Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Staying Healthy During Christmas

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A bit of a different post today. I loosely follow the Slimming World plan, and I always tend to abandon it at this time of year and think "Oh I'll just enjoy Christmas and I'll start again in January" - the only problem with that is that it feels like Christmas for weeks beforehand. My Christmas mood takes hold right after Halloween, and if I ate what I wanted and abandoned my whole healthy eating plan, that would be eight solid weeks of messing. Eight weeks at a pound or two a week and that's a potential stone in weight - BEFORE CHRISTMAS. This post is as much for me as it is for anyone else, I've been slipping lately but it's never too late to pull it back on track.

1. Ditch the Takeaways for Fakeaways

I'm a big fan of the Chinese. I love nothing more than a smoked chicken and a curry on a Saturday night - but both are loaded with calories. Throw in a bag of chips, do that once or twice a week, and you'll have a problem. If you're a fan of the oul Spice Bag, Tracey over at Love of Living has a great recipe that incorporates The Naked Blondie's chilli chicken recipe. I used the same chicken recipe to make homemade smoked chicken, and I teamed it with rice, onions, peas, mushrooms, and some Mayflower curry sauce (proper Chinese curry sauce and only 4 syns / <90kcal for 28g of dry powder). You can get Mayflower at various butchers around the country and at Slim Valley Fresh Foods. I actually bought some on eBay and used Parcel Motel to deliver it here.

2. If you buy Sweets as Presents, Wrap them Straight Away

I'm not a huge chocolate lover but sometimes, I really crave sweet things and I want them NOW. I don't buy sweets so they don't tempt me - but I will buy boxes of sweets as presents. One year I ate an entire box of Butler's chocolates over the month of November because I kept picking at it - I'd have been better off buying a bar and putting it in the fridge. If you buy tins or boxes of sweets or biscuits on special offer, wrap them up straight away. Add ribbons, bows, gift tag - and put them away. You'll be less likely to think "ah I'll just buy another one" if you have to go to the bother of re-wrapping something.
3. Drink Water

It can be really hard to keep your water intake up in the Winter months with the dark evenings - who am I kidding, the dark DAYS sometimes. In Spring and Summer, I feel it's a lot easier to drink water because it's warmer. I usually fill a plastic litre bottle and drink from that during the day, but it can be harder in colder weather - plus, I only recently found out that the reason plastic bottles shouldn't be re-used is that over time, the plastic can seep into your drink and be bad for your health. I was sent a Brita Marella filter jug in October - it takes a cartridge style filter and has an indicator on the top to tell you when the cartridge needs to be changed. It's so handy - I fill mine every night and leave it in the fridge, then I've 2 litres of cold filtered water for the following day. I love challenging myself to empty it before night time, it really has encouraged me to drink more. It would make a great Christmas present too - you can currently find it at Boots for €16.99 (usual price €24.99). It comes with one cartridge, mine lasted about a month, and replacement cartridges are €13.49 for a pack of 3 (usual price €17.49).

4. Have Your (Christmas) Cake and Eat It

If you're in the position where there's cake, or there's a mince pie, and you want something - have something. There are many, many people who would disagree with me here - but here are two scenarios.

Scenario 1: Sharon is at an event. There are mince pies. Sharon wants one but she doesn't have one. Sharon thinks about the mince pie all day and ends up buying a box and eating three of them just for the sake of it then thinks 'feck it, I've screwed the day up now anyway, I'll just have those crisps and I'll start over tomorrow..."

Scenario 2: Sharon is at an event. There are mince pies. Sharon wants one and has one. Sharon enjoys the mince pie and the event, and goes home and makes an effort to not eat any more off-plan things today.

See where I'm going? If you want something small, have something small. Just don't have five small somethings. One mince pie or one Ferrero Rocher or one slice of Christmas Cake isn't going to make you gain weight - if you try to eat healthily 80% of the time, you can afford to relax for the other 20%. A little of what you fancy never did anybody any harm.

5. Invest in a Slow Cooker

Every week, I buy enough vegetables to feed sixteen people. That may be a slight exaggeration but I buy a hell of a lot, with intentions of making stir fries, vegetable curries, stews, soups - and none of it happens. I've thrown out more mouldy peppers than I've had hot dinners (pun intended) and it happens over and over and over. I even bought a blender, and still - nope. So, I've started to chop them up as I buy them, and put them in sandwich bags. That way there's no excuse, everything's there already and all I need to do is throw them into the slow cooker with some water and a stock cube, blend them up, and I have soup. The soup can be frozen and used as lunch, or with a bit of pasta for dinner, and there are endless flavour possibilities. Some of my favourites are:

Butternut Squash: 1 butternut squash, 1 potato, 1 onion, 1 stock cube, 1 clove garlic, 1 litre water.
Tomato: 6 chopped tomatoes, 2 cans chopped tomatoes, 1 onion, 1 stock cube, 1 litre water, 1 clove garlic.
Leek & Potato: 1 leek, 3 potatoes, 1 onion, 1 stock cube, 1 litre water.
Winter Veg: 1 leek, 1 potato, 1 onion, 2 carrots, 1 stock cube, 1 litre water.

Soups can be left to cook on the lowest setting for 8-10 hours. Some of my other staple slow cooker recipes are:

Beef Stew: 1lb stewing beef, diced. 4 carrots. 1 celery stick. 6 potatoes, cubed. 3 onions. 1 beef stock cube, 750ml water. Cook on high 5-6 hours or low 8 hours.
Whole Chicken: Pop a chicken in upside down. Rub with spices if desired. Don't add water. Cooks in 5 hours on low.
Chicken Stew: 4 chicken fillets, cubed. 4 carrots. 1 celery stick. 6 potatoes,cubed. 3 onions. 1 chicken stock cube. 750ml water. Cook on high 5-6 hours or low 8 hours.
Lamb/Beef/Pork Joints: Add a cup of water, some mixed herbs/onions if desired, and cook on low 8-10 hours. Absolutely gorgeous, the meat falls apart.
Ham Fillet: The slow cooker won't get rid of any salt in your meat, so I soak my ham overnight in cold water and then pop it in the slow cooker, no water, on low for about 8 hours.

You can pretty much throw anything into a slow cooker - I've used it for chops, steak, potatoes (pop them in tinfoil and add in when you're cooking meat/chicken), all kinds of veg. I did the turkey crown and ham in it last Christmas at the same time (I just wrapped each joint in tinfoil and threw them in on low for 8 hours). A slow cooker uses about as much electricity as a lightbulb when in use. This is the one I have. It very much helps with the need for comfort food in the dark evenings.

There are hundreds of facebook groups devoted to Slow Cooker ideas, just search "slow cooker" and you'll find some.

Do you have any other tips?


  1. Excellent post. I always eat all around me at Christmas time too which is fine but as you say, I class Christmas as Halloween onwards!

  2. Some very helpful tips for staying healthy during the holiday season.

  3. Sharon, this post might just save me! Thanks! Agree with you on "a little of what you fancy" thought process... Feed the urge and move on!

  4. Some great tips Sharon... I can feel the "ah sure its grand" attitude kicking in with me already even tho its 3 more weigh in's until Xmas!
    My slow cooker lives in its box for the last 12 months!! Ithought i'd never buy one and now I'm kinda afraid to use it... loving your tips on it... defo gonna try the whole chicken :-)

  5. I have been thinking about getting a slow cooker for so long. TBH I had no idea how it even works.....this is a great post, I think I'll pick one up in Argos. I do have great intentions of cooking stews, soups etc but when it comes to it, I just couldnt be bothered! lol

  6. Haha I love this post! 'Course I want to eat everything now. Mega lolz at the Mince Pie Scenario. Been there, done that, eaten the box when I've gotten home..
    Becca | theBeautyInbox

  7. That water filter is great, I always thought it was a stupid gimmick but it helped a lot during the summer. Although its freezing at the moment so the idea of drinking cold water isn't really appealing!


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