Every year there are all sorts of features on how to be healthy and keep the weight off during the holidays. Advice such as stick only to white spirits or drink a glass of water in between drinks, or only indulge in just a few of your favourite treats. This is real…I even read one article where they advised you to go and cut down your own Christmas tree to burn some extra calories. While for some of you out in the country this might actually be a thing, and as nice as it sounds, I’m pretty sure many of us urban types aren’t going to be rushing out with our axe in tow.
Also, I don’t know about you, but once I’ve had a couple of drinks, any good intentions I had set myself for the evening quickly disappear. With this in mind, I've compiled some tips to help get you through the holiday season.
7 healthy tips to get you through the holiday season
1. During the time between parties and events, make healthy eating choices and think about nutrient density rather than low calorie foods. This means consuming whole foods such as fruit and veg, seeking out healthy protein sources, whole grains such as quinoa or brown rice, and healthy fats such as those found in nuts, seeds, and avocados. Sticking to whole foods helps to provide your body with the nutrients it needs to stay energised and also to help aid recovery from any excesses.
2. Make protein your friend. Protein helps to keep you feeling full , while helping to keep blood sugar levels stabilised. This is key because when blood sugar levels drop, we tend to have cravings, especially for sweet, sugary foods. Have protein with every meal, especially at breakfast time. Good protein sources include organic eggs, chicken or pork, grass-fed beef, or sustainable fish. If you’re a veggie, good protein sources include beans, legumes, nuts and seeds, and fermented soy products such as tempeh.
3. Green, Green, Green and Red! Yes, it’s the season for green and red, so ensure that you are eating those colours as well. And I’m not talking about the red in candy canes. Green leafy veg and cruciferous veg are bursting with health benefits. Leafy greens are an excellent source of fibre and folate, and act as anti-oxidants in the body. Also consume red and purple fruits and veg (think berries, beetroot, red peppers and grapes), all of which are is high in health giving antioxidants. If you'd like to detox, green smoothies, salads and cruciferous veg such as broccoli, brussel sprouts and kale all help to support detoxification. So have an extra portion of sprouts this holiday season, you won't regret it!
4. HIIT exercise. HIIT stands for high intensity interval training. This has been shown to be one of the most effective ways to burn fat and keep your metabolism revved up. And the beauty of it is that you can do as little as 7-15 minutes per day, but to enjoy the benefits you really need to get out of your comfort zone with this one. Most of us can find 7-15 minutes several times a week. If you are new to exercise, check with your medical professional first. HIIT is an intense form of exercise and not always suitable for everyone.
5. Sleep. This is probably one of the things we undervalue the most. Sleep is critical for so many vital functions including cell growth and recovery, hormone balance and mood. Too little sleep is associated with increased levels of ghrelin, “the hunger hormone” which leads to cravings, particularly of sweet foods. Too little sleep also affects our moods and feelings of wellbeing. Along with being quite a fun time of year, the holidays can also be quite stressful for many of us. Stress has been linked with increased levels of cortisol, the “fight or flight” hormone, which is also directly linked to weight gain, particularly belly fat. Therefore, take time for quality sleep and recovery to help keep stress levels in check.
6. Here's For all you non-stop alpha types. If you're debating between sleep and exercise, choose….SLEEP! If you’re feeling exhausted, then your body is telling you something - you need to rest! If you exercise on an already depleted and tired body, you're likely to raise cortisol levels, over-train and do your body more harm than good. So sleep, recover, and once you feel energised resume your 7-15 minutes of quality HIIT exercise.
7. If you try and do 1-6 as much as possible, then when it’s party time or Christmas Day or whatever fun event you’ve got planned, then have GUILT FREE FUN! Forget about the calories, the white vs dark spirits, or how many simple carbs you ate. Have fun now and remember that Dry January is just around the corner.
Wishing you all a happy and healthy holiday season!