This holiday season should be a time to relax and be with our families, however for many of us it is a stressful and busy time – especially leading up to the big day itself.
We are exposed to a lot of different and indulgent foods and for those who are trying to stick to a certain diet to try to improve their health, this can be a big challenge and a major stressor in itself. So here are some helpful tips to keep you on track:
- Stay hydrated. If you are indulging in a few festive drinks or the odd mince pie, make sure you drink plenty of water to stay hydrated to aid your liver in detoxifying the alcohol. It will help to keep you alert and avoid those next day headaches.
- Stock on up liver support. Buy some good liver supporting herbs (e.g. Silymarin – Milk thistle) and foods to help give your overworked liver a bit of a boost during this time. Milk thistle and dandelion root are good choices of herbal support. Adding bitter foods such as dark green leafy vegetables and spices such as cumin and turmeric will also support your liver and aid in bile secretion.
- Don’t beat yourself up. I heard a fantastic analogy the other day comparing your health status to your bank account balance… think of it like each time you get a good night’s sleep, eat a nourishing meal or meet your daily water intake requirement, you are making a ‘health deposit’ in your imaginary bank account. Whenever you stay up too late, have a few alcoholic drinks or eat a processed food, you are making a withdrawal. As long as you make more deposits than withdrawals then you are on the right track. By looking at it this way you don’t put yourself under pressure to be perfect all the time, preventing feelings of guilt over choosing an option deemed unhealthy. This means there are no so called ‘good’ or ‘bad’ foods just deposits and withdrawals. The stress caused by the guilt in itself is probably worse for you than the food you ate! Keep thinking of the bank account analogy and you can stay on track and in a positive mind-set.
- If there are certain foods that you know you have an intolerance to, or you don’t want to go off track from your eating plan for a specific reason then make sure you stay prepared. When you are going out somewhere where you know there will be no alternatives make sure you prepare by taking a tasty option you have prepared yourself. For example, the alternative mince pie recipe below! This means you can still enjoy yourself and socialise with your friends whilst staying on track. Packets of nuts and dried snacks can travel well and be instantly available for you.
- Regulate blood sugar levels! Don’t go out hungry and keep topped up on protein and healthy fats to avoid spikes in blood sugar levels. As part of your routine when you are getting ready to go out to a party, make sure you eat a snack full of healthy fats and protein such as hard boiled eggs or some left-over turkey! This will prevent your blood sugar levels from spiking and falling if you eat a few sugary snacks or have a few drinks when you are out. It will also prevent you from getting so hungry that you have to top up with unhealthy party food.
- Don’t try to be a perfectionist and remember why we are celebrating! Don’t stress yourself out trying to prepare the perfect meal or perfect table arrangements, at the end of the day none of these things really matter. Stress has a negative effect on our microbiome so keeping it in check is just as important as eating right. Concentrate on enjoying time with your loved ones and making a point of giving them extra love and thanks. They will appreciate this much more than a well-dressed table!
- Take care of your immune system. Our immune systems can often need a little bit more support around this time of the year. Including foods rich in zinc such as grass-fed meat and seafood, vitamin A sources such as egg yolks and liver and vitamin C sources such as brightly coloured fruits and vegetables, is a great way to keep the levels of these beneficial vitamins and minerals topped up. Alternatively, you can take good quality bioavailable supplements (look for supplements derived from natural sources rather than lab-synthesised ones). You can also include naturally-antiviral and -antibacterial foods when cooking such as ginger and garlic, to hep ward off infections.
- Know your limits (no I don’t mean alcohol!) People feel that at this time of year they have to try to cram in visiting all their friends and family. Although it is nice to catch up with our nearest and dearest it is not a good idea to squeeze in one visit after another without giving ourselves time to rest and relax. Doing this will mean we don’t fully enjoy the time we spend with anyone and it becomes more like a chore than a pleasure. You know your own limits so if you know that you will be tired after having lunch out with family then say no to a night out that same evening. Prioritise spending time with the people who matter most.
- Keep moving! Don’t sit in and fester indoors all day. Our lymphatic system helps to filter out unwanted materials such as dead cells and bacteria from our body and it relies solely on physical movement for its circulation to work effectively. Get outside for a walk each day if possible, it will help your body to detoxify and will boost your mood and energy levels.
- Embrace the joy of giving! Enjoy the chance to get that “giver’s glow”; studies have shown that giving gifts with a kind and generous intention is good for our wellbeing and the positive effects can last for hours after giving the gift. Keep your heart open and full of love and generosity in the true spirit of Christmas.