7 Ways to not cheat on your diet and still have an amazing Christmas

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Holidays can be a little fear-inducing for people on a strict diet. All that food, all that temptation… it’s so hard to resist, even when you know it’s bad for you or that it’ll make you feel totally crappy afterwards.

Last year, I prepared a full-on Christmas spread for friends, complete with a lot of food I couldn’t eat – and I managed not to cheat (lord alone knows how). This year, I’ve planned ahead and shouldn’t have trouble sticking to my diet again, even though we’ll be dining at someone else’s house.

From experience, here are my tips for avoiding the festive cheat (and its consequences).

1. Tell yourself that cheating isn’t an option. It’s taken me a good few years to GET THIS, but it’s actually not okay to cheat from time to time. Think about it: Have you ever strayed from your diet and felt okay afterwards? Probably not. More likely, you’ve been doubled over in pain, stuck in the loo or simply feeling yucky and remorseful. Why go through all that? It’s just food.

2. Tell everyone else that cheating isn’t an option. Your family probably knows you’re on a special diet, but just to cover all your bases, remind them that you can’t, under any circumstances, eat dairy/gluten/sugar, etc. It’s much harder (and super awkward) to cheat when you’ve been banging on about the evils of gluten to anyone who’ll listen.

3. Make sure there’s a lot of food you can eat. I’m not talking one or two side dishes added to the menu as an afterthought. I mean properly planned, carefully prepared foods that you’ll enjoy. If you’re eating at home, this is easy because you’re in charge of the menu. If you’re dining at someone else’s house, tell them (don’t ask) that you’ll be bringing a few dishes that you can eat. Make extra, because I guarantee people are going to want to try it.

4. Plan ahead. Always keep snacks on hand, because those dips and bowls of chips are going to start talking to you when lunch is delayed. Also, not being starving when you get to the table means you’re less likely to overindulge and eat foods you shouldn’t be eating.

5. Don’t think of it as a food fest. Most of us on a healing diet have come to realise that a special occasion isn’t a legitimate reason to binge (there’s never really a legitimate reason to binge). But the festive season is admittedly hard – I mean, everyone is eating, as opposed to on your birthday, when it’s only you gorging on chocolate cake and Tumbles and watching Spice World in your PJs while checking out the Mr Delivery menu (No? Just me?). Anyway, push through the urge to binge and think of it Christmas as an opportunity to spend time with your loved ones and enjoy each other’s company. I get that this is a challenge for some people, but even if your family drives you absolutely batshit crazy, don’t let it send you straight to the ice-cream tub (unless you’ve made your own ice-cream).

6. Have dessert. Speaking of ice-cream, one of the surest ways to feel like you’re missing out is by being forced to skip the dessert part of proceedings. It’s sad and depressing… and when everyone else is tucking in and being all like ‘OMG this is the BEST chocolate lava cake I’ve EVER eaten in my ENTIRE life’, you might just cave in and ruin all your good work. Bring your own or prepare something you can eat, but make sure there’s some kind of sweet treat you can enjoy. Pure Ella is a great place to find the most mouth-watering, healthy, all-natural recipes. Again, make extra, because everyone’s going to want a taste.

7. Stop feeling like you’re missing out. Stop rueing the fact that you can’t eat the bread pudding and start being grateful that you’re on a healthy, healing eating plan that treats your body right and ensures you eat only high quality, natural ingredients that make you feel great. That’s something to be ecstatic about! In fact, forcing yourself to think like this every day will make it a habit, and you’ll soon start to feel less hard done-by and more satisfied and happy in your choices.

If you have any other tips to share for sticking to your diet this festive season, please share them! We can all use all the help we can get 🙂

What to eat on a low-carb high-fat (LCHF) diet

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Transitioning into a low-carb, high-fat way of eating (also known as ‘Banting’) can be challenging: for many of us, carbs make up a substantial portion of our daily intake, and figuring out what to replace them with can be tricky and confusing. That’s why it helps to go into it with a plan – or more specifically, an eating plan – so that your attempts aren’t derailed before you’ve even started.

Here’s a list of things you should be eating on a LCHF diet, as well as some suggestions for each meal.

Eat a lot of: healthy fat. This includes avocados and avocado oil, coconut oil, olive oil, animal fat (choose organic, additive-free cuts of meat including chicken, beef and bacon), oily fish and fish oil.

Eat some: protein. You need to include fat and protein in every meal, but remember that LCHF is a HIGH fat, MEDIUM protein, LOW carb way of eating. Overdoing it on the protein can impede your weight-loss efforts and also result in nausea. Remember to include eggs too.

Eat few: carbs. Even on a low-carb diet, it’s still essential to include some carbs in your daily intake. Choose lower-carb fruits and veggies like leafy greens, salad greens, cauliflower, berries, melons, cherries, oranges, tomatoes and avocados. You want to exclude starchy vegetables (all of those that grow under the soil, as well as peas) and high-carb fruits like bananas, plantains and raisins.

What about dairy? The right kind of dairy is an important part of a LCHF diet. Choose hard cheeses, cream, butter, full-fat yoghurt and so forth. You want to avoid any ‘low-fat’ items, and opt instead for those with greater amounts of fat and fewer carbs/no added sugar. Learn to read food labels.

The food lists at Originaleating.org are extremely useful if you need a little guidance. View them here.

LCHF meal ideas

Breakfast
  • Boiled/scrambled eggs on seed toast
  • Avocado on grain-free bread
  • Bacon and eggs with sliced tomato and fresh basil
  • Poached eggs with ham and asparagus
  • Cheese and mushroom omelette
Lunch
  • Meat or egg salad drizzled with olive oil
  • Chicken breast with cream cheese and side salad
  • Cold meat roll-ups (slices of meat filled with cheddar and tomato and wrapped in lettuce)
  • Bacon, avocado and seed salad
  • Minute steak wraps made with chopped cucumber, tomato and cheese, all wrapped in lettuce
Supper
  • Chicken fried ‘rice’, substituting cauliflower for rice and adding your low-carb veggies of choice
  • Steak, veggies and slices of fresh avocado
  • Roast chicken breasts stuffed with feta and drizzled with olive oil, served with salad or vegetables
  • Pan-fried salmon with asparagus and cauliflower rice
  • Roast lamb chops with cauliflower mash and veggies
  • Shepherd’s pie with cauliflower mash
Snacks
  • Nuts (especially almonds, macadamias and walnuts – avoid peanuts as these aren’t actually nuts, but legumes)
  • Biltong
  • Eggs
  • Cheese
  • Mini meatballs (make ahead and keep in the fridge/freezer)
  • Leftover chicken breasts (always cook in bulk when you can)

Here are some more great meal ideas and recipes from Authority Nutrition. The list also includes dressings and sauces to spice up your meals.

Don’t start the eating plan without being fully prepared, or you could become frustrated, bored or under-nourished. Know what you’ll be eating and more importantly, where you’ll be buying your food, so that you’ll never be left hungry. Also, keep snacks in your car, handbag/briefcase, etc so that you never find yourself ravenous and resorting to shop-bought carbs to fill the void.

It’s easy once you’re in the swing of things and you’re bound to feel – and notice – a difference.

Pros and cons of a low carb high fat (LCHF) diet

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Tons of people are following a low carb, high fat (LCHF) lifestyle at the moment and raving about it – and I can see why. Having followed the diet myself for several weeks, I can tell you that I’m really happy on it – but, like every eating plan, it’s not for everyone. In my completely non-expert opinion, and in the spirit of experimentation, here are my top pros and cons.

 Pros

  • Quick initial weight loss. Within one week of starting the diet, I dropped 2kgs, with what felt like very little effort.
  • Never/seldom hungry. I’ve never lost weight this effectively without feeling ravenous all the time. I hardly ever feel hungry and I certainly don’t feel like I’m on diet.
  • You don’t eat ‘diet foods’. If you love meat, nuts, seeds, eggs and dairy, LCHF is perfect for you. No rice cakes or diet shakes or grapefruit.
  • It helps manage my IBD symptoms. It took a few weeks for my BMs to regulate, but from the start I had almost no digestive discomfort, and very little bloating. My belly seems to love LCHF.
  • No sugar cravings. Possibly one of the biggest benefits for me, a self-confessed sugar addict, is the fact that including more fat in my diet seems to have combatted my sugar cravings, and even reduced my taste for the stuff.
  • Feeling better. When I eat sugary and gluten-based foods, I often wake up the next day feeling groggy, ‘stuffy’ and just generally under the weather. Sometimes, if I really overindulge in these foods, I get terrible cramps and my body even feels sore to the touch. I always feel good and healthy when eating LCHF.
  • Easier food prep. Steak and salad is quicker and simpler to prepare than, say, a curry. Grabbing a handful of almonds is an easier snack than whipping up a smoothie. But this depends on what you like to cook and eat.

Cons

  • Expense. LCHF foods aren’t necessarily ‘cheap’ foods, especially now that this style of eating is so trendy. The price of meat, nuts and cheese all adds up – to a lot. You may find it balances out if you were previously buying lots of packaged or processed food, but then again, it might not.
  • Less butternut and banana. I had to cut out two of my staples, which made me sad. But pumpkin is fine, and once I combatted my sugar cravings (which only took a day or two), I didn’t miss bananas at all.
  • Limited choices. Particularly when it comes to snacking, it can be hard to find LCHF foods that aren’t pricy (nuts), unrealistic to eat on their own (a piece of meat or a block of cheese) or simply difficult to get on the run (have you ever tried to find a ready-to-eat, ripe avo at your local corner shop? Yup, exactly).
  • Very rich foods. High-fat foods can be very rich, and about three weeks into the diet, I became quite nauseated – a feeling that lasted a number of days. I’m not sure if it was too much fat or protein, or just being completely and utterly sick of eating eggs, but it wasn’t pleasant. Nothing really helped – I just had to wait for it to subside (which it did).
  • Lactose intolerance. If you’re lactose intolerant, like me, your options are even more limited. I have been including a bit of cheese in my diet as a test, and it seems mostly fine.
  • Snacking is HARD. I know I’ve covered this already, but it bears repeating. Every snack is supposed to include some fat and protein – this means that you shouldn’t really be snacking on fruit or yoghurt, especially if you’re trying to avoid fruit. I graze on biltong, nuts, grain-free toast and cheese, but again, these are not cheap snacks and they’re not easy to grab on the run.
  • Weight loss can plateau quickly. If you’re following the diet for weight-loss purposes, you might find your weight loss comes to an abrupt halt. This could be due to eating too much fat and protein – after all, it’s not a free-for-all. Nuts, butter, cream, etc are calorie bombs and even if they’re allowed on the diet, they’ll hinder your weight-loss efforts if you overindulge. Remember that it’s HIGH fat, MEDIUM protein and LOW carb.

So as you can see, there are benefits and drawbacks to LCHF eating – as there are to any other kind of diet. The only way to find out whether or not it’ll work for you is to try it. And if you have, please share your thoughts and experiences – I’d love to hear your feedback 🙂