[[UPDATE]] Confused about 'yeast free' and my views? Read this first.
"Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat...."
Okay okay, in reality it's been coming for a blinkin' age: the John Lewis Christmas TV advert and the Oxford Street Christmas lights have been on since early November so there's really no getting away from it. Parties are packing your diary, panic Christmas shopping has commenced and visits to the rellies are taking over your life.
So how the hell are you going to survive the festive period sticking to a yeast free diet?!
I know I'm already starting to worry; the 'season to be jolly' is laced with sugar, alcohol, stodgy desserts and hours of sitting on the sofa being handed boxes of chocolates!
Here are my top tips which I'll also be trying to follow, to feel happy and healthy at this time of year:
1. Get your host on-side
If you are off to a party and can bear it, tell your host about your intolerance. They can make you some dishes you can eat so you don't look like the odd one out; no-one wants to be eating carrot sticks on their own at a party.
Sharing a list is much easier than typing it out in a text message: "Oh and chorizo!" "I forgot blue cheese, none of that please." "Crap, did I mention no soy sauce?!" Then your host can think ahead and make something yeast free friendly, if they like you enough...
When it's not your friends or colleagues, and like me you're cringing at the idea of being the pain in the a^*, it's easier to tell people you're avoiding dairy and gluten, diets that are more 'mainstream' and have a wider understanding. Saying you'd prefer vegetarian or vegan options would also give you a 95% chance of eliminating candida growing ingredients - no milk or cheese and no processed meats.
2. Know your yeast free options
If your lovely aunt / dad / granny / cousin just keeps offering you the usual Christmas favourites even though you've tried to explain a hundred times, then there's going to be a whole host of tempting treats in front of you.
Here are some 'simple swaps' for Christmas favourites that will help keep the bloating at bay:
Gin cocktail vs. prosecco
Gin and vodka are distilled, not fermented alcohols. So they are much better on a yeast free diet. Even though booze is still sugar (boo), they're my go-to drinks at the bar and parties. Mainly because I am useless at going tee-total.
Bring the ingredients for a gin cocktail with you to a party and then you'll know you're covered. A house party that is; don't look like a crazy person getting gin out of your bag at a public bar...
Piles of veg vs. pigs in blankets
Christmas dinner with all the trimmings has got some things to avoid and the easy swap for me will be filling that sausage shaped hole on my plate with loads more vegetables. Brussels sprouts, carrots, parsnips, whatever's going, tonnes better for you than bacon and processed sausage meat. And lower in calories too.
Homemade truffles vs. Quality Streets
Be prepared. You're going to want something sweet to snack on whilst the chocolate boxes and gingerbread is being passed around. Spend a couple of hours one weekend making a job-lot of homemade truffles or bliss balls in your favourite flavours. Stash in the freezer and then they'll be there to turn to in your hour of need in front of A Muppet's Christmas Carol! Try my acai bliss balls, or these amazing festive hazelnut truffles from Ruth at Nutritiously Naughty.
Hard cheese vs. soft or blue
So the cheese board is sat there in front of you. As if you needed any more food after everything else! If you're going to partake, choose the hard cheese and those made from goats and sheeps milk where you can. These are much better on a yeast free diet than soft and particularly blue cheese, teaming with mould.
3. Stock up on your favourite probiotic - or get started on one!
A really good quality probiotic is going to save you this Christmas, so if you haven't already started taking one on a regular basis, now is an excellent time to start. You might be short on pennies after all that Christmas shopping, but spending on a probiotic that's packed with good bacteria to help your gut cope with all the different food you'll be eating is a must. There's an advice page on choosing a probiotic on thecandidadiet.com page here.
4. Schedule in some exercise
Okay so exercising over the holidays might sound like your idea of hell. But, given you are more than likely to have given in to a sweet treat or a glass too many of wine, prompting a horrible bout of bloating or other nastiness, I'd say the quickest solution is to get on your feet.
Book a gym class in advance or if that feels excessive indulge in a good long walk; anything to get you moving will help you feel heaps better. Did you know the Christmas Day walk was actually made compulsory by a law created by Edward VI in 1551?! I am such a massive history geek! Technically the law says you have to walk to a Christian church to comply, but still, it's a good excuse to get out of the house. Tell your folks the police will come round otherwise.
5. Go easy on yourself
I think this is an obvious one and sometimes I get annoyed reading other people saying it to me. But we can all set ourselves unrealistic ideals of how we're going to cope with the holidays - "I'll exercise for an hour every day to balance out all the food," "I'll not have anything sweet." Seriously. It's Christmas.
Every day you can start fresh. Swig down that probiotic in the morning, have some hot water with lemon (aids digestion amongst other brilliant benefits) and begin again with renewed commitment.
Remember how you felt the day before when you got uncomfortable and bloated - write down some descriptions in a note on your phone if you forget easily like me when staring at the cheese plate!
Good luck! And let me know how you get on. What are your top tips for the party season? Watch out for my rescue Christmas recipe coming out on Boxing Day, to help you get through the rest of the hols.