It’s that time of year again, when even Scrooge himself was persuaded to take time out from work, relax and indulge a little. Sharing a home-cooked feast of food and drink with friends and family is a seasonal highlight that many people look forward to for months. So dig out the tinsel, dust off the cookery books and get set for a sensational festive season!
However, even the best of us tend to overindulge, with the average person eating a belt-stretching 7,000 calories on Christmas Day and each household spending roughly £163 on food and drink. With indulgence on this scale, your body may need a little extra help, to cope with the demands made upon it.
Luckily, by stocking up on a couple of extra ingredients and following a few of our diet tips, there’s no reason why you cannot enjoy yourself and survive the excesses of the season intact. Preparation is the key.
Firstly, make sure you eat breakfast.
It’s easy to overlook this important meal when the pressure is on to get the turkey in the oven. But breakfast can help give us all a good start to the day and help to fill you up so you are less likely to snack. Why not sprinkle some lecithin granules on your breakfast cereal, which may help your body to digest and process any surge in fatty foods over the festive period.
Throw in a few nuts and dried festive fruits such as figs and dates which, combined, are a good source of iron and zinc - essential for adequate digestive acids. Low stomach acid is a common reason for indigestion. If you don’t like nuts or just don’t have time, a good quality multivitamin can supply you with additional zinc, thiamin and iron plus a good base level of essential nutrients.
If, despite these measures, your dinner usually leaves you feeling sluggish, bloated and with that uncomfortably full feeling, you might benefit from taking additional digestive aids like ginger, fennel and fenugreek, all of which help digestion.
Taking digestive enzymes just before a meal may also help to support a robust digestive system. Bromelain, which occurs naturally in pineapple, is a particularly useful enzyme for the digestion of turkey and other proteins, while artichoke is another natural digestive must-have for those keen on the cheese board and other fatty foods.
Encouraging healthy bacteria in your gut may also assist with your digestion, especially if you have a sweet tooth. Sugar can encourage the growth of bad bacteria, that can produce gas and abdominal discomfort. Liberally adding foods like onions, garlic, artichokes, leeks and chicory to your festive menu may help, as these foods feed bacteria that are helpful to digestion.
If you have recently taken an antibiotic or you already have a problem with bad intestinal bacteria, invest in a quality probiotic supplement for the fast-track approach to building good internal gut flora. Look out for a probiotic that includes human strain bacteria like
L. casei, L. acidophilus or B. longum, that are known to be effective at colonising the gut.
Of course, it’s not just food we indulge in at this time of year. Many of us find that, with seasonal lunches, dinners and catching up with old friends, the amount we drink can really start to add up, too! Drinking, plus eating foods high in saturated fats and sugar, means that although we may be relaxing in front of the TV, our livers are working harder than ever.
If you want to help your liver out, you could try alternating an alcoholic drink with water or a soft drink or even make your own mulled juice. Just blend cranberry and orange juices, warm gently and serve with a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg. Delicious!
Alternatively, if you are determined to get fully into the festive spirit, taking a supplement of milk thistle may assist your liver to function optimally to process and eliminate any alcohol excesses from the body. The amino acids N-acetyl cysteine, methionine, taurine and glutamine are also important to keep the liver healthy. Fortunately, good quality protein, including turkey, is a good source of these amino acids. Alternatively, if you can’t face any more turkey, you can top up with a supplement containing these helpful amino acids.
However, the traditional turkey does contain more protein and much less fat than goose or duck, so it is a good option for healthy eating. But just try to avoid eating the skin because this is usually high in fat! Nut roast has also become the traditional dish for many vegetarians; using chestnuts and cranberries give it a real festive twist.
At this time of year, there are lots of wonderful root vegetables in season and these add lots of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals to your plate. Cut your potatoes into larger chunks and they will absorb less fat. You could also try steaming your vegetables, rather than boiling them. That way they won’t lose as many vitamins. If you do boil your veg, you could use the cooking water to make a nutrient-rich gravy.
And, for a lighter dessert choice, try serving a big fruit salad, or make your own festive compote by stewing your favourite berries with plums, apples with cinnamon, and serve it up with some live natural yoghurt.
The festive season can be stressful, so planning your day and sharing out all the jobs that need to be done may help to reduce everyone’s stress levels. If your children get overexcited, plan a long walk for a change of scene and some fresh air. If that does not work, consider taking theanine, melissa officinalis, passion flower and taurine, which may help you to preserve that sense of inner calm so you start your day the way you want to go on.
If you do find yourself feeling stressed out, B vitamins and ginseng may be beneficial as they help support the body during stressful times and can give a well-needed boost.
So eat, drink and be merry! With a little forward planning there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy a relaxing, happy and healthy festive season.
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