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How to make your christmas healthy AND happy

Whether it is presents from appreciative colleagues or friends, a growing mound of tempting treats at home, or party invitations, the festive weeks are a minefield of temptation.

A key challenge at Christmas time is that we have treats, in addition to our normal food intake. We continue with our regular three meals a day, consuming the nibbles and party food on top of that!

Here's some Do's and Don'ts to help you navigate the festive season whilst keeping your health and weight goals intact.

1. Don't set any unachievable food goals Being on a diet or denying yourself the foods you love during the festive period will only end badly! Concentrate on 'balance' rather than 'deprivation'.

2. Do take control when you need to If you get invited to lots of parties over Christmas then take some healthier food options with you. It's a win win, as your host will love you for it and you will have options you're comfortable with.

3. Do take time to plan Planning is the key to success, and not stress, during the festive period! Leaving everything to the last minute is only going to make you more stressed and lead to potential burnout. Start writing your plan today!

4. Don't consume an excessive amount of alcohol For those of us who drink alcohol, Christmas can be a time of over- indulgence. Try to be more mindful of not just how much you are drinking, but what you are drinking. Festive drinks are generally sweeter (think cocktails and warming creamy drinks). Drink plenty of water too, to avoid dehydration which alcohol can cause.

5. Do try to keep a regular eating pattern If you normally eat 3 meals per day, then try to stick to this and avoid eating unnecessary snacks. Try to stick to your normal portion size too - remember there is more than one day in the festive period so you don't need to eat everything in one go!

6. Do be kind and realistic None of us are perfect. Christmas should be a time for fun and celebration, so be realistic about the goals you might set for yourself and kind to yourself if you go 'off piste'!

7. Do exercise If you usually exercise then try to stick to your routine. It will help you feel focussed and burn off those extra calories.

10. Don't have too many late nights Most of us know how important sleep is to our overall wellness. Optimal sleep can help to prevent weight gain, stress, fatigue and getting those seasonal viruses. Too many late nights can impact our circadian rhythm (our body's internal clock) and set everything a little out of whack!

8. Do learn to feel comfortable saying no Are you a people pleaser? Be realistic with your time, and mindful of what impact saying yes to something has on your health and wellbeing. Maybe it's one party too many, or the financial pressure of buying gifts for people who 'struggle' to know what to buy others and you want to help. Saying NO feels empowering when you're saying it for the right reasons.

9. Do make time for friends and family We know this might sound a little strange considering the festive season is all about friends and family for many people - but we can also be so wrapped up in what we have to do, it leaves little time to socialise.

Eat less / Avoid

STARTERS Bread Pastry Anything creamy or too filling

MAINS Stuffing Crackling or fatty meat Too many roast potatoes or more than one type! Too many starchy vegetables (opt for green veggies) Sweet redcurrant jelly

DESSERTS Christmas pudding / cake (have less) Sorbet (higher in sugar than ice cream) Cheese & crackers

DRINKS Cream liqueur, soft drinks, sugary cocktails Fizzy drinks (even diet ones). Beer and sweet wines

Good to go

STARTERS Homemade smoked mackerel pate Soups (smaller portion) without bread Salads with protein such as prawns Smoked salmon

MAINS Turkey or any lean meat New potatoes Chestnuts Steamed veg - preferably green Gravy if no added sugar

DESSERTS Ice cream (less sugar than sorbet) Small portion of cheese & celery/cucumber/carrots Low GI cakes Fruit cocktail with cinnamon flavoured yogurt

DRINKS Water - flavoured with seasonal fruit Spirits and lower sugar mixers such as vodka & soda Champagne Dry white wine or lower alcohol red wine

And finally, some top tips:

1 Make your own mocktails using fresh cranberries mixed with sparkling water and alcohol free gin. Add a sprig of rosemary.

2 Make your own cranberry sauce with a natural sweetener.

3 Top up on non-starchy veggies. Fill at least half of your plate.

4 Have less roast potatoes and/or have new potatoes instead.

5 Make your own chestnut stuffing instead of sausage meat.


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