I love Christmas. It’s like a shining beacon in the long depths of winter; a punctuation mark of happiness to look forwards to and enjoy. Roaring fires, bracing walks, twinkling lights, pine-scented air, what’s not to love about a day dedicated to gratitude, family and delicious food? I am a fully-fledged member of the Christmas fan club.
Despite my role as a Nutritional Therapist, I am in no way adverse to festive indulgence. In fact, I positively promote eating purely for your social and emotional health about 10% of the time. But if you look at the definition of indulging, which is ‘allowing oneself to enjoy the pleasure of’ we can see that indulgence can take far more forms than just gorging on sickly sweet chocolate! In fact, I think it is far more a focus on mindful enjoyment than a term related to eating food.
There are all sorts of things that I do intend to indulge in this Yule-tide;
- Spending time in the company of people I love
- The smell of mulled wine warming on the hob
- Lots of long, indulgent hot baths, filled with scented natural oils
- Cold walks in the early morning, before the rest of the world has woken up
- The sound of Christmas music playing through the radio whilst I wrap gifts
- Decorating the house with foliage from the garden
- Evenings wrapped in my comfiest knitwear, in front of a big wood fire
But what I don’t intend to do is to over-indulge myself of food or drinks that do not serve either my social, emotional or physical health. So sometimes this will mean that accepting with grace a delicious and lovingly home-made mince pie is more important than sticking unbendingly to my nutritional rules. Sometimes a well-earned glass of champagne before supper is just reward for an afternoon’s work. But sometimes I will turn down the offer of second helpings because my body is already satiated. Or politely refuse those after-dinner chocolates because I don’t really fancy one.
Remember, we have the power to choose what will nourish us, and the right to politely decline what will not. We can therefore choose to indulge in wonderful experiences, and in festive meals that are also healthy, whilst still feeling utterly satisfied and spoiled.
Here’s how I will be eating over the Christmas holiday
Eating at Christmas is not really that different to eating at any other time of the year. Of course, I love all the festive preparations and the opportunity to spend quality time with my family and friends, but my diet actually tends to stay pretty much constant (although of course, the foods I eat will change with the seasons). So here is a quick run-down of how I intend to eat this Christmas, with a few recipe ideas for a little inspiration too!
I like to always make sure I have had a good portion of protein. This really makes a difference to my hunger for the rest of the day, and balances my blood sugars from the start. I try to eat 3 portions of fresh fruit a day, so I will usually have one of these at breakfast, too.
- Crunchy Nut and Seed Granola with a handful of berries or dollop of warm apple compote
- Kale & Mushroom Muffins or Egg Muffins (you can make these ahead of time and warm them a little before serving too)
- Or how about a couple of poached eggs on my Beetroot, Rosemary and Walnut Soda Bread?
- For Christmas morning, I love to make full-size versions of my Smoked Salmon and Buckwheat toasts
Lunch is usually a light and very simple affair. Things like leftover meat or fish from the night before (I always double up when I’m cooking – so I have plenty of simple, nutritious leftovers for the next day), with some vegetables or wilted greens. Otherwise, I might whizz up a big batch of soup, or a simple salad. I will also have another portion of fruit for pudding.
- Carrot & Turmeric Soup, maybe topped with some Crunchy Harissa Chickpeas
- Super quick Kale, Apple, Avocado and Seeds Salad or my Spiced Chickpea, Kale & Squash Salad
- Kale and Bean Soup with Pistachio & Lemon Pisto
I love to have lots of delicious wintery vegetables for supper, with some great quality protein sources on the side. I keep eating plenty of oily fish throughout the winter, as it is a great natural source of dietary vitamin D (that’s things like salmon, sardines and mackerel). Or I will make vegetarian meals with legumes or beans, to get in some tasty plant-based protein. I also often turn on my slow-cooker for super simple suppers at this time of year. I’ll finish with my last portion of fruit.
- Pumpkin Dahl Soup – perfect cold weather comfort food!
- Sprout Slaw with a simply baked fillet of salmon
- Slow Cooked Mexican Beef with a pile of wilted greens – this is great if you’re cooking for a crowd
- Fish and Spinach Curry with cauliflower ‘rice’ and pistachios or my sweet little Individual Fish Pies (these are green for Christmas Eve!)
- Festive Quinoa Nut Roast with Cranberries plus a beautiful big salad on the side
- Braised Red Cabbage with Apple & Pecan
Finally, Sweet & Festive . . .
Christmas bombards us with sweet temptation. I beat the shops to it by making my own healthier alternatives to serve to guests.
- Spiced Blood Orange Martini, festively spiced cocktail using blushed blood oranges
- Gluten-free Mince Pies, quick and simple to make, these will delight guests
- Homemade Chocolates, decadent and delicious
- Hazelnut Chocolate Salted Caramels
- Healthy Chocolate Mousse – dairy-free, gluten-free, and so easy to make
In general, I just eat 3 solid meals a day, and avoid snacking in-between. This means I am hungry enough at meal times to really enjoy and savour the food I am eating. A phrase that often pops into my head is an old French proverb: ‘Hunger is the best condiment’. The odd rumbling tummy is nothing to be scared of, even at Christmas!
Wishing you all the healthiest and happiest of Christmases. x