Wise Festive Food Swaps
It is the time of year to enjoy time with loved ones, and eat some tasty treats. I fully believe in allowing oneself to indulge on occasion, as long as you’re not hurting yourself (aka not eating gluten if you’re coeliac or know it’s going to put you in pain for 3 days), and it doesn’t lead to all out eating binges complete with guilt, self hate cycles and feeling like you’ve been ‘bad’ so you’ll just continue to eat rubbish now.
There are ways of managing to eat a few treats without it causing chaos to your health or mind.
1. Alcohol. Better choices for less sugar, so you aren’t likely to feel comatose afterwards would be:
- Clear spirits like gin or vodka with soda or sparkling water and some large decent slices of lemon or lime for flavour. Avoid sugary tonics or nasty diet drinks. If possible at home pour your own and use the lid or a shot glass as a measure. If I left the gin pouring exclusively to my Uncle at Christmas I’d be half a bottle down after 2 drinks.
- Bubbles. Prosecco and Champagne are actually quite low carb and hard to drink to excess. British Airways flight attendants lucky enough to catch me on my way home from the Middle East may disagree with you there.
- Dry red or white wine. Eat it with a meal, try not to gulp it down and do have some water along the way.
2. A brisk walk before or after your big meal can help support insulin sensitivity, and lessen the negative metabolic effects of a big carbohydrate rich meal. I used to berate my Granny for wanting us to march up a hill an hour after lunch, but now I totally get it.
3. Try to cram in as much brightly coloured and gently cooked veg as possible to your meals. My job is now chief vegetable chef at home, whilst mum does the meat and potatoes. This largely came about because my dearest mum generally overcooks the veg terribly (sorry mum) and we end up with mushy sprouts and the odd raw carrot when she’s got tipsy enough to forget to turn the steamer on. My aim is to get a few different but tasty veg dishes in to maximise all those lovely phytonutrients. I generally do a braised red cabbage dish, Brussels sprouts pan fried with garlic and bacon, lightly steamed broccoli with some thyme, and mustard roasted carrots and parsnips.
4. Home made gravy is not that hard. If you’ve never done it, I’d urge you to have a go. It’s simple and there are even you tube tutorials. Much more nutritious and delicious that those awful processed cubes and powders. You can keep it gluten free by thickening with arrowroot flour, gluten free corn flour or even some gelatin powder. I use the veg water as my liquid.
5. Try to have some healthy breakfasts to set you up and mean you’re slightly less likely to dive into the chocolates around mid morning. An omelette with a few veg and some smoked salmon would be ideal.
6. Turkey is a great lean meat, rich in tryptophan, zinc and B vitamins. It makes great leftovers for curries, tagines, stews, soups, casserole etc. We can eat turkey based meals for a few days after with lots of leftover veg being thrown in. I hate waste.
7. Personally I detest Christmas pudding so I’d rather wait until the food has gone down, and opt for some cheese and biscuits (in my case cheese and fruit) or fruit with cream. I’m mindful of not having too much sugar – I’d rather have some red wine and cheese.
8. Portion control is still applicable for most of the festive period. We all eat a decent mostly oversized Christmas lunch, but if the choice is 1 mince pie, fine. 4 mince pies in one go? Not so much. If you get invited to lots of parties and events try and eat something like some meat or egg, some nuts or olives before you go so you don’t arrive ravenous and wolf down everything at the buffet. You can have 1-2 nibbles that way, and not the entire tray. Try not to arrive at any event hungry.
9. If possible, try not to view the whole month as a write off. If you can eat well most of the time a few parties and couple of days over Christmas won’t derail you totally. If you just binge eat foods you don’t normally ‘because it’s Christmas’ for the entire month you may well feel the negative effects.
10. Enjoy yourself. Don’t feel guilty for enjoying the odd treat. AIM FOR IMPROVEMENT, NOT PERFECTION!