Yep, we know what you’re thinking. Now is the month of scoffed advent calendars (even the cardboard), mince pie binges, new beer bellies, food babies and general, unchecked excess. The word ‘diet’ isn’t in the December dictionary. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.

What we’d love to avoid this year though, is the afters. The post Christmas regret, the dark January gym sessions where you’re left questioning if it all was worth it, the enforced abstinence….there must be a better way than this. Well, with a more mindful approach to the festive feasting, we think you can have your Christmas cake and eat it, with none of the usual guilt that comes as a side dish. With that in mind, here are 5 IDEAL ways to keep your diet balanced this Christmas.

PERFECT PORTION SIZE

Sometimes, the notion of ‘full’ becomes foreign in the throes of festive excess. Did that seventh roast potato really add anything to your meal? Did the third glass of port make you feel any better than the second? It’s good during the party season, then, to keep some perspective on portion size, and not overdo it just for the sake of it.

This handy (pun intended) guide from the BBC gives a great, easy to use overview of what qualifies as a reasonable amount of each food group, for each meal; particularly pertinent over the festive season when self-restraint tends to take a backseat. So, roasties are fine, but should cover no more than a quarter of your plate, and be of roughly the size of your clenched fist in total. Turkey is great too, but portion-size-wise, should be about equivalent to the size of your palm. And of course, an abundance of the veggie-based sides is never a bad thing….

GO BEYOND FIVE-A-DAY

We’ve probably all heard by now that 5-a-day is really the minimum amount of fruit and veg we should be aiming for. And although they often get pushed to one side with all the treats and meats on offer over Christmas, it really isn’t hard to go way beyond that arbitrary figure. Firstly, get to grips with what counts as one of your 5-a-day, so you can target those items on all the Christmas spreads. You might be surprised to hear that beans and pulses contribute to the target, as do tinned tomatoes, herbs, and even garlic and onion. Chilli con carne anyone? And, all those dried fruits found over Christmas do too. Result!

SNACK SAVVY

Instead of snacking on endless chocolate Santa Claus (rarely of great quality chocolate, let’s be honest), take advantage of the beautiful, seasonal produce which this time of year has to offer as your snack of choice. So, make your between-meal grazing revolve around the fruit of the season, like clementines and pears, and of course make the most of the abundant chestnuts at this time of year.

VARY YOUR PALETTE

As important as reaching the magic number of fruit and vegetables each day is understanding how important a varied plate in terms of colour is. In short, a 5-a-day of only red items won’t be as nutritious and balanced as one of greens, yellows, oranges and so on. Each colour provides the body with different, positive impacts, so keep your Christmas dinner plate as vibrant as you can. Carrots? Check. Sprouts? Yes please. Purple sprouting? Oh, go on then. You get the (very colourful) picture. 

KNOW WHAT’S IN YOUR FOOD

Of course, keeping on top of all the nutritious benefits and harmful ingredients of your meals is far easier if they’re homemade. The processed, pre-packaged stuff which seems to multiply over the Christmas period contains all manner of things which you can’t control, so when and where you can, keep it D.I.Y. This handy “Periodic Table” from the guys at Qlu Health shows you just which essential vitamins and minerals are contained in what foodstuffs.

Laid out in an easy to digest (pun for the second time completely intended) format, you can see exactly which vitamins and minerals you’re getting. Opt for some gravadlax on rye bread or some smoked salmon eclairs and you’ll be getting a healthy dose of Vitamin A, Vitamin D and Biotin. Having a traditional turkey? Then Niacin, and Pantothenic Acid will also be on the table for you this Christmas. And if the Christmas cheeseboard is your favourite part of the festive feast, rest assured that you’ll be getting lots of Vitamin D, Calcium Iodine, Biotin, Vitamin B12 and Sodium Chloride.

 

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Rachel is the beauty and fashion director at IDEAL. She loves trying new products and is an avid fan of London's fashion, from the high end to the high street.