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Helena Searcaigh

Posted on December 12 2016

This month, the guest blogger is Health Editor, blogger and personal trainer Ben Ogden a.k.a The Motion Coach. He gives us his tips on keeping it naughty and nice over the festive season. 

I love this time of year, I slowly turn into Elf of the same titled movie! But it can tricky to keep the balance between a little festive indulgence and going totally off the rails! So - how do you give your elf (!) the gift of better health this December?

Most people move away from salads during the festive period and opt for more comfort foods (and I say hell yes to that!) But this is the time of year that we should be eating more of the good stuff to stave off bugs and colds. How about making your salads or veg a little more rocking'? I use this time of year to play about with recipes to ensure I'm keeping the nutrient content high. A great winter salad is diced warm sweet potatoes, feta, peas and cashews. Or try my current favourite - smashed potatoes on a bed of wilted spinach topped or mixed with some kind of protein - a poached egg, crumbled feta or bacon. 

And how about swapping out crisps for chilli aubergine crisps? Just thinly slice your aubergine and cook it at 180 for about 30 mins, sprinkle with salt and chilli flakes, et voila! Delicious with all kinds of dips.  Another festive favourite veg of mine is cumin spiced baked butternut squash - delicious with a steak or roast chicken (or even turkey). 

Trying to keep your greens or veggie quota up can be tough if you've got lots of meals out and Christmas events (hello canapés!) Try and balance it out by pimping your protein shake with a handful of spinach, other source of leafy greens or even a greens powered supplement. Spinach, a scoop of chocolate protein powder and blueberries is my fail safe, nutrient-packed go-to. Top it with a pinch of cinnamon for a sweet (and festive!) healthy treat.

Instead of racking up the calories at Starbucks, create a home-made alternative to their festive menu. Gently heat some almond milk in a pan, mix in a pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg, and add to freshly brewed coffee for a Christmassy caffeine hit.  Or try this cinnamon and ginger infusion for an invigorating blast (great if you need a caffeine-free pick me up or home made cold remedy!) Simply add three good quality cinnamon sticks and about two or three 1/4 inch slices of ginger to a pan of two cups of water. Bring to the boil and then simmer for ten minutes (or until the infusion is a deep caramel colour). Pour through a fine sieve, and add honey to taste. 

If you're going to be drinking, steer clear of having too much cream based alcohol (easy does it on the Baileys) and go for clear spirits mixed with sparkling water.  And if you've over done it, make sure to up your protein intake the next day to re-stabilise your blood sugar levels and help your body recover. 

A mince pie or two isn't going to kill anyone, but by keeping it naughty and nice, your body will be thanking you post Christmas and you won't be losing the gains you've made this year. It's all in the balance! 


About the Author

Ben Ogden is a Health Editor, Blogger and Personal Trainer. When he is not doing any of the above, he's on his bike.