Healthy and Christmas treats don’t usually appear in the same sentence, do they? My self care Christmas today is to use your brain and think before you just buy and stick out the usual suspects. That box of Roses chocolates or Cadbury’s Heroes may look enticing, but really? Do you need to eat them all the way through December? Do you still want to be wearing them (on your hips) come April?
The average UK adult will gain 1kg (approximately 2.2lb) over the Christmas season. That’s an average. In one survey the biggest weight gain was 4.4kg gained just from the extras of Christmas.
Now I am not a killjoy… I know that nibbling and having treats is part of the season, but I don’t want to start the next new year feeling fatter or more lethargic than I already am. I have a few strategies that I have employed the last few years to make eating well during the whole of December easier.
- Decorate the house for optimal health. That means no glass jars of foil-wrapped sweets on every surface, no candy canes or chocolate Santas stuck out on the tree for the whole season, no boxes of chocolates by the side of the chair. And no dishes of salted nuts kept topped up from December 1st to January 6th. It does mean having nuts in shells on display. To make them look prettier, spray a few gold, or mix them up with tree baubles. Keep the nutcracker in the kitchen, and make a ritual of selecting the 10 nuts for that night, lining them up on the chair or in a bowl, and then eating just those few. Other good food decorations include clementines with leaves on, bunches of grapes or an over-flowing fruit bowl. Banish the chocolate or sugar treats in the run up until Christmas Eve, and have a feast on them then, just for 2 or 3 days rather than 25.
- Make your own Christmas Treats so that you know what’s in them. If you can’t eat a cake unless you make it first, the battle between want and the need to get up will probably mean that you’ll look for something easier… like that fantastic fruit bowl! Popcorn made at home with low oil, salt and sugar is also vastly healthier than shop-bought, while 10 chestnuts roasted and peeled contain as many calories as just 4 Cadbury’s Heroes sweets, or similar fun-size confectionery but will fill you up more and provide the fun of unwrapping them while they’re still warm!
- Bump up the vegetable content of your meals. There are so many good winter vegetables that you should be able to find the ones that will add vitamins and minerals to your diet. I love red cabbage, mashed carrot and swede, mushrooms fried with bacon, and pretty much anything that sits well alongside a beef stew. Dietary recommendations are that at least half of your plate should be vegetable matter, so why not make this Christmas the season you manage that?
- Make use of your best glassware. Duck out of drinking alcohol every day (alcohol is a fantastic source of empty calories that adds nothing to your life) and opt instead for drinking sparkling water or sugar free tonic out of the best cut glass you have. With some ice and a slice, the lowest-calorie drinks can feel like a million dollars. And on nights out, volunteer to be the designated driver. When you do drink, drink mindfully, never to excess and always with safety (yours and everyone else’s) as a priority.
- Look for the sunshine and walk in it everyday. Even just 20 minutes walk at lunchtime can make a big difference to your health. I like to wrap up and walk around the block at work, although that doesn’t happen every day. Walking in the sunshine boosts happiness, health and stimulates the metabolism. Plus, the more you walk, the more you can eat without weight gain.
There you have it, 5 simple steps to enjoy Christmas treats guilt-free. I think our approach to treats at a season such as Christmas needs to be sensible, not restrictive, but not completely over the top. Keeping the meals and treats nicely balanced for most of December means that come Christmas Day and Boxing Day, you can go wild and be guilt free. It’s that Lagom thing again, about balance and common sense. To enjoy the hygge treats, you need to have earned them.
There’s still time to get my books for that hard-to-buy for Auntie…
Have Yourself a Happy Hygge Christmas is available now, along with my other books.
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