The Festive season is upon us again, and its all too easy to succumb to the temptations of the mince pies, slices of Christmas cake and the glasses of mulled wine. We all know that the parties play havoc with our weight, skin and sleep, yet nobody wants to be the party pooper holding a glass of water while staring wistfully at all our friends carousing around us.
What can we do to keep healthy and still have fun? Here are some tips:-
- Keep eating our vegetables. Piling up our plates with a rainbow of vegetables is a great antidote to the sausages and stuffing! Each different coloured vegetable is full of healthy fibre and contains antioxidant vitamins A and C as well as a multitude of different phytonutrients which nourish our body in so many different ways. If you can manage to eat 5 or 6 portions of vegetables each day (sorry, fries don’t count- not even sweet potato ones) then you know you are providing your body with good nutrition. Your liver relies on these vitamins to help your body detoxify. Cruciferous veggies (broccoli, kale, cauliflower, etc.) improve levels of potassium and contain indole compounds, a by-product that’s known to eliminate carcinogens from the body, while leafy greens, a great source of folate may also help you lose weight . Greens are low in calories while still being packed with nutrients and other active compounds. Their effect on weight loss goes beyond just calories. Greens contain nitrites, which are linked with converting fat-storing white cells into fat-burning brown cells. This creates extra fat burning and ultimately, weight loss.
- Say yes to the turkey. Turkey is a protein filled, lean meat which contains the amino acid tryptophan. Your body changes L-tryptophan into a brain chemical called serotonin which helps control your mood and sleep. Some might use the turkey as an excuse for the post-Christmas lunch snooze (or could that be the sherry??) but eating it will provide you with satiating protein as well as helping you get to sleep. Tryptophan is present in most protein-based foods or dietary proteins. It is particularly plentiful in, oats, dried dates, milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, red meat, eggs, fish, poultry, sesame, chickpeas, almonds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, buckwheat, spirulina, and peanuts. Its also contained in chocolate – but more on that later!
- Drink plenty of water. I know you’ll have heard this many times before, but we can get dehydrated even when the sun’s not shining. Drinking alcohol, and the dry air caused by central heating lead to dehydration. Also, in cold weather, the body’s thirst response is diminished This happens because our blood vessels constrict when we’re cold to prevent blood from flowing freely to the extremities. This enables the body to conserve heat by drawing more blood to its core. So, keep your fluids up and aim for 2 litres a day. It doesn’t have to be plain water, you can add citrus fruits to sparkling water and drink this instead of alcohol. If you choose to drink, then alternate with water or add some sparkling water to your wine. If a hot drink is needed then try a spicy ginger tea or a liquorice and peppermint one which will give you a little taste of sweetness.
- Concentrate on the clementines – and all the other juicy citrus fruits around. Clementines are really good for the skin, owing to the presence of significant amount of vitamin C. Scientific studies have validated the role of Vitamin C in the synthesis of collagen, a structural component vital for the maintenance of healthy skin. Antioxidant properties of vitamin C present in clementines help in protecting the skin against the damage induced by UV radiations and helps in revitalizing the aging skin. Furthermore, it aids in reducing the formation of wrinkles, supports in repairing damaged skin, and assists in keeping the skin healthy and youthful. They also boost the immune system, strengthen bones and muscles due to their calcium content, and are good for your heart due to the potassium they contain. Clementines , tangerines and oranges are a part of the Christmas tradition and ones that we can enjoy to our heart’s content.
- Go Nuts! We often avoid nuts because they tend to be high in fat and calories, but in actual fact they can help weight stabilisation. Recent studies have shown that nuts can prevent weight gain in adulthood. The researchers discovered that replacing foods that had less nutritional value with a 1-ounce serving of nuts and peanuts lowered the risk of weight gain and obesity over the 4-year follow-up intervals. Nuts have great nutritional value and are an important part of the so called Mediterranean diet known for its health giving benefits. Nuts are a source of anti-inflammatory Omega 3 fatty acids which are good for our brain, as well as being a fantastic source of insoluble fibre – which can feed our microbiome. Eat a variety:-Almonds are a great source of calcium, brazil nuts contain selenium while walnuts contain one of the best plant sources of Omega 3. And if you eat the ones that need to be shelled first, and risk of over eating them is reduced by the time it takes to shell them!
- Ok have some chocolate – but make sure it’s dark – at least 70% cacao. Chocolate’s antioxidant potential may have a range of health benefits. The higher the cocoa content the more benefits there are – but check that it doesn’t contain lots of fat and sugar.
Chocolate is an abundant source of phytonutrients called flavanols which may offer protection to the heart in various ways:- reducing Blood pressure, reducing clotting, and other antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. A number of studies have concluded that these flavanols might have a beneficial effect on heart and blood pressure. But don’t eat too much – a couple of squares of dark chocolate not a whole selection box.
A great way to have your chocolate fix is by making your own healthy snacks which contain cacao – unprocessed chocolate – as well as other nutritious ingredients like goji berries, dates, nuts and cinnamon.
See the recipe below for my Bounty Bites
So, enjoy your Christmas festivities – just remember that having fun and spending time with friends and family is a great stress reducer, and the benefits of that can outweigh the occasional bit of over indulgence.