Derval O’Rourke's tips for staying fit for Christmas

You don’t have to pile on the pounds over the festive season – Derval O’Rourke has some healthy alternatives

Derval O'Rourke and her daughter Dafne O'Leary and dog Berlino. Picture: Dan Linehan

Staying fit and healthy over Christmas may seem like an impossible task but trust me, it can be done. It’s important to realize that for the majority of us, it’s not Christmas day itself but the days that come before it and the leftover food and chocolate that come after it that are the issues.

Having a happy and healthy holiday season is not about deprivation, it’s about using a few simple tweaks to make better choices when we can and then enjoying the rest of it all.

Here are my top tips:

Plan ahead:

Simple things like stocking your freezer with home cooked meals so you don’t have to worry about cooking after a busy day, and writing a shopping list so you don’t end up filling the trolley with tins of sweets and biscuits can pay huge dividends.

Watch your portion sizes:

Fill your plate with veggies and lean protein first then simply be more mindful of things like gravy, roast potatoes and stuffing.

Don’t skip meals, especially breakfast:

Starting the day with a chocolate Santa may be tempting but it really isn’t ideal.

Instead, use breakfast as a chance to stock up on goodness.

It will also help to kick-start your metabolism, control hunger and stabilise blood sugar

Never arrive hungry:

Have a healthy snack before you go out to any Christmas party such as an apple and nut butter or carrot sticks and hummus to ensure your head does the party snack choosing and not your stomach.

Keep moving:

Try and stay active in the days surrounding Christmas, check out for tips and ideas. I love to get out for a nice long walk after my Christmas dinner as it helps to refresh you, aids digestion and boosts feel-good hormones.

Drink Sensibly:

Christmas to me is good quality time with my husband and toddler so while I will enjoy a few drinks, I will also keep in mind that its family time for all of us. My top tip would be to stay hydrated throughout the night by alternating every alcoholic drink with a glass of water and also to have a good meal before you go out.

Relax and reset:

Take time out to recover, you work hard all year around and don’t want to enter January wrecked.

Christmas can be stressful so be sure to set aside time to relax and do something that replenishes you, be it a long bath, a cup of coffee and a magazine, a walk or a meet up with friends.

And remember, Christmas comes around once a year so use it as a time to enjoy good food with great company and make lasting memories.

Don’t let your healthy lifestyle stop you from enjoying yourself!

Accept that you will be treating yourself a bit more; enjoy it and the next day just get back to your normal healthy habits. And please don’t be tempted by fad and detox diets come January. Be sensible. Aim for small, simple changes that you can sustain long-term.

Fitspiration: @ leah_pennyproductions

Leah has been doing a bit of video work for me this year. She is super fit and healthy, not to mention super talented and is always a pleasure to be around.

If anyone is looking to film some video content for a work project or needs a photographer for a wedding or any style of shoot then be sure to get in touch
with Leah.

Maple Roasted Sprouts with Toasted Hazelnuts 

Pictures: Miki Barlok

Sprouts may have a bad reputation but trust me when you find the right way to cook them they are actually incredibly delicious!

Here, I’ve roasted the sprouts which gives them a delicious crispy texture and adds extra flavour.

They are a very savoury vegetable though, which is why I like pairing them with a little sweetness from the maple syrup. The roasted hazelnuts add a great nutty crunch as well.

Prep time: 2 minutes Cook time: 45 minutes Serves: 4-6 as a side dish 700g Brussel sprouts, cut in half 2tbs olive oil ¾ tsp sea salt ¼ tsp black pepper 2 tbs maple syrup 70g toasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped Preheat oven to 200C.

In a large mixing bowl, toss the sprouts in the oil and season with salt and pepper. Place on a baking tray lined with tinfoil and place in the oven. After 15 minutes stir the Brussels sprouts to ensure even cooking. After 30 minutes add the maple syrup and stir again. Roast for a further 15 minutes (that’s 45 minutes total).

Remove from the oven and add the toasted hazelnuts.

Serve warm and enjoy!

Braised Red Cabbage with Apple 

This is lovely to eat around Christmas time as the side to a roast turkey feast. It would also be gorgeous served with roast chicken. Red cabbage is a great ingredient and with a little effort, it can be made into a special side. This is my go-to cabbage side.

Serves: 4 Prep time: 10 minutes Cook time: 30 minutes 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil 1 onion, finely chopped 1 tsp fennel seeds Pinch of salt 1 small head of red cabbage, finely chopped 2 apples, peeled, cored and chopped 60mls balsamic vinegar 50g walnuts, chopped 1 pomegranate, seeds only (optional) Heat the oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat and add the onion. Stir in the fennel seeds and a pinch of salt and cook for 1-2 minutes.

Add the cabbage, apples and vinegar and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring well.

Reduce the heat and cover. Cook on a low heat for about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Sprinkle with the walnuts and pomegranate seeds to serve.


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