Diet blog: dry December

Judith Wills / 13 December 2016

Our diet expert on why she gave up wine for December instead of January. Plus, a recipe for healthy chocolate brownies.



I’ve never liked the idea of dry January, so for some reason, I decided to do it starting on November 24th instead.  Well, it’s not like we live the high old life down here on the Welsh borders.  We don’t have a long list of pre-Christmas parties to go to, or boozy lunches, and I’ve been quite busy with work.

I say ‘for some reason’ because usually, whenever Husband suggests giving up the wine for a bit and/or cutting back on the nightly Bourbon tipple before bed, I baulk at the very thought.  I say, “Fine, you go ahead … think of all the money it will save us!” 

But when he mentioned it this time, it was a ‘yes’ from me.  Why, I am not sure except it’s a bit like when I gave up smoking, back at the age of 26, if I remember.  I just got fed up with being dominated by an inanimate object, threw away the pack of Consulate I held in my hand and never smoked again.  Willpower is a wonderful thing especially when it comes unexpectedly.

So – I’ve stuck to it.  I’ve done that by drinking non-alcoholic ginger beer in the early evening which does a fine job of getting rid of wine cravings.  It has to be a good brand, though, such as Bundaberg or Fever Tree both of which are rich with a proper ginger kick. 

Most ginger beers are, however, very high in sugar so you mustn’t have more than a glass or so, though Fever Tree does a light one which is very good, with half the sugar.  Then, it’s on to water, which I like anyway. 

I’ve surprised myself by how easy I have found it not to touch wine.  Only problem – I haven’t found it easy getting off to sleep since.  But you can’t have it all, I suppose.  And I know that increasing my levels of outdoor exercise would probably cure that anyway.  Will start that with the next blue-sky crisp clear day!

We finish dry December on the 24th, so I must take care not to drink too much over Christmas, as it will go straight to my head!  I think if I can hold out till then, though, I won’t be tempted to go back to my recent rather naughty ways.  Maybe just a drink at weekends is the way to go.

My other mission for the rest of December is to hold back when shopping for food.  Every single year, I panic we will run out of everything so I buy far too much, and then spend much of January eating it all myself, which is rather stupid.  This year we are hosting just a few friends for lunch, none of whom are huge eaters, so there is no excuse to overshop, really. 

My best tips for avoiding this temptation are:

  • Do online shopping which helps you be much more considered in what you order (also saves on the chore of dragging round the stores when they are packed, lugging everything to and from the car, etc etc.).
  • Never ever shop when you are hungry.  It is a proven fact that you will choose much more sugary, fatty food and treat-type foods if you are.
  • Do a list and stick to it. 
  • Choose a store where you know the layout well so you can go straight to the things you want without getting sidetracked.

 Anyway, have a great run-up to Christmas, allow yourself a treat or two and try to enjoy it!

See you straight after New Year when I will share with you my cheering news on the very simple ways to make 2017 your healthiest year yet!

Treat for Christmas

Can a brownie ever be healthy and delicious at the same time?  Yes, it can! 

I made these for my son, who is vegan but does love his chocolate and these are full of healthy ingredients with less sugar content than many other brownie recipes.  Best thing is, they are very easy, there is no cooking involved, and if you make double you can keep half for yourself …

Raw chocolate brownies

Pistachio and Almond Brownies

Makes 16

For the brownies:

  • 125 g/4½ oz almonds
  • 100g/3½ oz pistachio nuts
  • 2 tbsp raw cacao powder
  • 300 g/10½ oz Medjool or other soft dates
  • 1 tsp seeds from a vanilla pod
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 50 g/1¾ oz dark chocolate, chopped fairly fine

For the topping:

  • 3 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 4 tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • ½ tsp seeds from a vanilla pod
  • Approx 60 ml/2 fl oz almond milk (or ordinary milk for non-vegans)
  • 2 tbsp chopped pistachios

1.  Reserve 25g/1oz of the almonds and 20g/1/2 oz of the pistachios.  Pulse the remainder in a processor until you have fairly fine crumbs.  Add dates, vanilla and salt and pulse again to form a thick mixture.

2.  Transfer the mix to a bowl and stir in the reserved nuts and the chopped chocolate.  Press the mixture evenly into a 20cm/8 in square tin lined with baking parchment.

3.  To make the topping, blend the cacao powder, honey, coconut oil and vanilla seeds in a blender with enough of the milk to make a fairly thick sauce.  Pour this over the brownie, sprinkle over the chopped pistachio nuts and put in the fridge for an hour or until the top is set.  Cut into 16 squares to serve.  Store in the fridge.

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