Staying 'healthy' at Christmas

One of the biggest challenges at this time of year is keeping a healthy routine and not pigging out on all the food! But that is a challenge I'm hoping to face head on this year.

How you ask? Well (I don't know if I've mentioned this... maybe once or twice) because I'm going on holiday (not excited at all, honest) in January I'm going to try really hard to look and feel in shape before I go. These are my top tips for maintaining a healthy lifestyle at this time of year:

1. Make a commitment to work out at least 3 times a week.

It gets harder in the winter to keep up your exercise routine - there's something about warmer weather which makes you feel more active - but if you stick to a few dedicated workouts a week you'll feel so much better even when there's so much going on. I've been running once a week, doing a HIIT/strength training night once a week, and yoga another night. And despite the cold I've tried to maintain walking as much as I can.

If you're pushed for ideas and without a gym or equipment you can easily go for a run/jog or a good fast walk, or if that's not your thing try to fit in a half hour body weight workout. There's loads of apps with effective workout ideas - one of my favourites is Blogilates - download the app or search on You Tube and put together your own workout from the videos available. I'd recommend starting with a HIIT video to warm up and get the blood pumping, add 2 - 3 videos for toning depending on the area you want to focus on, or do a full body workout, then finish with a good stretch and cool down. Or, check out one of the workout calendars available and follow Cassey's advice.

I like to pick 5 of my favourite exercises and do them in circuits. For example, warm up by doing high knees for 30 seconds, rest for 20 seconds, then high knees for 15 seconds, rest for 20 seconds, then high knees for 10 seconds.

Then I'll pick 5 moves, for example squats, push ups, mountain climbers, plank, burpees, glute bridge, tricep dip etc. - do each for 30 seconds without any rest, and repeat 3-5 times.

Cool down by doing jumping jacks the same way you did your warm up and spend at least 5 minutes stretching.

2. Healthy-ish diet

I've been keeping my midweek diet nice and healthy and nutritious, and allowing the odd treat each weekend, but most importantly making sure that even those treats are home cooked so I know exactly what's in them - even as far as homemade wholemeal pizzas of a weekend. Although an annual trip to the Christmas markets in Manchester did mean mulled wine and mini pancakes were allowed for one night only.

This is the perfect time of year to make wholesome comfort food like cottage pie, stew and homemade soups, which are filling and healthy. Try switching white potatoes for sweet potatoes and adding extra veggies to bulk out and add nutritional value.

My mid week lunches will be mostly soups - try a butternut squash, 2 sweet potatoes, a red onion and half a deseeded red chilli (or leave the seeds in if you prefer it spicy), sauté in coconut oil for around 5-10 minutes, then add veg stock or water, add seasoning and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Blend and stir in a spoonful of sour cream if you like before serving.

Christmas Day is always hardest for me so I'm going to give myself a day off and just enjoy the food on offer. I'll have a filling breakfast of scrambled eggs, smoked salmon and avocado to keep me full until dinner time, then I'm going to enjoy a plateful of turkey (turkey is a really good lean meat so don't scrimp too much), a couple of roast potatoes and then load my plate with veggies. I'll treat myself to a little bit of a stuffing and a pig in blanket so I'm not missing out and have a little bit of gravy, as well as enjoying a small dessert. When the party food comes out in the evening I'll have a bit but where possible stick to the cooked meat and crudités and avoid the bread!

3. Drinking!

Obviously there are more nights out around this time but where possible I stick to vodka/gin and soda water with fresh lemon or lime (though the odd glass of wine or cocktail has sneaked in) and make sure I hydrate as much as possible the next day. Its a cliché that I spent many years ignoring but for every alcoholic drink have a glass of water, and an extra glass before bed - not only will this reduce the chances of having a hangover but it will force you to drink less in the first place. Avoid heavily sugary drinks - fruit juices and diet sodas included, as the sugar will only make you feel worse, and the sweeteners in diet drinks have so many negative health effects they just aren't worth it - and stay away from the cream based cocktails!

I'm one of those people that always wants a snack after being out drinking so have some healthy but tasty snacks available for when you get in. A piece of sourdough or rye bread toasted with some avocado and cooked ham or pre-cooked boiled egg, or even spread with almond or peanut butter and sliced banana will be tasty and satisfying with none of the guilt.

Most of all though, just enjoy it, and stay safe and well. If you have a day off on Christmas Day just make sure you start Boxing Day the healthy way and get straight back in to your routine - you'll thank yourself later.

No comments