Christmas Eating Guide: The Healthy Way To Indulge

Christmas Dinner

It’s the most wonderful time of the year – or is it?

Christmas can be a very challenging time with it comes to keeping your body in tip top shape. They’re so many social outings that involve drink and fried foods, and your workload tends to increase this time of year, leading you to comfort eat as you battle to meet deadlines and targets.  

With the help of dietician Orla Walsh, we have compiled a Christmas eating survival guide to allow you to indulge, rather than binge this holiday season.

Have The Right Attitude

The festive season involves plenty of social outings, whether it’s for work team lunches, drinks with old friends, or the annual family dinner. The recipe for success is to focus less on allowing yourself to break the rules for a month and more on self-care.

‘Christmas starts earlier and earlier every year. As it usually takes up the entire month of December, it would be a healthier approach to focus on nourishing your body in between festivities and events,’ says Orla.

‘If the month of December is jam packed with foods that offer little nutrition, the body is more likely to pick up colds and flus. If you get sick, the fun ends until you’re better. Try to keep some elements of self-care going throughout this month. Sleep as well as you can when not out and about, drink plenty of fluid and aim to eat 7 portions fruit and vegetables each day,’ Orla advises.

Have A Good Plan

At Christmas, we’ve all got obligations that we need to meet. It could be your work party, a family dinner, a night out with the girls, we could go on and on. If you’ve got a hectic December schedule, it’s important that you plan your events, taking your food and beverage choices into consideration.

‘As a very general rule, a large glass of wine or a pint of beer, stout or cider contain about 200 calories, while a spirit with a low-calorie mixer contain about 100 calories. Figure out which drink would naturally lead to less calorie intake for you,’ Orla says.

‘Not only are there calories within the drinks, they can lead to snacking and picking at the less healthy, beige-coloured, deep fat fried food making the rounds at Christmas parties. Additionally, if you consume to excess, you’re more likely to stop at a chipper or takeaway on the way home. And, as for the following day, often being active and eating healthy go out the window.’

Orla advises considering the knock-on effect alcohol has and aim for a healthier approach. She says: ‘Make your second drink water and your fourth drink coffee. This helps ensure hydration, reduces your overall calorie intake and keeps your energy for fun high.’

If your night out isn’t complete without a stop at the chipper or local pizza place, it’s time for you to find a new ritual. ‘Try not to stop for food on the way home,’ says Orla, ‘When you get home, try to have a large glass of milk. Skimmed milk has been shown to be more hydrating than water. The extra hydration before bed coupled with the healthy carbohydrate, protein, fat, vitamins and minerals the milk provides will help to offset the nights less healthy moments.’

When it comes to the morning after, the best cure Orla can recommend is a dose of fresh air, ‘Go for a leisurely walk near the sea, in a forest, beside a river or up a local mountain to dust off the cob webs.’

Choose The Right Foods

To give yourself the best chance of not overindulging, you need to choose the right foods. According to Orla, you should aim:

-          To feel satisfied from your food, but not ‘stuffed’

-          To keep your blood sugars stable. Low blood sugars can lead to anxiety, mood disruption and sugar cravings.

-          To avoid getting too hungry.

 ‘Dinners out are often three course set meals. For a starter, I would often encourage the chicken skewers, prawns or crab salad on offer as the protein they contain will help you to feel fuller and more satisfied. For the main course, the turkey and ham option can often be the healthier choice as well as the fish. Ask for extra vegetables on the side if you’re feeling hungry,’ says Orla.

For dessert, Orla recommends a couple of scoops of ice cream, as they can often be half the calories of the pudding.

If dinner is a la carte, Orla suggests having some vegetable soup before you go out and before you decide on what to have, drink a large glass of water.

‘Avoiding hunger and dehydration can lead to healthier decision making.’  

Orla Walsh is qualified dietician, providing nutritional advice for medical conditions and sports performances, as well as guidance on optimising general wellbeing through tailored diet plans.  Follow her on Instagram via Orla Walsh Nutrition, and on Facebook via Orla Walsh Nutrition, Own Your Health.