The New Year is often a good time to think about making positive changes in our lives, so why not focus on how incredible you’ll feel next month if you’ve taken a little extra care of yourself this Christmas. We’ve compiled our 12 top tips to help you enjoy Christmas AND set yourself up for a great 2015.
1 Relax, but don’t let your guard down
“What the heck, it’s Christmas!” – it’s a tempting excuse but one that won’t lead you anywhere healthy! Resist the temptation to throw caution to the wind at Christmas – there are just too many opportunities to overeat and pile on those pounds that so many people never lose the following year. With buffets and nibbles a common occurrence at family and social gatherings, it’s hard to keep track of exactly how much you’ve eaten and before you know it you’ve had six glasses of mulled wine, a few mince pies, shortbread, sausage rolls and more chocolates than you can count on both hands. Be conscious when you’re eating, sit down and eat if possible rather than chatting without regard to how much you’re consuming. Avoid overloading your plate because you’re probably drinking extra sugar and calories from alcohol too, and resist the temptation to load up for seconds or more.
2 Keep active
If you have a fitness regime, try and stick to it more or less, especially on those days you’re at home. Even just a daily walk will help to prevent your already over-burdened digestive system from becoming sluggish. Sofa surfing for prolonged periods – even at Christmas – doesn’t make anyone feel too good. Not only will walking help you work off the extra calories, but it’s great for mood, and getting rid of that claustrophobic feeling from spending too much time indoors doing nothing.
3 Make lunch or dinner light
If you know you’ll be having a heavy lunch or dinner, switch one of them for light, healthy snacks. Crudités with humus, pâté and crackers, a light salad – it doesn’t have to be boring! Eating light will leave you with some energy for social occasions, and help counter some of the rich and heavy meals you’ll be eating over the festive period. Satsumas and clementines make surprisingly satisfying substitutes for those endless chocolates – which, let’s face it, can leave you with a sickly feeling!
4 Seek out vitamin- & mineral-rich foods
Many of the commonly consumed festive treats are nutrient-depleting, so try to include some foods rich in potassium, magnesium, zinc and iron, which are vital for keeping energy levels high. Good sources you could include at Christmas include dried fruit, raw nuts such as brazil nuts and walnuts, Christmas pudding, fish, turkey, eggs and sprouts. Vitamins are essential to enzyme processes in the body; a quick and easy way to get plenty of vitamins is to blend fruit and make smoothies, cook vegetables ‘al dente ‘, and eat a variety of lean meat and fish, and whole dairy products. Multi-vitamin and mineral suppplements are a convenient way of ‘topping up’ daily levels, especially if you can’t guarantee five portions on a regular basis. Water-soluble vitamins such as vitamin B and vitamin C aren’t stored in the body so these are common ones to supplement.
5 Keep breakfast healthy
You’ll need plenty of energy in reserve so start your day with a healthy breakfast that won’t spike your blood sugar levels and send you into an energy slump or knock your mood off balance. Use breakfast as an opportunity to eat plenty of fruit and top up with immune-boosting antioxidants. Avoid refined carbohydrates such as sugary cereals, toast or croissants and opt instead for slow-release carbohydrates such as porridge (with a spoon of honey or low-GI maple syrup if you have a sweet tooth), or a good source of protein such as scrambled eggs and salmon.
6 Drink responsibly
Okay, so there had to be a boring tip in here somewhere! There’s no way to disguise the fact that more than moderate amounts of alcohol can overload the body with toxins, deplete us of important nutrients, suppress the immune system (making us vulnerable to picking up colds or flu), disrupt sleep, and upset digestion… the list goes on. If you’re going to be drinking regularly at Christmas, alternate between alcoholic drinks and soft drinks and make sure you keep hydrated. Mixing spirits with fruit juices, or making alcoholic smoothie-like cocktails provides useful nutrients to counteract the alcohol and may even help ward off a hangover. DO NOT drink on an empty stomach, especially if you have digestive problems – unless you want a mass exfoliation of your gut lining equivalent to pouring paint stripper on an open wound!
7 Just chill
Christmas is busy enough without putting additional pressure on ourselves; accept help from others if you’re the nominated chef, or lend a hand to someone else. Avoid creating unnecessary financial stress for January by resisting the sales, or set a strict budget if you do visit the shops. We often set our expectations high at Christmas, and rarely get to see everyone or do everything we wanted. Enjoy what you do manage to do, and make a mental commitment to fit in at another time those things you’d aimed for – social occasions and fun activities shouldn’t be restricted to Christmas!
8 Sleep more
Many of us reach Christmas fatigued because we don’t prioritise sleep. Building on ‘tip 7 – just chill’, try to get real sleep every night, and avoid over-committing yourself. Alcohol, rich food and too much refined carbohydrate can wreak havoc on sleep patterns and leave you sleepless. Control your intake of these festive extras and aim for 8 hours of good sleep.
9 Switch bad foods for good
Ditch the sausage rolls and choose cocktail sausages, swap the southern-fried coated chicken for chicken drumsticks… look around and there are, almost always, healthier choices to be found. If you can avoid the Quality Street and opt instead for dark chocolate, you won’t just be reducing your sugar intake but you’ll benefit from important antioxidants – if you choose chocolate with a cocoa content of 70% or above. In terms of alcohol, spirits are tough on the liver, but red and mulled wine or warm cider are kinder to us!
10 Switch off the TV!
Christmas is a great time to catch up and have quality time with family. Except…the TV all too often dominates and turns a family ‘holiday’ into an unsatisfying TV marathon with little conversation. Turn it off now and again, get out the playing cards or board games, take a walk in the countryside – do something that involves quality interaction. It’ll turn an uninspiring annual get-together into an infinitely more rewarding time to be remembered and cherished. If you’re staying at home, decorate your house with your partner or children, kick back and read your favourite book or do something you always wanted to do but didn’t have time for during the year. Applying your mind to something other than your everyday job or responsibilities provides an important mental break.
11 It’s okay to say “no”!
We tend not to enjoy those things we feel obliged to do. Do you really need to say yes to every invite or attend all the Christmas parties ? If you live life at breakneck speed you won’t remember or cherish much of it. Slow down, take in your surroundings, observe and listen. Have some “me” time. Rest and relax.
12 Resolutions and goals
These do work for some people, but for others they can be yet another source of pressure. Try to see the New Year as an opportunity for re-evaluating where you are in life, and where you’re headed. If you’re setting resolutions, don’t be too ambitious. Do you really want to do it, be it, achieve it? Successful resolutions need to come from intrinsic motivation – so choose carefully.
We promised we’d keep these health tips lighthearted, but unfortunately they’re all true! Some food for thought… It can be tempting to stray from your health goals, especially this time of year — we know because we’ve all been there! Assuming health is important to you, and it probably is if you’re reading this, then you already know how important it is to make sensible choices to maintain your health. Above all, we hope you stay fit and well this Christmas, and enjoy it!