Christmas is that magical time of year when most people are just that bit happier. Twinkling lights are draped over everything possible and lush Christmas trees grace every shop window and living room corner. My daughter, Rachel is almost three years old and is beginning to understand what Christmas is all about. It has been so lovely watching her reactions to all the decorations this year. Every time she sees Christmas lights or a lit up tree, she shouts, 'Mom, there's Christmas!'. I think everyone has a slightly different view on what Christmas is all about depending on their upbringing, but the spirit of Christmas is a common thing we all understand.
What Is Christmas All About To Me?
I grew up in South Africa where Christmas is synonymous with summer! So for me, Christmas is all about warm balmy nights and lazing by the pool, eating watermelon. We would usually all gather at my grandparents' house on Christmas Eve and eat a fancy meal followed by dessert and present opening time. We opened most of our gifts on Christmas eve rather than the next morning. It just seemed more fun and magical. The next day, we attended a Christmas service and then everyone would come over to our house for another huge but more more relaxed meal. I loved being with my family and friends on Christmas Day. We would eat until our tummies were so full we couldn't move. Then we would swim and relax in the sun to our hearts content all the while talking and laughing and having the best time ever! Things have changed slightly since then, especially now that we live in freezing London. It is still magical, in a different way.
Last year was the first time we got a real Christmas tree. It was absolutely beautiful and perfectly shaped. Once we had decorated and lit it up, it brought such warmth and excitement into our household. There was just a lovely peace in our home.
We decided not to get one this year for the simple fact that it would be torn to bits by Jordan, my one year old son. I didn't feel that I needed the stress of telling him to stop touching it every five minutes! So we will have to settle for fairy lights and decorations without the tree this year.
Besides the gifts, decorations and gorgeous lights, for me, Christmas is about connecting with people. It's about enjoying time with close friends and family and having fun together. However, it's also about connecting with perfect strangers, wishing each other Merry Christmas or doing something small for them that will make their day. I hope to connect with you this Christmas as we share stories, recipes and celebrate the joy of living.
Food At Christmas
I used to get a sinking, sad feeling when I thought about all the yummy food I would be missing out on at Christmas time. I used to really enjoy the Christmas meal with all the meat, gravy and good old fatty roast potatoes. Not to mention the pavlova, Christmas pudding and all the chocolates that are in such plentiful supply. I do, however, remember the bloated and unhealthy feeling that pervaded my body after a few days of indulgent feasting. I used to get to the point where I would just start craving fruit and vegetables. It's amazing how your body is actually not built to handle all that rich food for too long.
I no longer feel depressed about what I may be missing out on. Instead, I feel relieved that I will not be eating food that will make me feel unhealthy. I'm excited because I get to try out new and delicious recipes!
You are also probably thinking to yourself, how am I going to get through this holiday season without eating food that I shouldn't? Well, I have put together a special MS Diet Christmas meal for you, complete with eggnog, mulled apple juice and dairy free ice cream.
MS Christmas Recipes
These are just a few easy recipes to give you some ideas on how you can also feast on food that won't leave you with worse MS symptoms. To see the full recipes for each item mentioned below, just click the heading or the recipe image. You can see all the recent recipes on the site as well.
Christmas Drinks Ideas
It is best to stay alcohol free at Christmas time which is difficult especially with all the wine and Champagne on offer. Some people with MS report that their symptoms, especially imbalance, brain fog and lack of coordination, temporarily worsen after even one drink. Alcohol is also a known toxin that can have a negative effect on the delicate homeostasis that our bodies are constantly trying to achieve (see post on healing). For this reason, I have come up with a few very Christmasy but alcohol free alternatives.
This spicy hot apple drink is most definitely Christmas in a mug! It is comforting, soothing and best of all, alcohol free. We know that apple juice is rich in antioxidants and is great for strengthening your immune system. Cinnamon, another dominant flavour, is rich in calcium and has a mild anti inflammatory effect on the body. This is a quick, great tasting alternative to "gluhwine", or other cocktails. See the full recipe.
This recipe is an absolute must if you enjoy regular eggnog at Christmas time. Dairy-free, egg-free, gluten-free and sugar-free, this mixture is 100% MS diet legal. It contains delicious and heathy ingredients that will fill your stomach and heart with Christmas cheer. The avocado and coconut milk contain healthy fats that will keep your cholesterol levels low and your nerves firing smoothly. Nutmeg, is another magic ingredient which is helps to ease fatigue, stress and even alleviate symptoms of depression. It is also known to improve concentration and focus - great for the stressful and tiring holiday season! See the full recipe.
It's Christmas Day and you are sitting around with all your favourite people. Suddenly, a bowl of your favourite crisps makes its way around to you. They stare at you, calling out in unison 'You know you want me!'. What do you do?
- You politely say no thanks but when you think no one is looking you take a few and gobble them quickly.
- You take a few, justifying your actions by saying to yourself that it is Christmas after all!
- You say no because you know how they will make you feel and then you dig into your own healthy but tasty alternative.
I would hope that everyone's answer was C! I think that it's often the snacks that catch us out. We can be super disciplined with the main meals but then snack on the things we shouldn't because they are just lying around, calling our name! We also get offered them twenty times, especially at a Christmas gathering. They can often be incredibly difficult to resist. However, you are prepared and have some healthy alternatives available, there is less of a chance that you will fall into the snack trap.
This is a delicious and healthy snack that will help you stay away from other snacks that are not part of the MS Diet. Popcorn is usually popped using oil in a saucepan, however, oil is no longer healthy for you once it has been heated to such high levels. Your body cannot absorb it effectively and you end up feeling bloated with cramps and wind as a result. A much healthier alternative is using a popcorn machine which uses hot air to pop the kernals. You can buy relatively inexpensive machines that will give you the desired result. I am so happy with my machine and my kids love it!... see the full recipe. See the full recipe.
Most people would argue that Christmas isn't Christmas without nuts to snack on. They are the quintessential Christmas snack! They are a brilliant source of protein, omega oils and a host of other nutrients. This recipe involves soaking and then dehydrating, which allows the nuts to still retain their raw state. See the full recipe.
I love starters because you can basically do any light meal and call it an entrée. Delicate little salads are actually my favourite. They are versatile, easy to prepare and the raw ingredients prepare your stomach for the onslaught of the main meal. Another cherished starter is a hearty vegetable soup. This goes down famously, especially when it is cold outside. It also a nice way to ease yourself into the Christmas meal. I would, however, recommend laying off the bread and crackers (even if they are gluten free) so that you can enjoy the man meal without already feeling like you have had enough!
This soup is a hearty way to start the Christmas meal! Along with garlic, leeks have an anti-inflammatory effect on the body and add a punch of flavour to this soup. Coconut milk is also a yummy addition that will give this soup a creamy texture and flavour. Your guests will be asking for more of the scrumptious soup. See the full recipe.
Main Meal Ideas
I'm pretty sure that all of you ladies have sourced the biggest and best Turkey you can lay your hands on! Lamb, beef and gammon probably also feature on your Christmas meal menu. It is a bit tough that most of us will be preparing the meal and then not actually eating the fruit of our hard labour. Although, these meats are delicious they contain saturated fat, a definite MS Diet no no. The animal protein overdose is also not advisable. A study called 'The China Study' has advocated that consumption of high levels of animal protein is the biggest reason why we have such high rates of disease in the Western World. Salmon is a wonderful alternative to the usual meat dishes. One great thing about the Christmas meal is that there are, traditionally, loads of vegetable and starch meals that, if prepared in the right way, are perfect for our MS Diet requirements.
Salmon is always such a treat and is a delicious protein alternative for people following the MS Diet. This is a clean and tasty meal, rich in Omega 3 fatty acids. You will not feel left out of the Christmas meal when eating this dish. This is what I'll be eating Christmas day. Yum!
In this recipe it is being stuffed with garlic and ginger which are both known for their anti-inflammatory benefits. The cranberry sauce adds a touch of sweetness, not to mention some antioxidants! See the full recipe.
The cauliflower and broccoli combo is a regular in most Christmas meals. This is one and the same, but with a MS Diet twist! The usual cheese sauce accompaniment, although rather nice, is full of dairy and gluten! But do not be dismayed, this recipe dishes out creamy cashew sauce that is just as tasty, if not more delicious!
Raw cashew nuts are known for their rich nutrient content. They are packed with antioxidants and omega 6 essential fats. Cashews are also a rich source of vitamin K, magnesium and zinc. As for broccoli and cauliflower, these veggies are so super healthy for you, containing a host of nutrients. They contain large amounts of sulphur which is an essential mineral that aids the function of neurotransmitters, helps with detoxification and allows the mitochondria of the cells to function more effectively. Wow, a nutrient power punch... without the dairy! See the full recipe.
This is a nutrient-packed, filling and exceptionally tasty side dish that will complement your Christmas meal. Butternut squash is a brightly coloured vegetable and contains many of those vital little antioxidants, it is rich in vitamin A and B complex vitamins. Brown rice is an excellent source of roughage and has a low glycemic index rating, keeping your blood sugar levels nice and stable. Quinoa has come to be known as a super food and is the only plant that is a complete protein. It contains all nine essential amino acids that are required by the body as building blocks for muscles, and is rich in Magnesium and B vitamins which are essential for a healthy immune system, which is the target of a good MS diet. See the full recipe.
I have a sweet tooth so I think that dessert is my favourite part of the Christmas meal. Some of my old favourites include Pavlova, chocolate mousse, trifle and malva pudding. Unfortunately, all of these contain high levels of sugar, dairy and gluten. I can feel the sugar whizzing through my body after I have overindulged (as one does at Christmas) on these treats. I start to feel tired and often a bit grumpy. Sugar is devoid of any nutrients and so the body cannot digest and utilise it properly. It drains and leaches the body of precious vitamins and minerals through the demand of its digestion. It has been implicated in leaky gut syndrome and the break down of the blood brain barrier. For these persuasive reasons, it is essential that people with MS stay as far away from refined sugar as possible. Luckily for us, there are many much nicer alternatives.
I'm sure you are just as excited to see ice cream on the menu! A delicious alternative to dairy ice cream, this recipe will allow you to enjoy something sweet to eat when everyone else is munching down on their favourite Christmas pudding. When I'm eating it, I honestly feel like I'm enjoying the real thing! The coconut milk/cream is what makes this recipe special.
Adding a juicy antioxidant red fruit salad to the ice cream is a great opportunity to combine all your favourite fruits and savour their delicious flavours. Fruit has been referred to by many as the most perfect food and raw fruit gives the body exactly what it needs to function at its best. Fruit has a stabilising effect on blood sugar levels and are plentiful in antioxidants (these are the secret agents that fly around our bodies neutralising the free radical badies and are very important in stopping the development of disease). There are so many amazing fruits that you can combine to create the perfect pudding, so choose your favourite and adjust the recipe to suite you! The fruits I have chosen are all purple and pink in colour and blend nicely together. See the full recipe.
Digesting It All
Everyone should be able to enjoy this time of year. Don't give in to the temporary pleasure of filling your mouth with food that is bad for your body, and more importantly, bad for your MS. You can still have a good time and keep things aligned to the MS diet. It may mean a little extra effort, some creativity or a bit more will power, but we are all in this together. Think about all the other ladies facing this same challenge with you over this period. Stand firm and you will be very glad you did. Prepare for temptation, because its on its way. We are running a longer race here, and can't let a couple of days of indulging trip us up.
What are your plans for your Christmas meal? I would love to hear all about it - please comment below!
Have a wonderful Christmas and a healthy holiday! I'll be thinking of you all when I sit down to eat with my family.
(Photo attribution1 attribution2)