Healthy alternatives this Christmas
Healthy Christmas treat alternatives
Why not get the best of both worlds? You can enjoy much of Christmas like any other with just a few tweaks. By opting for a few healthy alternatives to the traditional ingredients, you are tricking your mind into thinking nothing has really changed.
Pigs in blankets
Possibly the most anticipated part of Christmas dinner, pigs in blankets are a side to be savoured. They are also one of the easiest things to make healthier, believe it or not. Rather than the traditional pork bacon and sausage, which can be high in fat and salt, try turkey bacon and turkey or chicken sausages. Packed with protein and low in all of the bad stuff, this can be a tasty twist on the regular treat.
Another big one. Everyone has their own way to make potatoes. Crispy, with slithers of bacon, spiced, whatever it may be, the goose fat soaked Christmas spuds are sadly not the healthiest. So swap the classic potato with sweet potatoes. Its orange counterpart is sweeter and is a cleaner option for the carb-conscious.
Tips for having a healthier Christmas
Aside from Christmas dinner itself, you can try adopting some healthy alternatives elsewhere during the festive holidays. Instead of bowls of crisps or heavily salted peanuts, try plain or spiced nuts and seeds. Make your own drinks, like smoothies, rather than buying in sugar-loaded bottles for you and your family. Once again, don’t deny yourself everything. If you do get a chocolate orange in your stocking don’t just confine it to the kitchen cupboard. You can enjoy yourself, particularly if you are working hard elsewhere to be healthy.
Think about your liquids
This works in two parts. The first regards alcohol, the other, the amount of other liquids you consume throughout the day. 'Tis the season for hot chocolate hidden beneath a mountain of cream, mulled wine and other alcoholic beverages at your office Christmas party.
One night on the sauce can equal your recommended daily calorie intake and these are empty calories, offering no nutritional value. Try and choose your drink wisely, treat yourself of course, but when at a party or gathering opt for a vodka and soda or gin and tonic, which has a lower calorie count.
Keeping yourself hydrated will allow you to feel full, while being energised and ready for all of the festivities that await. Make a habit of carrying a bottle of water with you if you are going out for the day and having one large glass with every meal. For an extra kick, keep some herbal teabags with you. Both of these will help to flush out the toxins that come from excessive alcohol and foods.
Plan and prepare
If you already have a diet plan or training programme you will know that planning your meals is vital to maintaining a healthy weight, or keeping the weight off. The same approach can be taken at Christmas. Little bowls of crisps and nuts will be dotted around the house, the fridge and cupboards are bursting at the seams with sweet treats and the desire to snack is sky-high. But if you plan and prepare what and when you are going to eat, then you can have a healthier Christmas.
Do you really need another plate? Can you actually squeeze in one more piece of cake? Each year we seem to mound up our portions before succumbing to our bloated bellies, falling onto the sofa and battling to keep our eyes open for the rest of the day. So why don’t we just control the amount of food we are eating?
Stick by the usual rules of thumb; base your meal around a sufficient amount of protein, add fruit or veg and some carbohydrates. Stick to one plate and let it all settle. If you do feel a little hungry later then drink a large glass of water or green tea. This will fill you up and help make you feel fuller for longer.
Stick to three meals a day
At Christmas, our eyes light up like a child in a sweet shop. But one healthy alternative you can try is to stick to three meals a day. If you consume good food at breakfast, lunch and dinner then you are less likely to feel the need to snack.
Try to retain your regular sleeping pattern. Everyone has the right to a lie in every now and again, but if you do oversleep then make the first meal you have as soon as you are awake breakfast, regardless of the time. The make a considered effort to have lunch 3-4 hours later and the same again for dinner.
Again, these meals don’t have to be a quinoa and chicken salad with low fat, low salt dressing. Have a bit beef or chicken from the roast with vegetables and some sweet potato roasties. In between you can keep yourself going with yoghurts, nuts, fruit or more vegetables, but shape your day around your three main meals.
Embrace fruit and vegetables
There is no other point in the year where we put as much effort into our fruit and vegetables as Christmas. Little added garnishes like bacon with your sprouts or honey on your parsnips aren’t just ways of getting the kids to enjoy them, adults savour it as well. Make the most of the abundance of them by fitting them into your meals wherever possible.
Need a little snack? Get a bowl of sprouts that you have added your own personal touch to with some carrots and broccoli. You cannot argue with all of the vitamins and minerals that you will be enjoying thanks to them. Not only that, but they will also help to keep you full. Vegetables like spinach, broccoli and peas have a high water count and will fend off your cravings for a long time.
Line your stomach
Not only will this save you from walking into the office on a Monday morning suffering from amnesia after the Christmas party, it will also prevent you from over-drinking and stopping off for some chicken nuggets on the way home.
That said, it is a tactic you can adopt before you go anywhere, not just for drinking. If you are going out for the day or going to visit someone, have some food before or pack some nuts into your pocket as a snack for the journey there. This will save you from arriving anywhere hungry, then being fed something that is mostly out of your control.
Get some exercise in early
One Christmas tradition that many families have is walking. Whether it is on the day, eve or Boxing Day, you will regularly find people stretching their legs and making some room before the feast later in the day. So why not suggest doing this more often? Crisp winter mornings, particularly if the sun is out, are perfect for a long stroll.
As the day goes on you are going to be less and less likely to actually pry yourself from the sofa or kitchen and go out for a walk, so head to the gym (if they aren’t already closed) or just workout at home. Trying to do this on an empty stomach early on will also help you to burn more calories.
This isn’t a time to try and improve your training routine. But, if you tend to be particularly disciplined with your routine and diet, then you may notice an increased motivation and desire to get out and go for a run, or have a workout if you have treated yourself during the day or the previous evening. Do not feel guilty about this. It will mean that you are able to enjoy the best of both worlds. You are letting yourself have drinks with your friends, or not passing up on the cheese board safe in the knowledge that you will get up and burn off at least a portion of it. As we said, this is about maintenance, not necessarily improvement.
Don’t look down at the table on Christmas or Boxing Day and feel like you can’t have something because you don’t want to put on weight. You should never deny yourself anything. Treat these meals out or bigger gatherings as your cheat meal. Give yourself a break from the fitness grind. Like you would relax on a spa break in Yorkshire, take the pressure off and have that bit of pudding, or take the last chocolate from the tin.
Would you rather have the memory of a Christmas surrounded by your loved ones enjoying a drink and some good food, or a less than satisfying meal as you stay in on your own? You just need to find the right balance between enjoying yourself and making the most of the time you have, without overindulging.
Being healthy over the holidays doesn’t need to be boring, nor does it need to make you worry or enjoy it less. Just make a few healthy alternatives and you really can have the very best of both worlds.
Tips for having a healthy Christmas
• Think about your liquids
• Plan and prepare
• Portion control
• Stick to three meals a day
• Embrace fruit and vegetables
• Line your stomach
• Get some exercise in early
• Enjoy yourself!
Image Credit: Genessa Panainte, Mira, Drew Coffman & Keenan Loo