Have yourself a healthy Christmas
Have yourself a healthy Christmas
December is just around the corner and it’s the most wonderful time of the year according to Andy Williams, but for many people, the Christmas period doesn’t always feel like that! The stress of gift shopping, feeling frazzled after one too many social events, eating and drinking more than usual leave many of us vowing things will be different in January.
Christmas means something different to everyone, but for many of us it brings a welcome light filled respite from the darkest winter days, possibly a break from work and the chance to catch up with friends. Food is at the heart of many celebrations and Christmas is no exception. I’m certainly not going to advise you avoid all the wonderful food that’s around at this time of year or drink cocktails made only of filtered water and sadness. None of us should be feeling guilty about enjoying a slice of Christmas cake with the family and being anxious about your food choices will just add to your stress levels.
However, there are some easy ways that you can enjoy the festivities and not finish the year feeling like you need a 10 day extreme boot camp to get over it. Here are my top tips.
- Keep your basic diet healthy – there is room for all foods in a healthy diet, but eating festive foods at the exclusion of everything else probably won’t make you feel your best. Ensuring that you focus on nutritious foods most of the time will help you stay healthy overall. For me, this includes:
- Making sure I always get my five a day – eating a wide variety of different coloured fruit and veg at this time of year will ensure that you get all the micronutrients you need to stay healthy. There are lots of lovely varieties available at the moment – satsumas, cranberries, sprouts, root vegetables.
- Focus on fibre – in addition to fruit and veg, ensure you include some wholegrain carbohydrates like brown rice, wholemeal bread and oats in your meals. Some Christmas food can be heavy and stodgy, so ensuring that you get enough fibre will help your digestion too.
- Being mindful of sugar – most of us are eating too much added sugar, and there is plenty of opportunity at this time of year! I’m not going to suggest that you skip the mince pies entirely, but just be conscious of your choices
- Remember that December doesn’t have the monopoly on festive foods, so don’t feel like you have to eat them at every opportunity! Decide what is worth it for you and what isn’t. I love Christmas pudding but can take or leave a sausage roll. Don’t forget you can have a mince pie in June if you really want to.
- Think about portion sizes – the first bite is always the best, so enjoy it but stop before you feel too full.
- Stay hydrated – many of us don’t drink as much water when the weather is colder, but it’s just as important to drink plenty in the winter months, particularly if you’re drinking more alcohol than usual. Start the day with a large glass of water and if you find you prefer hot drinks, there are lots of lovely herbal teas which are comforting and hydrating.
- Try to find the time to move – it’s not always tempting to get outside when it’s cold, but bundling up and getting out for a brisk walk will really help. If you really can’t face it, think about indoor options like trying a new gym class or going for a swim. That said you do not need to calculate how long you’ll have to run for to burn off that piece of stollen or in some way earn your food. It’s just worth remembering that exercise has lots of positive health benefits, including being good for our mental health when things feel a bit overwhelming.
- Get enough sleep – a lack of sleep depresses your immune system, which is partly why so many of us end up getting ill over the festive period. Make sure you’re getting enough rest on the nights when you don’t have social events.
- Keep an eye on your stress levels – it’s easy to fall into the trap of saying yes to everything at a time of year when you probably have more than usual to do anyway! Have a look at your diary and try to avoid back to back nights out – think about catching up with friends in January instead, it’s nice to have something to look forward to when the winter feels indeterminably long. Enlist help from the family to get the festive jobs done and don’t take on too much. Take some time out to do something you enjoy, that might just be escaping to a coffee shop for 30 mins with a book.