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A Nutritional Guide to Surviving Christmas Day

You might be thinking - why do I need a nutritional guide to surviving Christmas day? I mean, who wants to worry about nutrition and making the right choices at such a 'care-free' time of year!? Well, let me ask you the following: Can you think of a Christmas where the consequences of severe food overload prohibited you from having a good time? Are you always so fixated on choosing the next piece of something yummy as opposed to being truly engaged in conversation with a loved one you haven't seen in months? Do you feel so sick and uncomfortable on going to bed or waking the next day that the last thing you want to do is continue on with the celebrations? If you answered yes to one or more of these questions and consciously WANT to feel that way this Christmas then feel free to stop reading here. However, for those of you who actually plan on enjoying the festive season for what it is (and believe it or not, it is not suppose to be all about food) then follow these five stupid-easy tips and feel better this Christmas.

Tip #1 Starters

Every Christmas gathering has an abundance of starters and nibbles so that no matter which corner of the room you are in, someone is offering you something to chew on! More often then not, we tend to fill up on the starters and can't even enjoy the main meal. By the time it comes to dessert, we are in such a severe food coma and feeling so lethargic that we are quite frankly "over it". So this year, let's be savvy with our choices (not obsessive, just savvy). Make up a cheese board with a selection of your favourites and serve with slices of fresh cucumber, celery, carrot, capsicum. Indulge in creamy brie, nutty camembert, mature cheddar or maybe some crumbly feta. Everyone will think you are being "so naughty" with all that cheese, yet with its low sugar and high fat profile, cheese is a great option. You'll feel satiated and less likely to overeat than if you were to be snacking on the alternative nutrient-void, high-sugar appetisers. Keeping your carbohydrate intake low for as long as possible will also help you maintain a stable blood sugar and prevent the dreaded afternoon energy slump (i.e. sugar crash)! Just remember to embrace the spirit of giving and don't hoard the whole cheese platter to yourself...

Tip #2 Alcohol

Do we indulge in alcohol on Christmas Day because it is symbolic of a celebratory event or rather because we don't know how to get through the day without it? Well, whatever the reason - you might want to stay clear of pre-mixed drinks, beer and sweet wines. These are loaded with sugar, bubbles and other nasty chemicals which will sure leave you feeling bloated and lousy - a condition we are far too accustomed to at this time of year. Instead, be the life of the party and knock out some refreshing Summer cocktails. Need some inspiration? Blend up some vodka or tequila (30 mL per person), lime juice, strawberries, cucumber, mint leaves and ice. You will be everyone's favourite Santa Claus if you are busy spreading this kind of Christmas cheer!

Tip #3 The Main

The main meal wins gold for the biggest build up of the year, and quite often the biggest let down (by this point we are already so full, stressed or intoxicated to care). Due to the sheer fact that this is usually the most frantic part of the day with hands and tongs ready to take you out from every angle, I thought I'd be nice and break this section up into dot point form (ahhh, so clear). If you can do at least one of these things on Christmas Day then bravo!

  • Aim to fill at least half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables (excludes potatoes, corn and legumes) and/or raw salad.

  • Choose meat & seafood that is plain (i.e. without marinades) where possible and season yourself (e.g. a little cracked salt, pepper and olive oil).

  • Avoid bread by any means possible - you definitely do not need a slice of gluggy, tasteless wheat taking up precious room on your plate when there is so much more amazing food available!

  • Stick to drinking plain water during this meal. I am not trying to be the Grinch here but if you can allocate just one time of the day to have a rest from alcohol (or other non-water fluids) it is wise to do it while you have a mountain of food in front of you to get through.

Tip #4 Dessert

Dessert is an interesting time because everyone is usually in such discomfort that no one really WANTS it yet it seems like we SHOULD eat it because it's there ready to go (and poor Nanna probably spent an entire day preparing her famous trifle!). The best thing you can do is to distract people from the idea of dessert for as long as possible. This is a good time to organise some fun family activities that get people moving and interacting. At the very least, distribute the last few presents and act overly-excited as a means of expending a little energy and to make the moment last. You might even go for a dawdle around the block or have a float in the pool (if you are lucky enough to have one). Whatever you do, just give yourself a break from food for a couple of hours. Dessert is not going to run away (I hope), and you will enjoy it so much more with a little 'rest and digest'. When you do finally get there, just stick to this one strategy: do not go back for seconds. If it doesn't all fit into one bowl then there's no way it should be forced down your already struggling stomach. Dessert is always offered in mountainous proportions on Christmas Day (I think everyone uses it as an opportunity to show off their baking or new-found food styling skills) and there is absolutely no reason why you can't divvy up whatever's left and have it to enjoy on boxing day. It will taste SO much better then too!

Tip #5 Be Grateful

Finally, in a time of plenty it is easy to complain about things like being "too full" and "not wanting to see another fruit mince pie again!". However, it is important to be grateful for all the good things you do have and for the people that surround you. Life can change in the blink of an eye and maybe one of the healthiest choices you can make this Christmas Day is to put it all into perspective. Practice a little gratitude and be kind to one another. There is a lot more to this day than food.

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