Sunday, December 13, 2015
Christmas is nearly here and the thoughts of many people will turn to gifts, carols and above all, food. Whether it’s a big family meal you’re planning or you are simply looking forward to the mince pies and tins of chocolates in front of the TV, when it comes to Christmas, many diets and good intentions simply fly out of the window.
No matter how healthily people try to eat throughout the year, the constant temptation of sweet treats and festive feasts often leads to people forgetting all about their healthy eating principles. It is no surprise that the most common New Year’s resolutions are to lose weight, eat better and exercise more. Excessive eating over Christmas can leave you feeling bloated and guilty.
There are, however, people out there who do manage to keep up their clean eating regime over the festive period. It is possible to eat healthily and still enjoy the festivities and feasts of Christmas. So how do these people do it? Is it hard to follow a clean eating plan over Christmas and can anyone do it?
The term ‘clean eating’ refers to a diet which focuses on eating natural foods and avoiding processed foods and foods high in sugar. This way of eating can have several health benefits including weight loss, an improvement in energy levels and moods and also a noticeable improvement in many conditions and illnesses such as IBS, blood pressure and skin problems.
Some of the major things to swap this Christmas in order to continue a clean eating programme include swapping whole grains for refined grains, choosing low-fat dairy products and using minimally processed sugars such as honey. Traditional Christmas dinner favourites such as stuffing can be adapted to include refined grains or alternatives such as quinoa.
Sweet treats make up a large part of the Christmas diet and avoiding them altogether isn’t always easy when your friends and family are happily tucking into the box of chocolates in front of your favourite Christmas film. You can, however, make your own sweets and desserts using honey or dehydrated cane juice sugar to satisfy your sweet tooth and prevent any slip-ups.
If you are worried about going to a friend or family member’s house for your Christmas dinner this year but don’t want to refuse food or appear picky, then there are ways around this too. You can always prepare dishes to take with you, so you can stay true to your clean eating philosophy. And who doesn’t love a guest who comes bearing food?
If you have managed to uphold your clean eating regime all year then letting it slip this Christmas could have damaging consequences. Re-introducing your body to large amounts of the food you have been avoiding all year can leave you feeling sluggish, bloated and cause indigestion as your body struggle to deal with the food it now considers foreign. If you have been avoiding processed foods and sugars especially, then re-introducing them in large amounts could actually have a negative impact on your mood over this festive season.
Your brain will experience a “sugar high” rush which will leave you feeling great for a short time but the come down from this sugar-induced buzz can leave you feeling lethargic and pretty grumpy. Nobody likes a grouch at Christmas and you don’t want to be the one snapping at loved ones or grumbling in the corner because of a sugar come down. Stick to natural sweeteners like honey to keep you happy and on an even keel.
However, not everyone is a supporter of the clean eating plan. Nigella Lawson, the celebrity cook, has recently spoken out against this trend, explaining that popular diets can be used to hide serious eating disorders and that clean eating makes other ways of eating seem dirty or shameful.
To shed some light on this controversial topic, our chief pharmacist, Stuart Gale, explains that balance is the key to a healthy lifestyle: "I believe that a healthy lifestyle means making good choices with respect to exercise, eating, drinking alcohol and not smoking. Mental health is also important. Generally, extremes in anything seem to be unhelpful. I suggest eating fresh food whenever possible, with small amounts of processed foods and limiting sugar intake. Usually, a small amount of 'treat' food is OK, as is the odd glass of wine."
It is entirely possible to have a happy and healthy Christmas without having to compromise on your clean eating principles. All it will take is a little forward planning and some creative thinking. There are plenty of ideas online and in cookbooks to help you substitute some of your previous Christmas favourites with clean alternatives. Get planning now so that you’re not caught off guard craving a festive treat or faced with friends and family trying to tempt you with “go on it’s Christmas” or “just the one won’t hurt”. Planning ahead means you can enjoy Christmas just as much as everyone else, but won’t be left with regrets come the new year.