Christmas can be a frenzy of feasting, not to mention a time filled with fear that the guests who arrive on your doorstep expecting to be fed are fussy eaters or have special dietary needs.
But there’s really no need to fret. We’ve asked the experts for tips to help you have a cool Yule and rock into the New Year in shape and ready for action.
If you are coeliac or have to cater for one this Christmas, don’t panic, says chef Gearóid Lynch, who was diagnosed with the condition in 2013.
His book, My Gluten-Free Kitchen, published earlier this year by Gill Books (€24.99), struck a chord and now courses on gluten-free cooking at his new cookery school, The Cookery Cottage in Cavan, are in big demand.
The key when catering for coeliacs, he says, is simple hygiene. “Make sure there is no cross-contamination. For example, think about what you are doing and make sure not to use the same spoon for the conventional stuffing and the gluten-free stuffing,” he says.
If there is a coeliac in the family, it makes sense to go entirely gluten-free, he says. “Just don’t label it as a gluten-free dinner as people will start to look for the faults if you have a label.”
The reality is that gluten-free products are now as full of flavour as those with gluten. Lynch says it can be almost impossible to tell the difference between a conventional Christmas pudding and one that is gluten-free.
“If you are making a chocolate brownie that is gluten-free, don’t label it as gluten-free, just say it as a great brownie.” As regards excess, he says less is often more and suggests we adopt the Italian approach and spend several hours over Christmas dinner, talking, celebrating and eating at leisure. That way, there’s more fun and less stomach ache.
Lorraine Ho, Director of Bootcamp Ireland and Mummy Bootcamp, jokes that her surname ‘Ho’ — her father is from Hong Kong — is rather seasonal so she’s all set for the holidays ahead. Here are her tips:
Try to eat something before you visit friends and family and start by saying “no thank you” when finger food is passed around. It’s amazing how quickly you can change your habits over the silly season by making just one small decision.
Arrange to meet up with family and friends for a walk in the mountains, or park, or by the sea. It’s always so refreshing to get out for a fresh blast of air. You’ll burn some calories, plus it keeps you away from the tin of chocolates.
Set yourself small goals each day of a 10-minute workout when you wake up. For example, 10 squats, 10 press-ups, 10 jump jacks, 30-second plank, 20 side planks on each side. Repeat each set three times.
Be sure to get plenty of sleep to recharge your batteries and drink plenty of water throughout your day.
Organise a get-together with friends to do a fun run, a cycle or a hike. You’ll stimulate the release of endorphins and serotonin to spark that festive good mood.
And so to the morning after. Don’t beat yourself up after a night out. Instead, follow Heather Leeson’s tips to soothe a hangover. There are no magical cures, the senior nutritionist with Glenville Nutrition Ireland says, but there are a few things that can help symptoms.
Take a B complex Vitamin or a good multivitamin. Vitamin C can also help to protect your liver after drinking alcohol. Try eating some fresh fruit.
Fatigue is often exacerbated by low blood sugar, so eat something. Try poached eggs, tomatoes and a wholegrain bagel or scrambled eggs and smoked salmon.
If eggs feel like a step too far, drink a smoothie to prop up blood-sugar levels and rehydrate. For a morning-after super smoothie, mix half a banana (a source of potassium and slow-releasing sugars); a handful of fresh pineapple (high in vitamin C and a natural anti-inflammatory); half an avocado (high in anti-inflammatory phytosterols); coconut water (helps hydration); a thumb-size piece of fresh ginger (helps quell nausea) and a handful of baby spinach (adds extra vitamin C and B vitamins). Blend until smooth.
Now, you’re ready for the next party.