Nutritionists guide to surviving Christmas

The festive season is officially here! The crazy whirlwind of gift-giving, mulled wine on tap, holiday parties and overall indulgence.

With the surge in the social calendar and festive activities, our stress levels can also be on high alert, from sleep deprivation to nutrient deficiencies, the festive stress-on can take its toll, both physically and mentally.

To help you get through the festive season feeling your best, take a read of Nutritionist Clarissa Lenherr’s top tips on how to survive the festive season…

SMASH BREAKFAST

Breakfast is the one meal that is usually in our control. It’s not very often you would have a Christmas party over breakfast or any social gatherings before 9am. Therefore, take advantage of this and get breakfast right on track.

It can also be easy to skip breakfast due to overindulging the night before, or give in and indulge in the office mince pies and fruit cake late morning to ease that hangover, but eating a good breakfast will help prompt your metabolism, balance your blood sugar levels and keep you feeling full and energised to fuel the day. If you fuel your body in the right way, you’re less likely to snack on the Christmas chocolates lying around later in the day, too. 

A nutritious post-Christmas party breakfast is a couple of poached eggs and ½ an avocado on seeded rye bread, or an omelette packed with vitamin-filled veggies such as red peppers and spinach. However, if you can’t face cooking or don’t have time, a good bowl of protein porridge with added nut butter and berries, or a helping of my delicious high fibre granola, berries and some kefir will also do the trick.

BREATHE

Every day, we breathe an average of 20,000 times, and even though it can help to calm us in times of stress, boost our energy and help us focus and find clarity, it is often overlooked. Try to incorporate breathwork into your routine to reap the uplifting benefits, I like to use the 3-4-5 practice, which encourages breathing in for three counts, holding for four, and out for five. Repeat a few times in a row.

HYDRATE, HYDRATE, HYDRATE

With indoor heating and the abundance of sugary treats on offer, it’s easy to mistake thirst for hunger, and to reach for another slice of cake or pig in a blanket. Instead, keep a jug of water with sliced lemon and fresh herbs by your side as this will encourage you to top up your glass throughout the day, keeping you well hydrated. Your water intake can also be topped up through herbal teas, so why not try some natural festive blends such as ginger, turmeric, apple and cinnamon or chai flavoured tea bags.

Hydration is also crucial for those who need help to detoxify the remnants of last night’s prosecco. That headache the next morning is partially due to dehydration – to avoid this, ensure you consume a minimum of 2 litres of water throughout the day, and for every alcoholic drink, have one glass of water as a spacer.

MOVE

It can be easy to let our workout routine slip over the holiday weeks. It is dark before and after work, the temperature has dropped, hangovers are lingering and… there is shopping to be done! However, exercise is a crucial practice for both your mental and physical health, and ensuring you get some movement everyday can help with stress levels, excess holiday weight gain, mood and overall wellness.

Plus, exercise will help support the body’s natural detoxification system by sweating out last night’s mulled wine. Going for a brisk walk and getting some oxygen or some warm yoga can help get the blood moving and the booze out!

If you do choose to exercise, make sure you hydrate yourself sufficiently beforehand as you don’t want to become more dehydrated. Also ensure you are not still inebriated, as no one wants to see you moonwalking on the treadmill!

ZZZ’s

If you’re making conscious efforts to pack in your fruit and veg and focus on staying active through the festive season, but you aren’t getting enough good quality sleep, you may be undermining all your other efforts. A poor night’s sleep can result in you feeling far from fresh, low in mood, depleted energy levels and a lack of overall productivity.

Aim to create a bed-time routine which can get us in the mood and ready for a deep, quality and restorative sleep. However, it doesn’t need to be long-winded or complex. Whether you enjoy lighting a candle, having a 20-minute bath or making a cup of herbal tea in the evening, these can all become part of a bedtime routine during December on the nights you’re staying in. Begin with one thing that you know promotes relaxation and incorporate more as you begin to reap the rewards of self-care!
Certain foods can also hinder our ability to fall asleep, whilst others can help to promote melatonin production and relaxation. Aim to avoid caffeine after 3pm as this can impact our stress hormone release, and remember that dark chocolate also contains caffeine!
And, if you are going for after work drinks, keep alcohol consumption to 3 hours pre bed as the breakdown of alcohol in the liver can impact our ability to enter deep sleep and REM cycles.

GUT LOVE

During the festive weeks, the foods we choose usually swing towards the higher-fat/ higher-sugar intake, which can alter the gut microbiome and potentially lead to weight gain, food cravings, irregular blood sugar levels and lowered mood.

Incorporating digestive enzymes into your routine when consuming rich festive food may support the breakdown of meals, reducing bloating and discomfort. Be mindful that digestive enzymes aren’t suitable for individuals with a peptic ulcer and should not be taken away from food.

A probiotic is also a gut-friendly way to support your digestion towards Christmas. A good quality probiotic can help prep your stomach for the damage that our beneficial gut bacteria may be about to incur.

High volumes of sugar and alcohol, paired with a lack of sleep, may impact the diversity and quantity of bacteria in the gut, so supporting our microbes is key.

MOST IMPORTANTLY, ENJOY YOURSELF!

Whilst it is important to eat well and stay active during December, there’s also such a thing as “everything in moderation”. Make sure you take the time to enjoy yourself during the festivities and embrace the time you have with friends and family as memories last a lifetime.

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