I have recently read far too many articles that lecture me on my bad eating and drinking habits over the festive season. They provide totally unrealistic “advice” on how I should curb my enthusiasm. This is not one of those! We need to take the time to exhale, be present with our loved ones, and enjoy the fun summer holidays (at times with a gin & tonic in hand). Of course, we should exercise an element of restraint to achieve a happy, healthy festive season balance. Knowing what’s good, bad and practical for me, I’ve made a list of 10 Golden Rules I’m going to adopt this festive season. (They’re Golden because they’re supposed to be unbreakable.) These will help me maintain a healthy balance between fun and indulgence without dampening my holiday cheer!
MY 10 GOLDEN RULES FOR A HAPPY HEALTHY FESTIVE SEASON
1. Eat a balanced, healthy breakfast every day.
2. Get out and exercise for a minimum of 30 minutes every day. Some days might be more exertive while on others, this might simply be a relaxed walk in the park or on the beach. Exercise and sunshine release happy endorphins that make us feel good and help curb cravings.
3. Don’t go out hungry. Before going out anywhere, especially a cocktail party or gathering with loads of snacks and indulgences, have a protein and carb snack. I’ve included some quick recipes below that are delicious and help slow down alcohol absorption.
4. When eating out, have one course if you’re also having wine (which usually comes after an aperitif or two), and share desserts.
5. For every alcoholic drink, have 1 glass of water.
6. Be sure to get enough sleep! Don’t be shy to enjoy the pleasure of a holiday siesta.
7. When planning meals or dishes, substitute at least one naughty component in a dish/meal with a healthier alternative. If you have no idea where to start, try one of my recipe swaps below.
8. No second servings!
9. Love your liver and kidneys. Practice the tips in our Festive Season Survival Guide for Your Liver.
10. Take it easy on yourself and listen to the Wear Sunscreen song. Although written for a class of young graduates, the advice and sentiment remains appropriate as we move through our lives.
DON’T GO OUT HUNGRY: QUICK & EASY PRE-PARTY SNACK IDEAS
These light meals not only help you feel satisfied and manage cravings, they will also slow down the absorption of alcohol into your bloodstream.
Make an open sandwich with a slice of whole wheat, sourdough rye or gluten-free bread using one of these delicious protein and healthy fat toppings:
Boiled egg and avo. Smash ½ a small avo in a bowl. Add a handful of chopped wild rocket, salt & pepper. Top with a boiled, sliced organic egg & a dusting of cayenne pepper or drizzle of Sriracha sauce. (Great for hangover recovery too!)
Salmon with guacamole. Make a small serving of guacamole by mixing together ½ small avo, a tablespoon low fat plain yoghurt, a tablespoon of lime juice and a shake of cayenne pepper. Top the guacamole with a sliver of smoked or fresh salmon and a dash of tabasco.
If you prefer not to use bread or want to avoid potential bloating, fill large crispy lettuce leaves with one of the following:
Yoghurt chicken & hummus. Marinade chicken breast for 20 minutes in 1 cup of low fat plain yoghurt mixed with 1 teaspoon crushed fresh garlic and 1 tablespoon lemon juice (reserve a tablespoon or so for serving). Cook the chicken, chop and place in the lettuce wrap. Top with a drizzle of the marinade and a generous tablespoon of traditional hummus.
Mayo-free tuna salad. Mash 1/2 an avo together with a can of tuna. Add a generous squeeze of lemon juice, season with salt, pepper, and any other herbs or spices you’d like. I like to add a chopped pickle, some chopped spring onion and finish with a dash of Tabasco. Serve in the lettuce wrap.
HEALTHIER FESTIVE SEASON RECIPE SWAPS
Here are 5 super simple recipe swap examples. They’re delicious, nutritious alternatives that will cut loads of empty calories from your dishes without sacrificing satisfaction.
Instead of overcooked cauliflower with white sauce: Substitute with parmesan oven roasted cauliflower.
And it’s so much easier to make! Just pop it all in the oven to roast and you have a scrumptious, crunchy cauliflower dish! Find a superbly simple recipe here. I like to add some chilli flakes for a hint of heat. Toss in some fried pancetta and cooked peas for added interest and a hint of decadence.
Instead of duck fat roasted potatoes: Substitute with a colourful roasted sweet potato, carrot and onion dish.
Healthy and nutritious sweet potatoes and carrots are roasted in Vitamin C packed orange juice with ginger, cinnamon and cayenne pepper. Loads of goodness and flavour. Find the recipe here.
Instead of gravy: Substitute with healthy Mediterranean pesto’s and dips like basil pesto, hummus and tzatziki.
They all pair beautifully with chicken, lamb and beef. Not only fresher and healthier, they’re way more delicious and appropriate for our warmer Christmas climate. With more flavour and nutrients, and less fat and salt than gravy, it’s a no brainer.
Instead of store bought cranberry sauce: Substitute with your own.
I love a tart homemade cranberry sauce with poultry and even pork. You can also use the leftover as a coulis to spice up plain yoghurt and granola for breakfast. It’s packed with Vitamin C and antioxidants thanks to the cranberries so is really good for you.
Skip the preservatives and extra sugar in canned or bottled cranberry sauce by making your own. Find a great recipe for delicious, easy cranberry sauce here. You can substitute the rum with port. I also add a couple of cinnamon sticks, peeled fresh ginger and a couple of cloves to the sauce while its cooking for festive spice. Remove before serving.
Instead of fruit trifle: Substitute with grilled fresh fruits, Greek yoghurt and honey.
Another swap that’s easier to make. Simply halve or quarter, pit or peel your fruits as required, brush with a little melted farm butter and griddle. If you miss the slight booziness of a traditional trifle, you can even flambé them with some liqueur once nicely caramelized. Any firm fruit like peaches, nectarines, apricots, pears and pineapple work well. Arrange beautifully on a platter with some fresh mint for colour and serve with real Greek yoghurt and the best quality raw honey you can find. Add a sprinkle of your favourite toasted nuts for some crunchiness.
Hopefully, these will inspire you to come up with your own creative swap ideas. If they do, please share your recipes with us. We’d love to try them too!
Have an awesome, stress free, happy and blessed festive season! You deserve it!