The countdown to the most festive time of the year has begun. The nostalgia of mince pies and mulled wine can help to put us in that holiday mood. Whilst food is there for enjoyment as much as it’s needed for nourishment, it can be all too easy to get swept up in the holiday season and end up in a festive food coma.
This guide will provide smart eating strategies on how to have a healthier festive season and not miss out…
Tip 1: Practice mindful eating
It’s all too easy to mindlessly polish off those last few Quality Streets that were left lying around, rather than truly enjoy and appreciate the festive foods that we’re eating. What’s more, a mindset of “the diet starts in January”, can play a big role in overeating during the festive season. Even if these are subconscious thoughts, our body knows that restriction and deprivation are around the corner. On the other hand, engaging in mindful eating ditches that all-or-nothing thinking. Instead, mindful eating gives us permission to enjoy our favourite foods, but in a balanced more way. It helps us to be present when eating, whilst paying attention to our fullness cues. This increases satisfaction with what we’re consuming and makes portion control much easier.
Top tips to eat more mindfully:
Eat attentively – without laptops, TV, and phones
Chew thoroughly – savour the flavours
Slow down – it takes the brain 20 minutes to register that it’s full
Take a few deep breaths – if you’re stressed, take a few deep breaths before enjoying a meal or snack
Tip 2: Support the gut
Heavier comfort foods and alcohol which accompany the festive season can take their toll on our gut. Meeting our fibre requirements is a must for keeping digestion healthy and regular. Enjoy plenty of fibre-rich fruit and vegetables, whole grains, beans, pulses, nuts and seeds. Furthermore, prebiotic fibre is particularly effective at helping our beneficial gut bacteria to flourish. These fibres can be found in Jerusalem artichoke, garlic, onion, leeks and slightly unripe green bananas. Lastly, fermented foods and probiotics can introduce beneficial bacteria to the gut, helping to create an environment less favourable to the growth of harmful bacteria whilst improving digestive comfort.
Try Hello Day’s Bioharmony Balance containing prebiotics and probiotics with strains shown in clinical trials to support digestive health.
Tip 3: Drink Smart
While an occasional glass of wine with dinner isn’t a cause for concern, the cumulative effects of drinking wine, beer and spirits can take their toll. To keep health risks from alcohol to a low level, the UK Chief Medical Officers (CMOs) advise it is safest to drink no more than 14 units a week, which equates to around 6.5 glasses of wine. Furthermore, it’s best to spread alcoholic drinks evenly over three or more days (7). If looking to drink smarter, why not try a clear spirit such as vodka or gin with a low-sugar mixer such as sparkling water and a squeeze of lemon or lime? This choice of drink is low in sugar and calories. If opting for wine, most eateries serve this in a large glass which not only provides around 3 units of alcohol, but also packs in the calories. Therefore where possible, request for a small glass. Lastly, there is a range of low or no-alcohol spirits now available in restaurants and bars, such as Seedlip, Clean Liquor and Big Drop! These are great alternative for when you’re not ‘drinking’!
Tip 4: Keep moving
Did you know that the average adult has more than 57 hours of screen time over the Christmas break (1)? Not only does more screen time mean that we’re less active, but research has shown that eating in front of screens can stunt our perception of fullness (2). It can also hinder our ability to form memories with our food consumption, resulting in a greater likelihood to snack later on (3,4,5). Peeling ourselves away from our TV and phone, whilst engaging in some regular movement is not only important for helping us to maintain a healthy weight over the festive period but can help to relieve stress, boost mood, support sleep and digestion. Even a simple 30-minute brisk walk is a great way to reap benefits!
Tip 5: Include these winter nutrients
There’s nothing worse than feeling under the weather over Christmas! A nourishing diet is particularly important during the cold and flu season and may help to support our immune system during the busyness of the festive period. Vitamin C-rich foods, such as broccoli, red bell peppers, satsumas and Brussels sprouts are easy to include in festive dishes and provides great nourishment. Due to the darker days, supplementation with vitamin D should be considered in the UK throughout October to April as it plays a key role with immune regulation. Lastly, immunity nutrients such as zinc, selenium and vitamin A rich foods should be included as part of a balanced diet
Try Hello Day’s Immunity Support which provides the government recommended 10mcg vitamin D3
Thank you to Lily Soutter - Resident nutritionist at Hello Day for this contribution