How to stay healthy over Christmas and look after your waistline and liver
Christmas is that time of the year when eating healthily and drinking sensible amounts of alcohol goes out of the window. How many work related Christmas parties have you been to and had a drink at? How many friends have you met up with for a festive drink? You have probably strayed away from that not drinking between Sunday and Thursday and fell as though everyday is a Friday!
This article is by Elspeth Stewart the nutrional therapist at the Angel Wellbeing Clinic in Islington. Elspeth looks at how you can minimise the collateral damage to your health from having a good time!!
It can be a challenging to maintain a healthy diet over the silly season. Christmas is a time for catching up with friends and family – we should all enjoy some treats, have a drink and savour the good times BUT December should not be seen as an excuse to completely shelve healthy habits. By making healthy food choices most of the time, a few naughty indiscretions will have little impact on your health (and waistline).
Some people may be able to abstain from the party but for the rest of us, following these 4 simple tips, will help us to enjoy ourselves and start January without guilt - our new years resolutions can also centre around something more meaningful than ‘lose 10lbs’.
Four easy steps for a healthy Christmas
1) My number one tip is to take a look at each week, identify when you’re out, when your home and do your shopping accordingly. Online supermarket delivery is great for this if you’re short on time. Planning ahead is much more important when you’re busy and it means your kitchen will be stocked with healthy foods to make breakfast, lunches and snacks on your days/nights in. This ensures that you eat well on the days you can control.
There is nothing worse than coming home late (or waking up in the morning with a sore head) and finding an empty fridge - you are much more likely to resort to convenience foods or takeout. At the very least, a carton of eggs and some wholegrain bread (gluten free, if required) in the freezer for toasting can be an emergency lifeline for either breakfast or dinner.
2) Stick to some sort of exercise routine even if it is a light version of what you normally do. It is better to go for a walk or do a gym session at half-intensity than not to do it at all. You will feel better both in body and mind. If you swim, it’s a great way to wash away any brain fog from the night before.
3) A big part of healthy eating is to limit intake of carbohydrate-rich foods such as bread, pasta, and potato. This approach should definitely be applied around Christmas time if you want to fit your favourite new years party outfit. If at a restaurant, choose the ‘meat and veg’ combo (grilled fish is usually a good bet) rather than pasta or risotto. Select salad instead of chips, if given the option (request it, if not).
Avoid the bread-basket and ask for a side of vegetables if you are feeling hungry. Its not complicated – you just need to remember to do it.
In the context of carbs, it is also important to consider alcohol intake. Fruity cocktails and mixers are generally high in sugars – containing at least 7-10 tsp for a long drink, often more. A glass of wine or champagne contains between 1-3 tsp of sugar, depending on how dry it is.
The least calorific drinks will be white spirits (vodka/gin) with soda and a squeeze of lemon or lime. By all means, enjoy a cocktail – its Christmas after all, but if you drink mojito’s ALL night, there will be consequences.
4) Finally, stay well hydrated. Aim to drink 1.5-2L of fluid every day so that you don’t start a night out already dehydrated. Being dehydrated will not only tempt you to drink more but it will also amplify any hangover the next morning.
Alternate between alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. Sparkling water with ice and lime is a good option if your drinking buddies are the kind to look down on ‘taking it easy’ - tell them it’s a gin and tonic. If at a restaurant, ask for water for the table.
If you have arranged to go out with friends or colleagues after work, grab a bottle of water and a savoury snack or light meal on your way. Some of the food chains around the UK have reasonable options such as Prêt, M&S and Leon.
Choose a venue that also offers food or make dinner at a restaurant a part of the evening. If you’ve been out drinking and not had a proper dinner, try to have something before you go to bed. And finally, when you get home, have a large glass of water and fill another to keep by your bed for when you wake up.
Being healthy does not have to mean that you can’t enjoy Christmas - go out, eat out and enjoy a drink if you want one! Just keep in mind these 4 strategies – plan, exercise, watch the carbs and hyrdate - your liver and your head will thank you.