Four top tips for the festive season

The Christmas season is nearly here. This time of year is significant in many ways with different religious and non-religious celebrations, but one thing that everyone tends to have in common is seasonal eating. It’s hard to avoid, with cakes, pastries and the odd stuffed turkey at every turn. So how to carry on eating a whole food plant-based diet and still enjoy those festive treats? Here’s four top tips to keep you keep feeling well.

1. Plan ahead. Thinking forward is essential if you want to ensure you have an enjoyable and stress-free celebration

For the Christmas work do – check out the menu in advance to see if there’s something suitable for you. If 
you’re not sure, have a look at the venue’s website as many publish an allergen menu to help you out. Still not clear? Then give the venue a ring and ask to speak to the chef to clarify. There may not be something on their standard menu, but most places will ensure there is a suitable dish available for you. Make sure you ask what that will be, otherwise you may end up with just a plate of vegetables, which can be very disappointing (unless that’s what you want!). If they can’t cater for you, it’s good to know so you can go somewhere else.

  • Christmas meals away from home – whether it’s your parents, the in-laws or friends, catering for your dietary needs on top of everything else can become rather stressful for the host if you’ve not discussed it in advance. If it’s easier, just take your own main dish and let them know how to make dishes dairy or gluten free and still delicious. Same goes for a party – offer to take something that’s you-friendly, or give them a simple recipe they could cook for you.
  • Christmas meals at home – easiest to do if you’re the cook. Adapt other standard dishes so you don’t end up cooking two of everything (as that’s no fun). For example, use dairy-free milk or cream and/or gluten free breadcrumbs if you’re making bread sauce. And add a glug of pressed flaxseed oil to the veggies instead of butter – not only delicious but healthy too!

2. Enjoying the odd tipple but take care with what you’re drinking – and keep it moderate, as an excess of alcohol can undo a lot of your hard work!

  • Wine – make sure the wine is vegan. Milk protein, egg white, fish guts are all used in the fining process and residues are left behind. If you have a yeast intolerance it’s best to avoid wine altogether, although generally champagne is OK as it’s double fermented. No cheap fizzy wine for you, only the best! And wine may include some healthy antioxidants, but consume by the glass rather than the bottle!
  • Beer – similar issues to wine. There are some fantastic organic local beers that are traditionally brewed, worth checking out.
  • Spirts – generally easier to avoid allergens but do keep an eye out for unexpected animal flavourings! Good news for Bailey’s lovers – Bailey’s Almonde, their dairy-free product, is now available in the UK but only at Wholefoods (ok if you live in London!) or on-line here https://thegoodnessproject.co.uk/shop/dairy-free-vegan-gluten-free-baileys-almande. I’ve not taste-tested it as yet (but will be getting a bottle to do so!). It’s also easy to make your own version – recipe out soon.

3. Eat those sprouts! Love them or hate them, Brussel sprouts are amazing bullets of nutrients that give you a much needed supply of anti-oxidants, vitamins and minerals.

  • Cooking method is key when it comes to sprouts. I love them steamed, but roasting them is even more delicious as the natural sugars caramelise and enhance the flavour.
  • Eat other colourful seasonal vegetables as well all over the festive season – nature always provides the nutrients we need at any time of the year. Oranges for vitamin C, pomegranates and red cabbage, all colourful rainbow foods that help us look and feel great.

4. Snack well so you don’t feel hungry, deprived or left out. Essential for feeling good and enjoying an evening out.

  • Chocolate – a small amount of quality chocolate delivers some magical phytonutrients and anti-oxidants. Make sure it’s dairy free and gluten free, plus keep an eye out for soya if you are sensitive to it. Booja-Booja http://www.boojabooja.com and Plamils http://www.plamilfoods.co.uk are two great sources of chocolate suitable for the sensitive eater. Or you can always make your own!
  • Nuts and other coated nibbles. If you’re at a party it’s hard to avoid nibbly snacks, but be careful as many flavoured snacks have milk, egg or gluten added, not to mention altered oils and refined sugar. Keep with what you know like plain nuts, crudite vegetables and hummus dips. I’ve had many evenings ruined by the wrong nibble!

The key to this time of year is enjoy yourself! If you slip and eat something you have banished from your diet, you’ll soon know. Hopefully it won’t make you feel too ill, but also it might make you realise how far you’ve come. Eating well with a whole food plant-based diet, the positive changes are gradual and sometimes unnoticed – it’s only when you slip back in to feeling how you used to that you realise how good you now feel. It’s a great incentive not to go that way again – now that is something to celebrate!

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