It’s the season for over indulgence – but it doesn’t mean all your attempts to be healthy have to go out the window. As the mince pies come out and the mulled wine starts flowing, HELLO! has teamed up with an expert in all things good for you, to find out how to enjoy the Christmas season without destroying your waistline or your health ambitions.
Julie Montagu, aka The Flexi Foodie, has amassed a loyal legion of thousands of followers thanks to her impressive knowledge about all things health, nutrition and wellbeing. From superfood recipe books to her useful tips and advice on her blog, Julie knows all the tricks to feeling satisfied but also staying healthy over the festive season - and her first tip is to make sure you find time in the busy run up to Christmas to look after yourself as well as your family.
"The holidays are full on and I know first-hand how easy it is you put everyone's needs before yours," Julie told HELLO! Online. "I am a mother of four and can totally relate! But I've also learned that the more I take care of myself over the holidays, the better I feel (physically, mentally and emotionally) looking after everyone else."
Here, the health guru shares her top tips on keeping your body healthy and happy this Christmas…
Julie Montagu is hailed as a food guru by her legions of followers
1. Eat a healthy breakfast
"Start with an amazing breakfast that's going to energise you and satisfy your body's needs to keep going throughout the entire day. I like to start my mornings with something that everyone loves (and they probably don't know it's good for them either because it tastes so good) – my Chocolate Granola. It's the perfect kickstart to the day and my 10-year-old swears by it!
"It is raw cacao so it's not processed, nasty chocolate. Cacao can give us what they say we're deficient in and that's magnesium. The reason that magnesium is good for us, especially for kids, is it calms them. So we don't have enough magnesium – it's a calming mineral. It calms you down but at the same time it's not going to make you lethargic."
Julie's Chocolate Granola makes for a healthy breakfast to kickstart the day
2. Don't go back for seconds
"I think Christmas dinner, it's not even so much about what foods are served, it's people who think, 'I can eat as much as I want to'. My tip is don't go back for seconds. Just get enough on your plate that you enjoy it and think, 'Okay, that was delicious and yummy'. Taste every bite, be mindful about it, but you don't have to go back for seconds. I think that's the biggest mistake because that's when everybody gets super lethargic and tired. You'll have turkey the next day, there'll be leftovers. I just say fill your plate up and that's it."
3. Follow the 'one for one' rule
"We all like to indulge over the holidays - in fact, I personally feel that the word 'holiday' means 'indulge'! However, the last thing I want to do is wake up the next morning after 'indulging' and feel well, frankly pretty awful. So, I always incorporate the 'one for one' rule. A good example? Have one glass of mulled wine (or whatever your alcoholic drink of choice is) and follow it down with a glass of water. So, every time you finish you an alcoholic drink, before pouring yourself another one drink the same amount of water. What the 'one for one' rule does is that it's going to keep you full while you drink because you're going to have that water, and it's going to keep you hydrated. It's going to help you digest better. It's a no-brainer for me."
She suggests switching sugar for coconut palm sugar in your cranberry sauce
4. Make simple swaps in your recipes
"Simple swaps that no-one will ever know and, trust me, everyone's bodies will feel better for it. For example, when making my Cranberry Sauce, I swap the quantity of sugar suggested with coconut palm sugar. You’ll reduce any inflammation that might occur in the body from eating refined sugar and you’ll also get a punch of nutrients from the coconut palm sugar rather than a nutrient void! So, yes, your body will be happy (and not angry at you).
"The reason it’s good for you is that your blood sugar isn't going to spike as much so you're not going to be releasing insulin all of the time. When we keep releasing insulin so quickly and our blood sugar spikes, we're hungrier an hour later. This is going to keep your blood sugar level at a level that stops you from wanting to overeat rather than spiking it. That's just a simple substitution but well worth it in my view."
Ditch the meat and opt for a cornbread stuffing to help you feel fuller for longer
5. Switch meat stuffing for cornbread stuffing
"We all know there's a lot of meat consumption going on over the holidays and so I've tried to find swaps for some traditional recipes that are even better – and by that, I mean both in taste and good for your body too. My Cornbread Stuffing does just that. There's no meat in the stuffing and in my view it's even more delicious – and have I said yet that your body will love you for it too?"
"Corn is a wholegrain. Corn is going to make you feel fuller longer. When we normally make stuffing we make it with white bread and a whole bunch of meat. Right there – meat is going to make you tired and your body inflamed. White bread – anything that's been processed and packaged – has no nutritional benefits and it will spike your blood sugar so you'll be eating in an hour and a half or two hours. However cornbread stuffing, obviously we're using corn, a wholegrain. When we have complex carbohydrates and we're eating complex carbohydrates, that's going to keep our blood sugar at a perfect level so that we're not wanting to eat more turkey two hours later."