chicken breast with cranberry

How to eat healthily this festive season

As much as I enjoy this time of year it can be a little fraught when trying to maintain any chosen eating plan. As a coeliac I obviously have a gluten-free diet but on top of that I like to eat a certain way (not too many carbs, but plenty of lean protein and vegetables for example) and whilst it is good to indulge a little, relying on other people to cater for me can be problematic. But whether you are coeliac, vegan, nut-free for example (or all three), the office party or a festive meal with family can cause anxiety.

Added to this there seems to be so much more to do in the run up to Christmas, what with finishing up work before the break as well as catching up with friends. Managing energy levels can be a problem too with so many commitments, but you can help keep energy levels consistent by taking advantage of how the human body digests different food groups for use as fuel to make glucose.

The digestive system is able to break down simple carbohydrates (such as white bread, pasta, rice or sugars) relatively easily but the denser, more fibrous complex carbohydrates (brown rice, whole grains, whole fruit rather than juice for example) take a little longer. Protein and fats take longer still. Having small meals and snacks at regular intervals during the day as well as always combining protein with complex carbs every time means that glucose is created in a drip-drip way rather than as a rush of energy, which can leave you fatigued and hungry within the hour.

In simple terms, that might mean a bowl of porridge with some added nuts for protein and a little fat for breakfast, hummus on a cracker mid morning and lentil soup for lunch. A vegan burger would be ideal in the evening along with plenty of vegetables and some quinoa, but any protein will do, be that tofu, beans or Quorn. This way of eating is quite sustainable even in the festive season as any complex carb or protein works and so you should be able to find something to eat even if someone else is in charge of the catering.

Smart supplementation could also be useful – you might consider a multi-vitamin and mineral that contains chromium which helps maintain blood glucose levels (which combines well with the way of eating described above). You might also take a B12, beetroot and iron complex containing iron, vitamins B2, B6, B12 and C all of which help combat fatigue.

Leave room for treats and plenty of fun too. In my case nothing hits the spot like mince pies, by far my favourite festive food and worth waiting all year for.