Christmas is just around the corner…
Over the past few weeks, I’ve had several clients express some apprehension about how they are going to cope with the extra temptation around the holidays, and the prospect of taking a backwards step with their health and well-being.
Whilst I understand that this can be a worry for many, at the end of the day we need to keep in mind that we are the ones in full control of what we choose to put in our mouths, over the holidays just as it is at any other time of the year (I think we tend to forget this a bit!). Paying just a little bit of extra attention to your habits, taking some time to plan, and making conscious choices will mean that you avoid that bloated, sluggish ‘Christmas Day’ feeling that we all know too well!
In many ways I truly believe that the holiday season can be the perfect opportunity to re-energize, re-focus and refresh yourself in preparation for a brand new year.
So with that in mind, here are a few simple health tips to help you survive the silly season with both your sanity and health intact…
- Shift your food focus. When Christmas comes around, we tend to put ourselves on ‘autopilot’ somewhat, and reach for processed and pre-packaged foods – either for convenience or just out of habit! Eating healthy over the break doesn’t need to be boring or tasteless when you focus more on foods that are fresh and unprocessed. There are so many delicious options that are around at this time of year, but we tend to forget about them in favour of mince pies and super-sized boxes of chocolates! For instance:
Fresh fruit. Make sure you keep a good stock of fresh fruit on hand to have as a healthy snack. Watermelon, stonefruit such as peaches, apricots and nectarines, mangoes and grapes provide a sweet option if you feel tempted by Christmas treats. I find that keeping a cut selection of seasonal fruit in the fridge encourages my family to eat more fruit, and helps to stop us reaching for the wrong kinds of foods (the ones that sap our energy when we need it most).
If you are entertaining, try serving crunchy crudites (such as sliced carrot, celery and capsicum) with a homemade dip, pesto, or cheese cubes in place of chips or biscuits. Wholegrain rice crackers with fresh guacamole, hummus or tomato with a dash of sea salt are also great options.
Salads make a quick and easy side dish for Summer barbecues, and are a great way to bump up your daily vegie intake. Try adding fresh herbs like basil and parsley for flavour, and serve with chicken kebabs, prawns or steak.
- Choose raw nuts over the salted and roasted variety. Healthier options can include almonds, Brazil nuts, macadamias, cashews and hazelnuts. Not only do raw nuts provide good, heart-healthy fats, they also contain protein to help keep you fuller in between meals, as well as an array of vitamins & minerals. Raw nuts also won’t dehydrate you like the salted variety can.
- For chocolate cravings, try a good-quality dark chocolate, such as Lindt 90%, which is low in sugar compared to other varieties (gram-for-gram, it contains around 1/9th of the sugar content of Cadbury milk chocolate!). Dark chocolate can be helpful for stress (I like to call it ‘medicinal chocolate’) as well as providing valuable minerals and antioxidants. Don’t forget, you can always make your own healthy chocolate as well!
- Alcohol forms a big part of many a Christmas occasion, and it is easy to overindulge without realizing it. Try to keep alcohol to a moderate level by alternating an alcoholic drink with a non-alcoholic one. Alcoholic drinks can also be a sneaky way for excess sugar to find its way into your body, so it is a good idea to steer clear of using soft drink as mixers where possible, and substitute plain soda water/sparkling mineral water instead. Freeze fresh mint, lime juice or berries in ice cubes and pop these in your drinks for a bit of extra flavour. If you enjoy wine, there are plenty of organic or bio-dynamic versions available (usually from the larger liquor stores), where the grapes are grown without the use of pesticides, and many are low-preservative as well.
- Keep up your supplement routine if you can. Taking a high-quality Practitioner-strength multivitamin can be a good idea to help you keep on top of your nutrient intake at a time when your diet may be less than ideal. It may also be of help to offset the effects of overindulging in alcohol! Magnesium is great for helping to keep sugar cravings at bay, and to assist optimal hydration of your cells during the summer heat. And keeping up with a probiotic may help alleviate tummy upsets caused by too many treat foods by boosting your body’s healthy digestive bacteria population.
- Share a dessert. Large portion sizes can really derail good intentions!
- If you have been working hard to lose weight, and you are worried about regaining, aim to maintain your weight over the Christmas break, rather than feeling deprived at a time when you are likely to be surrounded by extra temptation. Stick to reasonable portion sizes, and try to get a bit of movement in – this is a great time to join in a game with children, go swimming or treat yourself to a few extra walks to keep your metabolism firing. It all adds up!
- Lastly, always remember the 80/20 philosophy when it comes to food – it’s what you do most of the time that counts. ‘You are what you mostly eat’ – so enjoy a little, just don’t make it a lot! The Christmas period is really only a few weeks out of the year, and it is what you do between New Year and Christmas that is more important, rather than what happens between Christmas and New Year.