It’s here. The Oxford street lights are twinkling and TFL delays are rife – it’s officially Christmas! Catrina Imray is here to help us get through the silly season with some sound advice.
In true Rudolph fashion, red-nosed Gymbox members are braving the elements to smash their workouts. But when it comes to food throughout the festive period, over-indulgence becomes almost standard.
Many people put on weight during December, which isn’t surprising considering the average Christmas day consumption alone can amount to a mammoth 6000 calories. Even the most serious lifter wouldn’t be packing in that on a daily basis! So how can you keep nutrition on track throughout this tempting time?
Now, we won’t advocate that your nutritional plan must be rigid over Christmas. Besides, not many people can go through December without cracking open a few boxes of Celebrations – we’re only human after all. What we’re getting at is that it’s totally fine to relax your eating habits during the festivities. You may not be entirely in line with your goals, but you can make some conscious decisions to ensure you don’t undo all the hard work you’ve put in throughout the year, without missing out.
Don’t deprive yourself
Christmas comes with lots of parties and foodie treats. But you don’t have to forgo the finger food completely to keep on track. On the day of the office Christmas do, when you know there will be a plethora of pigs in blankets and canapés, stick to small, protein-packed meals beforehand (try my Christmas inspired protein shake below). Fill up enough to prevent yourself pouncing on every poor cocktail waiter within arms reach. You’ll have allowed yourself that leeway to enjoy some of the food and drink on offer without over-doing it. Christmas is supposed to be fun and you shouldn’t deprive yourself of that. Restrictions often lead to a negative, unhealthy mindset around food. Instead of restricting yourself completely, just adjust your eating habits and embrace moderation.
Mint chocolate protein shake – serves 1 (gluten free, can be vegan) per portion (guideline): 267kcals, P: 27g, F: 6.6g, C: 25g
- 1 small banana
- 1 scoop chocolate protein powder (I use MissFits Multitasker, but use any brand you like)
- 15-20 fresh mint leaves
- 300ml milk/water (I use almond milk, but again, use what you enjoy)
- Toppings – I used coconut and a few cranberries (optional)
Simply throw everything into a blender, blend up and enjoy!
What is Christmas without the odd glass of wine… or bottle… or five! Christmas and alcohol go hand in hand, but many people don’t realise how much alcohol contributes to their caloric intake. When drinking, opt for a small over a large glass of wine (115 calories vs 230 calories), or a vodka or gin with a diet mixer (around 54 calories). These small changes can make a big difference to your caloric consumption. Hydration is also key. Have at least 2-3 litres of water every day, and a glass of the stuff in-between alcoholic drinks. You’ll lessen the chance of being faced with that dreaded hangover in the morning!
Don’t beat yourself up
There will inevitably be occasions of over-indulgence at Christmas time and that’s okay! The worst thing you can do is get hung up about it. A few days indulgence over an entire month isn’t going to kill you, or put a huge dent in your overall progress – it’s all about balance and perspective. Start fresh (or as fresh as you can depending on how many glasses of bubbly you had the night before!) and tackle the next day with a healthy, positive mindset.
Find alternative recipes for some of your favourite Christmas treats. Mince pies are full of sugar and aren’t great for your energy levels. Instead, try my recipe below for mince pie snowballs. They contain all the Christmas flavour of a regular mince pie, but are a much healthier alternative. They are packed with both mono and polyunsaturated fats and only natural sugars, so you won’t get that energy slump. They also contain protein, so they are a perfect pre-workout snack!
Mince pie snowballs – makes 6 (gluten free, vegan)per ball (guideline): 133kcals, P: 2.6g F: 6.4g C: 16.1g
- 10 pitted dates
- 55g raisins
- 30g ground almonds
- 25g walnuts
- ½ tsp of each; ground ginger, all spice, nutmeg, cinnamon
- Desiccated coconut
Throw all ingredients into a food processor (apart from the coconut) with a splash of water.
Mix until combined (you may need a bit more water; just enough for the mixture to keep its shape when you roll it)
Divide the mixture into 6 portions and roll to form balls.
Place onto a tray and refrigerate (ideally overnight, but however long you can).
Once set, roll in desiccated coconut and eat up!
For that post-workout hit of festive flavours, try my orange and cranberry protein pancakes. They’re a great source of protein and carbs, so are perfect after a heavy Gymbox session.
Overall, Christmas shouldn’t be all or nothing. You can still enjoy festive treats while maintaining your progress. Just be mindful of that balance and make simple swaps to enjoy December without depriving yourself. And if you happen to slip up a few times, who cares?! You won’t do yourself any favours by stressing. Focus on what you can do and enjoy Christmas while it’s here!
Cranberry and orange protein pancakes – serves 1 (can be gluten and dairy free) per portion (guideline): 450kcal, P: 38g, F: 7g, C: 62g
For the pancakes
- 1 medium banana
- 1 egg
- 40g oats
- 1 scoop vanilla protein (I used Protein Works Soy isolate but you can use anything)
- ½ tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- Zest ½ an orange
- Splash of milk (I use almond but again use whatever you wish)
For the topping
- Handful of fresh cranberries
- Juice of a whole orange
Whizz the pancake ingredients in a food processor until combined.
Spoon the mixture into a heated frying pan with a bit of coconut oil to prevent sticking – I use about a tablespoon and a half for each pancake, but you can make them as big or as small as you like!
Wait until the bottom has set and is golden brown before flipping over to cook the opposite site.
Once cooked, set onto paper towels.
In the same pan, heat through the cranberries and orange juice until soft and the liquid reduced.
Stack the pancakes and top with the warm fruit. Finish off with orange zest.