One thing we don’t tend to associate with Christmas is being healthy! BUT it is, in fact, a brilliant time to consider it – you might have a bit of time out from your normal routine to try new things, everyone’s thinking about food and cooking and for many of us it is a happy time of year – all great reasons to give something new a try.
So, we asked nutritional therapist Issy Lowndes for her tips to help keep you healthy, or at the very least to avoid starting January on the back foot and several kilograms heavier! This is not meant to be a health plan – it's more about how not to be completely unhealthy during an overindulgent time...
It’s great to be able to let you hair down and celebrate. But if you’re the sort of person who watches what you eat all year round, and generally take good care of yourself, then you are going to suffer if you put all this on hold during the Christmas period. Equally, you don’t really want to be the party pooper asking for a fruit salad when there are chocolates and toffees on offer. So, how do you get the balance right?
THINK SUGAR: Sugar can be the number one culprit that causes the sluggish feeling you get post-Christmas, so if you keep one thing in mind, keep the sugar to a minimum. This isn’t as hard as you’d think – a Christmas dinner can be done with no sugar at all and is typically high in protein (GOOD!), and often involves plenty of veg (GOOD). The key is to keep an eye on the amount of roasties dripping in goose fat that end up on your plate. Otherwise, it’s actually a relatively healthy meal so you can load your plate as high as you like with delicious food.
Then comes dessert. Either keep your helpings small, or perhaps just opt for a small amount of cheese on a cracker instead – you are bound to be really full from your main course. Just remember: sugar.
The real danger lurks in all that chocolate and alcohol that we love so much at Christmas. Both are packed with sugar. It is not a time that we feel like saying no, so have a few tricks up your sleeve – perhaps start on a soft drink, or opt for a weak G&T instead of a high-sugar glass of white wine or Prosecco. During your meal, why not opt for red wine which tends to have slightly less sugar in it? But remember to drink plenty of water – throughout the day as well as during your meals.
I am not saying don’t indulge, just be aware of what you are indulging in and how to counteract it where possible. Think SUGAR and you’ll feel a lot better in January.
Although your regular gym session might not be available, it doesn’t mean exercise has to stop over Christmas. In fact, it is prime time to try something new especially if you have a bit of time off. Perhaps consider an early morning run on a crisp December morning, or dust off your mountain bike and take the family on a non-Panto-based adventure.
Exercise will not only set you up well for the day, but also you will burn off some of those extra calories; maybe now’s the time to ask for a Fitbit for Christmas so you can keep a record and not let yourself fall too far behind your normal output.
For many, Christmas can be as stressful as it is fun. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to make it just right, so be sure to give yourself some time out during this period. Exercise, of course, is a great way to relieve stress, but for many of us spending time with family and friends can be a great way to unwind. Allow time to enjoy yourself and if you think you might find this harder than normal, why not take the opportunity to kickstart a new mindfulness regime. There are lots of great apps out there – I have recently started using Headspace and it really does what it says on the ‘tin’ – three minutes a day is all it takes….give it at a go; Christmas could be all the more enjoyable as a result.
Wishing you all a very happy and healthy Christmas!
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