Healthy Holiday Eating – A Healthy Christmas
For many of us, the Christmas holidays are a time of indulgence. Festive eating means mince pies, mulled wine, Christmas pudding and brandy butter. Unfortunately, over-indulgence can also make us feel lethargic, impair our immune system and can leave us facing the New Year feeling tired, bloated and run down.
Fortunately there are ways to incorporate some healthy habits through the festive period while still enjoying traditional Christmas treats. Simply adding protein, fibre and superfoods to your usual meals and snacks over the holiday can help to keep your energy levels more stable, reduce your sugar intake and ensure that your meals are nutritionally dense.
Festive Fibre Boost
Adding fibre to your food reduces the glycemic effect of the meal, meaning a lower insulin response and less inflammation. You will also feel fuller for longer, and so less likely to gain weight over the holiday period.
Fibre-rich chia seeds are also a rich source of anti-inflammatory omega-3 and a good source of calcium and antioxidants. Try adding them to cranberry sauce and stuffing. They can also be added to eggnog to make a fibre-rich festive pudding – simply stir a quarter cup of chia seeds into a cup of eggnog and place in the fridge for 15 minutes until the mixture transforms into a thick pudding.
It can be hard to resist evening snacking during the long winter nights, and bowls of sweets, salted nuts, chocolates and crisps are often at hand while waiting for Christmas dinner.
Nuts are actually a perfect snack as they won’t upset blood sugar levels and are nutritionally dense – packed with essential fatty acids and antioxidants. Raw, unsalted nuts are the healthiest choice, with almonds being the best choice for anyone watching their weight as these have been linked with weight loss. Mix them with some dried fruit and a little dark chocolate or a few cacao nibs for an antioxidant boost.
A nutritious alternative to crisps is roasted chickpeas. Try draining a tin of chickpeas and then soaking them in apple cider vinegar or liquid aminos and then roasting in the oven for a crunchy savoury snack. Those who prefer a sweeter option should try nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger during roasting for a Christmas spice flavour. Simply toss the spice blend through the chickpeas and then roast in the oven.
Boost your Breakfast
Oatmeal is the perfect warming breakfast for cold winter mornings. Beta-glucans in oats support the immune system and stabilise blood sugar levels. Add a further nutritional boost by stirring in some antioxidant rich cacao nibs and acai berries, or some energy boosting maca powder. Another good boost for your oatmeal is to stir in a tablespoon or two of protein powder, which will help stave off sugar cravings throughout the morning. Rather than sweetening with sugar, try stevia or a sprinkle of nutmeg and cinnamon.
Brussels sprouts, carrots, parsnips and potatoes are a key part of the Christmas meal and are a super healthy option. Unfortunately they are usually roasted in plenty of salt and fat.
Coconut oil can be a good alternative for anyone who has problems digesting fat – coconut oil contains medium chain triglycerides (MCTS) which are easier for the body to digest, and also help to fight infection. Roast your seasonal vegetables in coconut oil by simply adding the solid oil to your vegetables and tossing through, or by melting the oil for a few seconds first.
Try adding some pumpkin seeds or sesame seeds to your roasted vegetables for a boost of omega-3, zinc and calcium. Instead of salt, try stirring in a handful of goji berries for a delicious sweet-tart taste and an extra boost of phytonutrients.
Nutritious meals over the holidays shouldn’t mean forgoing all of your favourite Christmas foods. Adding a few healthy tweaks to the usual Christmas menu should mean that you can enjoy the holidays without feeling deprived, and celebrate a happy and healthy New Year.