Embracing the 12 Days of Christmas feasting in a balanced way.

Thanks to Naomi Leppitt for her help with this jointly written post.

Christmas IS a time for FEASTING and enjoying the pleasures of food and drink, so this post is not meant to be anti-enjoyment but instead here to offer some balance for those who struggle with all the rich food.

Find your Christmas Calm

  • Advent is a time of expectancy and waiting. It’s the build up to something special but it can also feel like the stress is mounting and the expectation is building. With parties, planning for the big day, present buying and preparing food it can get overwhelming. Stress affects our whole bodies including sleep and eating, which is then compounded by all the Christmas foods being available!
  • Take a step back from the commercialism and instead focus on the bits of Christmas that you really enjoy and bring you meaning. For my family with young children it is about spending time together making crafts, baking and playing games. This brings us joy, festive fun and some calmness. The food in our house is actually a secondary and we are usually not very traditional. On the day we choose something that everyone really likes and will eat! One year it was prawn pad thai, another year paella, this year we haven’t even started thinking (but probably should).
  • Find some Christmas crafts that you enjoy. It could be making Christmas decorations, decorating the house, doing a jigsaw, colouring, knitting a scarf, making handmade gifts. It doesn’t even have to cost much. Grab some foliage from the woods and make a table decoration or use some coloured paper to make origami decorations! What ways are you planning on finding some Christmas calm this year?

Get outside/active

  • Instead of food being the sole focus, could you do something with others, like a music event, a cinema trip or a wintry walk? One special event I try to do with my eldest is ice-skating. It’s rare mum-daughter time and as we can both skate a little it’s pretty fun. Walking in the woods is also something we love to do as a family and with friends, just getting yourself outside can lift your mood and do you so much good.
  • This is not activity because you want to burn calories due to the feasting, but moving your body because it feels good, getting outside for fresh air and a chance of mindset, bringing your endorphins up in a natural way.

Simple meals some of the time

  • Plan simple meals to counteract the rich foods. It can be tempting to skip meals to ‘save calories’ as you may end up eating more than you normally would in the festive season and feel you are overdoing it. However tempting it may be to have a day off eating to compensate or skip a meal, this can lead to a cycle of restriction and over-eating that can start you down the diet culture pathway and towards disordered eating. Instead planning some simple meals that will help you “recover” from the rich food can help. Plenty of fruits and veggies, wholegrains and water to hydrate the body, give you fibre for your digestive health and help you nourish your body. Soups and stir fries are a great way to use up Christmas leftovers.

Healthier Twists

  • There are so many ways you can keep the food festive but make it less rich. Lots of rich foods can play havoc on the digestive system! Some ideas….
  • Bake your own mince pies using less pastry or a lower-fat pastry like filo, add less sugar to the mincemeat filling.
  • Top your Christmas pudding with single cream instead of brandy butter / double cream? Or go for custard which is also lower in fat and add a spoonful of brandy to your custard for a homemade brandy butter alternative!
  • Gammon is a tasty option, however we should all be having less red and processed meat, so sticking to the traditional turkey will reduce the fat and the salt.
  • Use veggies for those pre-meal nibbles. We made some Christmas tree cucumber, soft cheese and parma ham nibbles this year (well the kids made them – a round of cucumber, spread with cream cheese, parma ham and then a long peel of cucumber draped into a christmas tree shape and held with a cocktail stick). Hummus and carrot sticks are always a winner, spinach pancakes cut into blinis with hummus and an olive/cherry tomato slice on top.

Buffet Tricks

  • At a buffet? Fill your plate, then don’t stand chatting near the table where it’s easy to mindlessly pick up more bits and pieces. Add some veggie crudités and sandwiches to your plate so you’re not just filling up on sausage rolls and mini pies. Unless that is your plan of course!
  • Tempted for seconds? Wait 15-20 minutes for your food to go down and to register the feeling of fullness. Cover your plate with a napkin, so you can’t see the leftovers and then reassess and enjoy the company.

Winter Drinks

  • Winter warmer drinks are usually high in sugar and calories so enjoy them wisely. If you are having them daily through the festive season why not try a hot apple juice and add some cinnamon and cloves. Or buy a lower-sugar hot chocolate and add your own cream at home?
  • Those festive favourites at every high street coffee chain are also loaded with sugar-laden syrups. Try seasoning your regular latte with cinnamon or ask for sugar-free syrup. Depending on stocks, they often have caramel, vanilla and hazelnut options.

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