking so that you can start the new year without making another New Year’s Resolution that you just know you won’t stick to. What you need is a little strategic planning so that you can still enjoy the festivities without the feeling of overwhelming guilt afterwards. More importantly, you’ll feel better and you won’t have to explain to your doctor why your cholesterol and triglyceride levels have sudden reached the point of no return.
1. Have A Small Meal Before Going Out
Arriving at a Christmas party hungry is a big mistake. When you’re hungry you’ll start to eat with your eyes first and you are more likely to put more food on your plate than you need to consume in one sitting. You can avoid the overloaded plate by having a healthy bite before you leave your house. It can be something as simple as vegetable soup, a ham and salad sandwich or some fruit. You’ll be more inclined to take just a few pieces of your favorite dishes and eat a lot less overall.
2. Control Your Portions
It’s perfectly normal to want to sample everything on the Christmas dinner table. The key is to only take the tiniest serving of your favorites. That way you get to try all of the food that you find impossible to resist without the need to undo any buttons when you’ve emptied your plate. If you’re careful enough with the portion sizes, you may even have enough room for another small serving of the tastiest dish.
3. Choose Dishes With Lots Of Fruit And Vegetables
Instead of eating all the heavy, meat and pastry dishes full of sodium and fat, take smaller portions of these foods and fill the rest of your plate with sides of fruit and vegetables. By making these healthier food choices, you will still get to enjoy a full plate of food, but without that ensuing heaviness that follows. The other benefit is that fruit and vegetables contain dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals that will help you get through the endless days of lunches, dinners and parties. Fruit and vegetables also contain a lot less in terms of calories so the bathroom scales will be a lot kinder to you when you are brave enough to stand on them again.
4. Lean Protein Is Your Friend
Just because you want to eat healthier doesn’t mean you should cut out good protein. Lean cuts of meat such a roast turkey or pork loin are great sources of protein. Of course, you can enjoy other meats as well as long as you don’t go overboard. Limit the amount of processed meats like ham as these are often high in sodium, fats and other additives that will undo all of your efforts to stay healthy.
5. Avoid Stocking Your Pantry With Junk
When doing the final shopping before Christmas it’s tempting to fill your shopping cart with snacks like potato chips, candy and cookies. We all tend to overstock these in our pantries with the intention of putting them out for guests, but all too often we end up eating them ourselves and exceeding our calorie intake. If you must keep snacks in your pantry, opt for healthy holiday snacks like dried fruit and nuts. They may still be rich in calories, but they are also rich in nutrients. You can always make your own Christmas snacks and use less sugar and salt or use substitutes like honey or aromatic herbs and spices.
6. Make All Your Food From Scratch
Supermarkets are full of frozen, canned and boxed foods so that we can put together a huge meal with little or no effort. The trouble with most ready-made meals is that they are often over processed, contain too much sugar or salt along with a long list of preservatives. By preparing your meals from scratch you will most likely do so using fresh ingredients and you can control the amount of salt and sugar you use. It does take a lot more effort to prepare healthy Christmas food, but with timing and preparation you can put together a great spread that is a lot healthier and still very tasty.
7. Eat Small Portions Slowly
Don’t make the mistake of sitting down at the table for hours and mindlessly eating everything in sight. Take a small amount of food and eat it slowly, incorporating a little bit of dinner conversation in the mix. Sit down for a short while then get up and mingle with other party guests. You can always sit down again later for another small portion of food.
8. Impress Your Hosts With Your Own Dish
If you’re worried about not having any healthy choices when you are invited to a Christmas dinner or lunch, make your own healthy dish and bring it to the party to share with your hosts and their other guests. Bringing a main dish may be a little presumptuous but an extra dessert is always welcome, particularly any type of Christmas fruit treats. Your hosts will be impressed by your generosity and you will be certain to have at least one healthy food option to enjoy.
9. Limit Your Alcohol Intake
They don’t call Christmas the silly season for nothing. Along with serious overeating, there is the inevitable over drinking. A small serving of wine, beer or spirits is fine, but you don’t want to spend your entire time at a party guzzling down alcoholic drinks. If you are the type of person that can’t be at a party without a glass to sip on, drink something like a glass of sparkling mineral water in between glasses of your favorite brew. Bear in mind that the glass of water should be considerably larger than your glass of alcohol.
10. Go For A Walk After A Big Meal
It’s easy to get lazy and skip our usual exercise or fitness routines over the holidays and that’s fine as long as you don’t stop moving all together. Enjoy your meals to their fullest and then get up from the table and go for a walk. Not only will this help you to digest your food, the fresh air will do you a world of good. You can also crank up the volume with some music and dance a little between courses. Just remember to get back to your usual fitness regime once the days of feasting are done. If you are still concerned about your Christmas inactivity, get your friends together and go bowling, hiking or some other fun group activity that gets you all out of houses and away from dining tables.
11. Try And Track Your Food Intake
Tracking your food intake may seem like a tedious chore and that’s because it is. However, keeping a record of what you eat and drink over the Christmas period has the benefit of keeping you mindful over your eating habits and you will be able to see if there is anything that triggers a pattern of overeating. You don’t necessarily need to record every little morsel but the simple act of keeping an eating journal makes you more accountable to the types of food you consume prompting you to eat less at the next party.
12. Eat Less Before The Party
If you know tomorrow night’s Christmas party is going to be a huge one in terms of rich foods and drinks then save your calories beforehand. The day before or even the morning before eat less food, or at the very least, eat lots of fruit and vegetables that are low in calories. If you manage to get in some exercise as well, then you’ll have enough of a calorie deficit to really enjoy the festivities when the party begins.
13. Try And Squeeze In A Day Of Healthy Eating And Drinking
No matter how much indulging you do over Christmas, try to avoid excessive feasting every day. If your holiday schedule doesn’t include a party every day, why not have a day of healthy eating in between huge feasts. On these days eat lean proteins and lots of fresh salads to give your digestive system a bit of a break. It’s also a good idea to have a few alcohol free days to really give your body a chance to recuperate.
14. Get Plenty Of Rest
Most people are lucky enough to get some time off from work between Christmas and New Year and as fun as the parties and family gatherings can be you need to use some of this vacation time to get some rest as well. Have a few early nights whenever you can and if possible, spend a day or two at a mountain resort, or simply relax at home.
15. Christmas Doesn’t Need To Be Stressful
Christmas is about spending time with people we care about and often we have a long list of people we want to buy gifts for. This can add a lot of stress in the lead up to the holidays and stress has a negative impact on our overall health and wellbeing. Many towns now set up quaint little Christmas markets that offer all sorts of homemade goodies that are great as gifts and not so devastating on your finances. Major department stores also have special displays giving us great options for Christmas gifts for men, women and children of all ages. Instead of starting your Christmas shopping in July to spend in smaller lots, why not discuss with your closest circle of family and friends to keep gifts to an affordable price limit, or better yet, arrange a Secret Santa so that everyone gets one special gift instead of a bunch of corny ones.
Let this year be the one where you are no longer using Christmas as an excuse for packing on the extra pounds. With a little bit of planning and a few better choices you can have a fun filled holiday without feeling guilty when the season comes to an end. It is possible to have a healthy Christmas full of tasty, nutrient rich foods that are loaded with flavor instead of calories. Have fun this Christmas and remember you’ll have 364 days before you do it all again.