Healthy tips to feel balanced in the christmas season
Fizz in the fridge door. Chocolate orange segments beckoning. The smell of baking from the kitchen. The endless cheese boards. Cosy sofas and Christmas films. Festive drinks and full calendars.
Christmas for many is the most wonderful time of year, and yet it can also be booze-filled, over-indulgent, sloth-like and yet frankly exhausting too. Driving home for Christmas, office parties, friendmas drinks, ticking off the present list, finding the perfect New Years outfit and tackling the kids' nativity play costume. It’s no wonder that most people find it tricky to keep their wellness habits ticking over too!
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Here’s our top tips to stay balanced and enjoy the festive season.
Far too often people completely write off any thought of balance for the whole of December but then spend much of the time feeling guilty for indulging or find themselves in poor health come January. However, studies have shown that striking a good balance between the occasional indulgence and foods which benefit our health is very important for our wellbeing.
Practising mindful nutrition can be a great method to use. First of all, grant yourself permission. Studies show when it comes to indulgent food, anticipated guilt before we’ve even eaten it considerably dampens the pleasure we get out of it. As well as nutrition, food is also a source of joy and connection. Try to stay present whilst you eat to promote slower, more intentional eating and chewing, optimising your digestion and helping you to recognise when you feel full. Take time to savour each mouthful, rid yourself of guilt and maximise the benefits that enjoyment brings to your wellbeing.
Variety is the spice of a healthy life. Avoid skipping certain foods on offer to keep portions down and instead try a mini serving of everything you fancy. Not only is this great for our microbiome, which loves variety but studies show the more varied your plate, the more satisfied you feel.
Thankfully, there's also an abundance of Christmassy foods which also pack in nutritional wins!
Cranberries are rich in polyphenols which some studies find may help improve your memory (perfect for those after-dinner games) and protect against dementia. Tumble these ruby coloured berries into your salads, stir them into a wintery porridge or serve them with cheese.
Sprouts. Love them or hate them (if you hate them we challenge you to roast them… game changer) Brussel sprouts are a great source of vitamin C and folate. They’re also a cruciferous vegetable, which are known for giving our liver a helping hand to detox. Very helpful for some of us!
Chestnuts are a fabulous source of fibre and contain a number of protective antioxidants, including vitamin C, lutein and zeaxanthin, plus plant polyphenols which can protect cells from damage. A perfect pairing for those sprouts too.
You’ve probably guessed that turkey is a great source of protein and it’s also high in tryptophan, as well as a source of B vitamins (vitamins B6 and B12) which all help to support a healthy immune system and sleep.
Top tip: Get into the habit of always ordering a side of green veggies with your roast dinners or fruit alongside your puddings to keep up your plant count. Your gut microbes will thank you for it.
Finding time to workout is tricky even when we’re bossing our week, let alone when your calendar is full and life feels as busy as ever. The good news is you don’t have to put in hours at the gym to stay healthy. A new study shows how often we exercise is as important as how much of it we do. Participants performing few but regular bicep exercises gained more strength than those doing long workouts less frequently. So, if you’re short on time, go for small bite size exercises. Think holding a wall squat whilst the kettle boils or perform a few press ups whilst the dinner is in the oven.
Taking a gentle walk after a meal can also help curb that post-meal sluggishness. By moving your body within 90 minutes of the end of your meal, you avoid a blood glucose crash that causes lethargy and contributes to longer term health issues.
It’s Party Time
Christmas parties are a great time to let loose, celebrate with friends and family and enjoy delicious food & drinks. However, like anything – too much of a ‘good’ thing can knock us out of balance – late nights, rich foods and too much booze for a whole month can leave us with low mood, feeling tired, run down and further away from our health goals than ever.
Now, there’s no need to avoid the parties altogether. Socialising brings many happy benefits – so here’s our top tips to help keep your body glowing when the cocktails come a’calling!
If you’re heading straight from work to Christmas drinks, be prepared before. Eat a nutritious breakfast and lunch, packed full with vegetables and some healthy fats and protein. Opt for healthy snack e.g. oat cake and hummus or apple & nut butter, before you go and meet your friends. You are more likely to make healthier choices or enjoy your food more leisurely than if you’re super hungry.
If you are opting to drink alcohol on a night out, match each alcoholic drink with a glass of water. It helps you to pace yourself, as many people who drink their glasses too quickly simply do so because they are thirsty – enjoy and savour your drinks.
Staying hydrated in the winter months is vital to keeping your health tip top. Not only does it ensure your immune system is able to work optimally (your mucus membranes need hydration and they are one of the first lines of defence) but if you are drinking alcohol, you need to step up your hydration game as it causes your body to remove fluids from your blood through your renal system, which includes the kidneys and bladder, at a much quicker rate than other liquids, leaving you with the effects of dehydration.
Sleep is your friend
Drinking alcohol and changing bedtimes plays havoc with sleep cycles. Sleep restores, repairs and rejuvenates all of your body systems. Just as you’re planning your nights out, plan your nights in too. Try to take at least 3 consecutive days off drinking and relish in the joy of missing out.
Take full advantage of your days off to have a pamper. Pop on a Christmas movie, snuggle up in your PJs on the sofa with a cacao and collagen. Try yoga or mediation before bed, use calming essential oils like lavender and vetiver and read a good book. Wholesome practices like this contrast with party vibes and you can find joys in the ordinary.
Hungover? Aim for a protein breakfast with some greens – such as an egg-based breakfast with a green collagen smoothie. Your liver is in need of protein to function optimally and the green vegetables in the smoothie contain much needed B vitamins and minerals you may be lacking due to all the booze which depletes us of essential nutrients. Whilst a greasy pizza may be tempting, it’s extremely difficult to digest and your liver struggles with melted cheese and fried fatty foods – extending your hangover for longer!
Creatures of habit
Sticking to our healthy habits during the festive season can be difficult and bring about anxiety and feelings of failure if you can’t keep all the plates spinning. This often leads to the sabotage moment… “I’ll start again in the new year”. Rather than waiting for the new year, your body will thank you if you can keep a couple of your healthy habits going. Relax – take the pressure off, you are allowed to enjoy yourself – but try to hold onto at least 3 non-negotiables. Cheat days (or cheat months) can be incredibly detrimental to our relationship with food. The binge/restrict cycle is confusing for the body but also sends backwards messages to how you view food.
Non-negotiables in the festive season can be more relaxed than the rest of the year, but the key is consistency. Here’s some ideas for non negotiables to try yourself (pick 3 and do them consistently throughout December);
- Drink 2L of water a day
- Add collagen to your morning or evening drink
- Whatever you eat – eat it mindfully, slowly and taste every flavour
- Remember to take your daily supplements
- Enjoy a nourishing breakfast (including fresh veg, fruit & protein) every day
- Get outside during daylight hours for 20 minutes
- Move your body for a little bit every day (3 x 10 minutes across the day) e.g. take the stairs, park the car 10 mins away and walk, stretch & stand in between meetings.
- Meditate for 10 mins daily
- Have vegetables at each meal
- 8 hours sleep as often as you possibly can
- Limit screen time 2 hrs before bed
- Take healthy snacks with you so you’re prepared