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How to cope with Christmas – food, stress and social events

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Christmas comes once a year and it’s this time of the year we like to be merry, enjoy a big family get together and of course eat lots of yummy foods. However, it can also become stressful with all the planning, excess food and social events. Here I share some top tips for a smoother and less anxious Christmas.

Habits, routine and exercise
Try and maintain your habits but you don’t need to be too strict on yourself. After indulging on your Christmas parties and family roasts go for a crisp winter walk with your family and friends to digest your food. Remember you don’t need to go to every social event, eat 3 courses and learn to say No.

It’s fine if your routine breaks and you don’t go to the gym over the festive period but don’t break the habits and routine for too long.

Keep busy in the kitchen, get your children involved in preparing the Christmas meal and keep them active with household chores, decorating the house and take a walk to see the Christmas markets and lights. Keep your body moving with less sitting and more standing. Make a list and remember don’t worry if it doesn’t get done, prep a few weeks before too can also help and get your friends and family to help.

Food
Making your Christmas meal from scratch and a bit of baking gets you in the festive spirit. Cooking foods can often be healthier as you know what ingredients are going in, in comparison to buying ready meals and pre packed foods. We all know the majority of us tend to go for a roast which is a healthy cooking method to cut back on your saturated fat intake. Although watch how much oil you use to marinate or coat your vegetables, potatoes and meats. Tip – drizzle or use a measuring spoon!

Reduce the sugar and butter content if you are making a pudding/dessert – add fresh / tinned / frozen / dried fruit for some natural sweetness. Use oils such as rapeseed or olive oil – a good source of monounsaturated fat to marinate your roast potatoes and vegetables. Steam those Brussel sprouts. Make your own gravy using the juices from your roast meat, shop brought ones can be high in sugar and salt.

The extra nibbles of course make a difference but opt for healthier alternatives instead of endless chocolates – coat plain nuts with cinnamon or honey or paprika and roast them in the oven. Cheese and crackers, raw vegetable sticks with homemade dips such as hummus and guacamole, fresh tomato salsa and some fruit cocktail sticks.

Drink
We can’t all avoid parties and social gatherings and we all like to be merry this time of the year. However, make sure you top your own glass of wine so you can keep a track of how much you are drinking. If you are having one too many make sure you drink lots of water to hydrate yourself. Sip your drink. Use small glasses and diluting your alcohol with tonic water can reduce the amount of alcohol.

Make your own mulled wine with fresh fruits and juice, you don’t necessarily need to use alcohol. Herbal teas can also help if you are feeling full post meal – try mint tea!

Don’t feel guilty
This time of year is about being merry, sociable and it’s the festive season. It’s about getting the balance, don’t go excessive and don’t beat yourself up if you have over indulged. Continue having regular meals and snacks; don’t skip your breakfast just because you will be diving into a large Christmas meal, you will end up eating more. Don’t count calories and try not to demonize foods as being good and bad. Listen to your body, give it what it needs with nourishing food and have a balanced diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables, carbohydrates, protein and dairy.

Don’t let the weather stop you from going out for a walk and get playing some games that involve movement and fun and keep your body moving. If you sit on the couch all day and eat nonstop you will feel like not getting up and may feel even worse.

Try these alternatives to help you if you find you are eating more than usual especially after a meal:

Take a walk and observe nature and surroundings

Call a friend

Take some deep breaths before a meal and focus on the present moment

Eat slowly

Take a bath

Do some exercise

Listen to music

Listen to a podcast or read a book

Learn a new skill

Have a gratitude journal

Drink a glass of water

Contact One You Hounslow to make positive steps towards a healthier you for 2020! Call 020 8973 3530, e-mail oneyou.hounslow@nhs.net or register online

Merry Christmas!

Gopika Chandratheva
(Nutritionist)

Reference: British Nutrition Foundation

Christmas food