Despite the fun of the summer holiday period, the festive season can be a stressful time of year, and one during which we often eat more, increase our alcohol intake, exercise less, gain weight and simply feel overwhelmed and unwell. Trying to maintain healthy eating and lifestyle habits can be challenging, and resuming good practices afterwards can seem impossible, but a few simple pointers can help.
Here are my 10 tips for good health in the festive season
1. Practice good eating habits
Chew food well and eat slowly, sit down to eat, eat only what you need to feel full (gently satisfied, not overfed), and try to stop eating before you feel too full, and when you have eaten, step away from the buffet table…yes it all looks very tasty but do you really need it? Despite the temptation to overeat, look at how much you have stacked onto your plate. Stick to healthy portion sizes and watch your intake.
2. Mindful eating helps
Understand why you are eating and drinking food that may not normally be part of your healthy diet…hunger, festive mindset, boredom, influence of alcohol or just because the food looks good and is right there in front of you. Understand your own body, and don’t grab food that you know just doesn’t sit well with you, however delicious it may look. Make good choices even when at parties. Try to eat at regular times when possible, and not too late at night, ideally your last meal should be about 3 hours before you go to bed.
3. Make good meal choices
Salads with vegetables, fruit and a protein are wonderful for lunch and dinner and even a breakfast salad… the options are endless. A protein at every meal plus protein rich snacks such as nuts, apple slices with nut butter and hummus and vegetable sticks, can help curb hunger pangs and unhealthy choices during the day. Eating lots of fruit and vegetables, including anti-inflammatory foods such as turmeric, ginger, garlic, onions, broccoli, berries, spinach & kale and other green leafy vegetables can help to balance the party eating.
4. Shop well
Over the holiday season plan and organize. Do careful shopping each week, with good meal prep and planning. This will help you avoid random shopping, when you find lots of chips and lollies in your trolley.
5. Drink wisely
Alcohol is high in kilojoules, so try non-alcoholic options or light beer, dilute your wine and spirits with ice or mineral water, and eat before you start drinking. Watch your alcohol intake and drink one glass of water for every glass of alcohol.
6. Keep hydrated
Drink 2-3 litres of water per day for hydration and waste elimination, plus herbal teas such as dandelion for liver detoxification, ginger with turmeric, lemon and honey for immunity and digestion.
7. Help your digestion
Try a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar in warm water before meals to balance pH of stomach and aid digestion, or a slice of lemon in warm water before breakfast. Including bitter greens in your salads is great too.
8. Keep moving
Exercising, whether at the gym, beach, pool, or simply walks after dinner all help with weight control and balancing mood. It is easy to get lazy, but exercise is key to bouncing back after eating, drinking and celebrating.
9. Don’t stress
Cooking, cleaning, shopping and overspending, looking after visitors, plus endless socialising can leave us exhausted and stressed, so try to stay calm and keep a sense of humour. Stress can wipe you out, so meditating, gentle exercise, reading and relaxing may help. Most important…enjoy yourself!
10. Try a detox in the new year
But also remember that the best kind of “detox” is adopting a clean-eating approach that replaces processed, fatty, sugary foods with nutritious quality whole foods, and eating daily from all the food groups where possible. Include foods that assist clearing the overload such as green foods e.g. barley, wheat grass, spinach, spirulina- organic leafy greens and green vegetables.
Finally… my favourites summer foods are salads, and you can be as inventive as you wish. There are no rules as long as the ingredients go well together and have a good balance of nutrients and taste good. Use mix of various salad vegetables, green vegetables, nuts, seeds, plus meat or vegetable protein and fruit too if I feel like it. Dressings are best kept simple and as sugar free or low sugar as possible. Make your own by simply mixing some balsamic vinegar with olive oil and pepper, or use a citrus dressing with fresh squeezed lime juice with honey, olive oil and salt and pepper.
Remember – the festive season is for fun, not to stress over being an image of perfect health. Look after yourself most of the time, and you’ll be able to make it through the festive season with your health in tact.
Pamela Nelson is a naturopath, nutritionist and herbalist, who practices out of the Lane Cove clinic. For additional help over the holiday season, contact her on 9418 9555.