It’s that time again!
With the heavy boozing, plates of mince pies that never seem to end, and the stress of pulling everything together, Christmas can be a challenging time for those who care about their health. But it doesn’t have to be such a disaster, here I share my top ten tips to help you enjoy Christmas without doing too much damage to your waistline or your wellbeing..
1. Get moving
Keeping a routine of exercise throughout the Christmas season is so crucial to not feeling heavy and lethargic. Exercise boosts your immune system, lifts your mood, burns off the extra calories consumed, and revs up your natural appetite.
If the journey to the gym seems like too much effort, you could do a 30 minute yoga class on YouTube and stretch out in the comfort of your own living room. Or go for a run in the crisp air to get your blood pumping and attain that lovely rosy cheeked glow, a meditative walk in the park, get out in the garden and rig up some Christmas dinner for the birds, or star jump round to a an elderly neighbours house to deliver a gift, especially if you think they’re having a bit of a lonely christmas.
2. Cut down on nibbling
Constantly nibbling throughout the day will most definitely leave you feeling unpleasant. With so much to tempt you – boxes of chocolates, punnets of cheese straws, endless bowls of crisps, it’s difficult to say no, but try to keep the bigger picture in mind. Come dinner time, wouldn’t you much rather have a hearty appetite than ruining it on unsatisfying snacks? If you find it difficult not to nibble, then get organised with some more healthy options – a tricolore salad (slices of avocado, basil, tomato and mozzarella), veg crudites with baba ganoush, guacamole or hummus, clementines, kale chips or fish pate on crisp breads.
3. Keep blood sugar levels balanced
Keeping your blood sugar levels balanced throughout the day is key to avoiding those horrible energy slumps. Having protein at breakfast is a great way to do this – think a healthier version of a full english with poached eggs, bacon, grilled tomato and chopped parsley, or pear and cinnamon compote with coconut yoghurt, ground flaxseed and chopped walnuts.
To further avoid the slump, focus on delicious savoury foods rather than sugar laden treats, and don’t forget that alcohol is basically a liquid sugar.
How about taking ten minutes on Christmas morning to sit quietly and turn inward. If you find it difficult to meditate, just enjoy the peace and focus on your breath. It’s a lovely way to start the day, and will help you feel grounded, and content with whatever comes, rather than feeling disappointed if it doesn’t turn out exactly how you wanted it to (burnt turkey, children attacking each other with Christmas tree branches etc etc). You could also try meditating later in the day, after the bulk of the festivities are out of the way and you can find some stillness.
5. Eat early
Having your main meal in the afternoon will mean your stomach has longer to digest before you go to bed. This will help you have a better nights sleep and you won’t be left feeling so groggy in the morning. Organise a light bite for later on in the evening so you don’t binge on sweets when you get peckish again, such as serving some of the leftover veggies, a turkey sandwich with lots of salad or some smoked salmon and avocado with dill and fresh lemon.
6. Give your Christmas dinner a health upgrade
Make your own gravy using chicken stock and white wine rather than highly processed granules, include an array of different vegetables such as butternut squash, kale and cavolo nero and get the best meat you can afford – organic, free range is best. If an organic turkey is too expensive, an organic chicken is a great alternative.
7. Use natural digestive aids
With the constant eating over the Christmas period, your stomach can find it hard to continually pump out adequate amounts of digestive secretions, which can leave you feeling bloated and uncomfortable. To give your digestion a helping hand, consider taking a supplement with digestive enzymes and hydrochloric acid at the beginning of a meal. Alternatively try 1/2 a tsp of apple cider vinegar in a small glass of water or biting into a lemon slice 20 minutes before you eat – this will help kickstart your digestive juices.
8. Get organised
Make a list! I’m a sucker for a list. Take the pressure of your poor brain to remember everything and write it all down in a handy notebook – shopping list, what the food plan is for the day, people’s preferences etc.
If you have food intolerances and are a guest at someones Christmas dinner, don’t leave it to chance that the host will have provided for you, or will remember to check all the labels of the ingredients they are using. You’re taking a weight off their shoulders by bringing your own gluten free bread, dairy free milk etc. And don’t be afraid to call them and give them a gentle reminder – it can be pretty hectic hosting a Christmas gathering so there’s a chance it’s slipped their mind.
9. Stay hydrated
Don’t forget the humble essential that is water, and remember that dehydration can be easily mistaken for hunger, so have a herbal tea or a glass of water before you reach for your fifth mince pie.
Christmas is an excellent time to rest and catch up on sleep. Afternoon naps should most definitely be on the cards, as should lie ins. Sleep gives your body a chance to recover, so make sure you schedule in some pamper afternoons and early nights to give you the best chance of starting the new year feeling refreshed and revitalised.