Eat & Move: Top tips for making the most of Christmas... and those turkey leftovers

Christmas is a magical time but it can also bring on stress and throw you into situations you don’t normally find yourself; this week I’m sharing my top Christmas wellbeing tips. Recipe wise, it’s my best ways to use your turkey leftovers for a few days time.

Pictures: Leah Barbour

For many, the festive period can bring on heightened feelings of stress and anxiety, whether it’s the pressure to buy the perfect present combined with the financial burden of that, pressure to be the perfect parent with Santa soon to arrive or worries about Christmas Day itself. Here are my top tips for minding yourself and making the most of the festive period:

1) Aim for ‘good enough’ not perfect

Letting go of the belief that Christmas has to be perfect is the number one thing you can do to help relieve some of the stress you may be feeling. Remember perfection is an illusion, especially at Christmas time. Forget about the ‘perfect’ Christmas gift; tree or dinner — instead allow Christmas to unfold in all its messy, imperfect glory and embrace every minute of it. I’m hosting Christmas dinner this year and everybody attending has a job. This takes away a lot of the stress for me.

2) Forget food guilt

Try to take a step back and remember that nutrition is just one part of what makes us healthy. Be mindful with your food consumption and try to focus on enjoying the experience of spending time over a big celebratory dinner. It can be helpful to un-follow anyone on social media who makes you feel bad about what you are eating. Christmas is just a period of time like any other time of the year. Go for balance, don’t go crazy but don’t deprive yourself.

3) Comparison is the thief of joy

Comparing ourselves and our situations with other people can have a big, and often negative, effect on how we feel. Nobody’s life is perfect and social media and advertising is a highly filtered version of the very best way people want to be presented. A scroll through social media might make you feel like your Christmas is fairly dull in comparison but you’re not being fair to yourself by doing this. Consider all the things you are grateful for this Christmas and how you are going into the new year with high hopes.

4) Learn to say NO:

I have to constantly remind myself that I don’t have to say yes to everything. For some reason, Christmas can be a really hard time to say ‘no’. It’s ok to make a choice that is the best choice for you during Christmas, just be firm and polite when you are expressing it. It’s easy to fall into the trap of trying to please everyone. Now that my daughter is three years old, I prioritise family time at Christmas. Remembering what is the best experience for our family unit is really helpful for me when saying no.

5) Make a to do list:

If it’s good enough for Santa it’s good enough for me! Write down all the things you have to do to prepare for the holiday season, things like the Christmas food shop, letters you need to post, gifts you need to pick up or appointments you have to make and tick them off as you go. In the morning I will write myself a short to do list with the top three things I need to get done that day, anything else is a bonus.

I love to use a paper diary but you could also use the notes app on your phone for this.

6) Prep in advance

You’d be surprised how much of the Christmas lunch you can make ahead of time. You can cook your ham, prepare your vegetables, make your sauces and even cook some of your side dishes. Make your life as stress-free as possible when it comes to the Christmas dinner.

7) Obligations

Christmas can be a time that you end up seeing people that you don’t normally spend time with or doing something due to tradition. Firstly ask yourself ‘do I really need to be in this situation?’ The key for me is to make conscious decisions on my plans and activities. I don’t do things because we’ve just always done them. If you have an underlying conflict with someone Christmas is not the time to sort that out, don’t put pressure on yourself to have perfect relationships with people just because it’s Christmas. Focus on yourself and what is enjoyable to you.

8) Sleep

This may seem like a strange one but getting enough sleep is a vital part of staying healthy and well over the holiday season. Despite many of us having time off work, sleep often takes a back seat between catching up with old friends, late night shopping trips and Christmas office parties. The advice is to try and stick to a regular sleeping pattern and aim for 7-9 hours each night. Personally, I try to limit caffeine after lunchtime and aim to have my laptop off and phone on aeroplane mode by 9pm.

9) Catch up over coffee instead of pints

Although we have a tendency in Ireland to catch up over ‘Christmas pints’, this doesn’t mean you need to have every interaction with booze involved. When consumed in excess, alcohol can cause depression, anxiety, insomnia and can intensify negative emotions. There is nothing wrong with a drink or two but know your limits - it’s important to maintain your personal wellbeing and not fall into a period of excessive alcohol consumption over Christmas.

10) Don’t be a slave to your fitness routine

During the festive period, it’s normal for your fitness routine to change. Just remember that it’s not going to affect your progress long-term, but that stressing about it could ruin your Christmas. In fact, it could be just what your body was craving. One tip I find helpful is to replace the word exercise with movement and suddenly you will see there are still plenty of opportunities to ‘move’. Think of catching up with friends for a walk, ice skating with friends, running around the shops buying last minute presents. It all adds up to moving and being active.

Finally, I know it can be hard to admit at such an exciting time of year, but if you are feeling overly stressed or even a little bit down please speak to someone you trust. There is real truth in the saying ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’. Talking about your feelings can do wonders for your headspace and ensure you have the best Christmas possible.



Dr Sarah Vohra is a mum, child psychiatrist and author. Her mission is to empower people to spot the early signs of mental illness in themselves or others and to give them the confidence to take action and seek support sooner. Her Instagram feed is packed with practical tips that can be used to help tackle mental health issues at home, in schools or in the workplace.

Spicy Turkey Noodles

This is a great way to use up your turkey leftovers. It’s simple to prepare and packed with goodness which is just what you need after the Christmas festivities.

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 15 minutes

Serves: 4

Nutritional information:

Protein – 44g

Fat – 13g

Carbohydrate – 40g

Calories - 457

2 packets of ready to wok noodles

1 tbsp soy sauce

2 limes, juiced

2 tsp honey

2 tbsp olive oil

1 garlic clove, crushed

1 red chilli, seeds removed and thinly sliced

2 spring onions, thinly sliced

1 carrot, peeled and thinly sliced

½ a head of broccoli, cut into florets

1 red pepper, deseeded and thinly sliced

500g cooked turkey, roughly chopped

30g peanuts, roughly chopped

Handful fresh coriander leaves, roughly chopped

Lime wedges, to serve

In a small bowl mix the soy, lime juice and honey together.

Heat the oil in a wok over a medium heat, add the garlic and chilli and fry for 1-2 minutes. Add the carrot, red pepper and broccoli and fry for 2-3 minutes or until lightly cooked. Tip in the noodles and the cooked turkey and fry for 1-2 minutes until the noodles are cooked and the turkey is piping hot. Pour the sauce into the pan and toss everything together well, working quickly to coat all the vegetables and noodles.

Once everything is heated through, season, and tip into bowls.

Scatter over the nuts and coriander, and serve with lime wedges for squeezing over.

Leftover Turkey Tagine

This recipe will again work a treat with turkey leftovers. Its flavours will make a nice change to Christmas dinner.

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 55 minutes

Serves: 4-6

Nutritional Information (without couscous and Greek yoghurt):

Protein –20g

Fat – 7.5g

Carbohydrate – 29g

Calories - 262

1 tbsp olive oil

2 onions, thickly sliced

3 carrots, thickly sliced on the diagonal

3 parsnips, thickly sliced on the diagonal

5 garlic cloves, crushed

Thumb-sized piece of ginger, grated

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp coriander

1 tsp turmeric

500ml turkey or chicken stock

400g can chopped tomatoes

Handful of sultanas

300g leftover turkey, cut into chunks

2 tbsp of honey

2 tbsp ground almonds

Handful of coriander, roughly chopped

Handful of flaked almonds

To serve:


Greek yoghurt

Mix the spices, ground almonds, honey, sultanas and tomatoes in a large bowl and set aside.

Heat the oil in a casserole pot and cook the onions, garlic and ginger for 5 minutes, until softened.

Add the carrots and parsnips, and cook for 8 minutes until starting to soften and colour a little.

Stir in the spices, ground almonds, honey, sultanas and tomatoes. Season, bring to a simmer and cook for 25-30 minutes until the vegetables are tender. Add the turkey and simmer for 5 minutes to warm through.

Ladle the cooked tagine into warmed serving bowls. Sprinkle over the coriander and almonds. Serve with couscous and Greek yoghurt.

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