Many of us worry about our waistlines during the festive season, which often turns into an all-out assault on our otherwise healthy diet. But fear not, as there are plenty of ways you can adjust those Christmas eating habits without sacrificing any of the fun.
Keep Your Treats as Healthy as Possible
Chocolates and sweets have been a part of Christmas for as long as anyone can remember. With some adjustments, they can easily be made healthier without leaving them out entirely. When it comes to chocolate, choose brands with a high cocoa content (starting from 70%). Flavanols in cocoa have beneficial effects on blood vessels and can even slightly lower blood pressure. Dark chocolate, when eaten in moderation, can actually be pretty healthy for your body. Further, chocolate high in cocoa has lower sugar content than milk chocolate products. Christmas cookies can also be made healthier by baking with self-made jam and wholegrain flour. Many recipes even exist completely without sugar and still taste delicious (you can find one of them at the end of this article!). Other healthy snacks over the festive period include any kind of natural nuts, as well as fruits like oranges, mandarins and that perennial favourite, apples.
Take Things One Meal at a Time
Eating with family and friends is a big part of the Christmas period. Usually, festive meals contain lots of meat, fat and salt, e.g. goose, turkey, pork roast etc. Tips to avoid or balance out the high fat intake (especially animal-derived fats) include starting out with a healthy and warming soup; pumpkin soup or red beet soup are perfect for a starter course. They are both healthy and filling, so you’re automatically set up to eat less of the main menu. Combine the meals with light vegetable sides and instead of the usual suspect sides like dumplings and fried potatoes, add fresh salads and steamed or raw vegetables. Also, many desserts can be made a lot more healthy without losing too much of the delicious flavour. Instead of ice cream or cake, go for low-fat yoghurt with fruit, and add a little honey or cinnamon to keep your sweet tooth ticking over.
Don’t Forget to Stay Active
Christmas holidays and festive foods tend to make us lazy – a bad combination. However, Christmas and winter time provide us with the perfect opportunity to get active with some winter sports with the whole family. Whether it’s only frolicking around in the snow, throwing snowballs and building snowmen, or more extreme sports like ice skating or sledding, getting outside in the fresh, crisp air is vitally important. It also improves digestion and overall body function.
Beware the Christmas Market/Christmas Party Trap
Most unhealthy decisions during Christmas are made with friends during a party or while perusing the often irresistible Christmas markets. Without missing out on the fun, these activities can be made healthier. When it comes to the markets, don’t go for sugared hot wine; instead, opt for a fruit punch. That way, you can maintain the same sweet taste without the alcohol and industrial sugar. Replace roasted sugary nuts with roasted chestnuts and natural nut mixes. These are delicious, calorie-saving and festive to boot. Better snacks than meat and sausages or buns and cakes at the market can be baked apples, baked potatoes with sour cream, or fresh fruit covered in delightful dark chocolate.
Try to Eat Slower: Savour Every Bite!
Big meals are especially challenging for our body. Try to eat festive meals slowly and take note of when you feel full to avoid overdoing it. Try to have large meals for lunch instead of dinner, as this can impact your sleep. Furthermore, after eating too much at lunch, it can occasionally be advisable to skip dinner, as you have already covered your caloric needs. Instead, go back to the huge variety of delicious hot drinks that are available during Christmas: hot lemon or ginger water, teas, warm fruit juices, curcuma or delicious chai lattes.
There are also a number of options to turn sugary treats healthy, while still maintaining that festive treat feel. Try out this easy, delicious recipe for cookies that use dry fruit as sweetener instead of sugar and wholegrain flour. Dried fruits can be chosen depending on personal preferences; some good options include dried mango, plums, pineapple, apple, etc.
300g of dried fruit
2 organic oranges
4 free range eggs
150–200g of wholegrain flour (different possible options are rye, wheat, spelt etc.)
3 teaspoons of baking soda
350g ground almonds or hazelnuts (or a mixture)
- Mince dried fruit and soak them in the juice from the two oranges overnight.
- Puree dried fruits and beat up egg white.
- Mix with flour and baking soda until you have a dough, then add in the ground nuts. If the dough is too dry, add a little milk or fruit juice to keep it loose.
- Form small cookies in whatever shape you like and bake them for 20 minutes in the oven at 180 degrees Celsius.
- After baking, add a little dark chocolate for decoration and enjoy!