10 Tips On How To Stay Healthy This Holiday Season
By Nindy Grewal, Holistic Nutritionist, (CNP, LBA, B.Ed)
The holiday season is going to be in full swing now with all the last minute shopping, crowded parking lots, wrapping presents and hosting lavish dinners. ‘T’is the season to be jolly’, they say, but with everything going on, it can also seem a lot more stressful. During times of high tension or anxiety, our bodies become depleted of vitamins and minerals to support the stress. To ensure you stay calm and keep your stress levels in check, I have 10 tips that you can use to help you get through the next few weeks with sanity and good health!
- Stay Hydrated
Many times over the holidays we find ourselves rushing around consumed with errands and we forget to eat and drink. It is very important to keep your body hydrated to avoid feeling run down. Good clean water, ideally filtered not tap (alkaline, reverse osmosis, spring) will help with delivery of essential nutrients to your cells to provide the energy it needs to keep you going throughout your day. Drinking water before you leave the house and keeping a bottle of water with you at all times will also help protect your skin from drying out in these colder, drier days. Often times, we feel hungry but really our body is actually just dehydrated. First, try drinking some water and then decide if you still need to eat (you may save some calories and money before hitting the food court). By adding lemon to your water, you can boost your immune system which will protect you from the numerous viruses flying around at this time of year. Drinking water will help you avoid those end of the day headaches that many experience after being out and about all day. Lastly, this is the season for parties and there will likely be a glass or three of wine being poured – again, just make sure you drink enough water before and after consuming alcohol to keep your body hydrated, as alcohol is very dehydrating.
- Eat Breakfast
Ensuring that you eat a hearty breakfast will not only give you the energy you need to get through your day, it actually will help support your immune system. By eating a healthy breakfast that consists of protein (eggs, whey or vegan smoothies, nuts and seeds / nut butters, lentils, legumes), a complex carbohydrate (whole grains, oatmeal, quinoa, millet, sweet potato), and a healthy fat (coconut oil, ghee, flax oil, avocado, nuts and seeds). I would also suggest throwing in a good amount of greens and some fruit to give you the vitamins and minerals to fuel and protect your body. Starting your day with a good breakfast will prevent your blood sugar from dropping and prevent causing more stress on your adrenals. Sugary cereals or breads cause your insulin to spike and then drop quickly, as well as skipping breakfast will also leave blood sugars at a low for too long. This will not only give you feelings of fatigue, anxiety and sugar cravings, but will lower your immunity, making you more prone to illnesses.
- Avoid caffeine
We all want that java fix to hit us with energy either first thing in the morning or even as a mid-day boost. Strong coffees and lattes will definitely wake you up as it triggers your adrenals to produce adrenaline. The body now is in fight or flight mode and puts all its’ energy on trying to escape a supposed threat. Your immune system is now diverted to this new “threat” and leaves you vulnerable to real threats like bacteria and viruses surrounding you. Try calming teas instead, like Chamomile, Passion flower, or Holy Basil tea. Drinking herbal teas without caffeine will be much easier on your mind and body. If you are already feeling stressed, supplement with B-complex vitamins and an adaptogenic herb such as Ashwaganda, Holy Basil, or Rhodiola. B-Vitamins are needed for proper nervous system function and become depleted during stressful times. The herbs provide further anti-stress support. These alternatives to coffee can protect your immune system, balance your hormones and give you the energy you are looking for.
- Plan Ahead
Food preparation is more important during the holidays, with even limited time and too many tempting desserts surrounding us. Try to allocate some time each week to preparing lunches and dinners that include quality protein, healthy fats, fiber with lots of vegetables and fruits. This way, you won’t feel as guilty if you indulge in any treats here and there. When you are out for the day, pack some healthy snacks to throw in your car or handbag. Here are some snack ideas that are easy to keep on hand to keep your blood sugar in balance and your energy going: nuts and seeds, granola, cut carrots and celery sticks, apples or pears and even protein bars (just make sure they are not loaded with sugar). See below a recipe for a quick energy ball that can be made and stored in the fridge to grab quickly on your way out the door or to pop into a container to keep on hand as a quick healthy snack. Another good idea is to always have a list with you. Whether it is a shopping list or a to-do list, this will help keep you organized and save you time (and probably money)preventing you from diverting off your needed tasks. Planning reduces the stress of feeling overwhelmed and makes you feel prepared and in control.
- Eat Beneficial Foods for Balance
It is inevitable we will be eating a lot of food over the holidays and probably some foods we generally avoid. There will also be more drinking of alcohol in this festive season. All of this is normal and is expected. There is no need to feel guilty about the food or drinks you are enjoying as long as you are balancing the intake with lots of antioxidant rich foods to help repair any damage these “bad” foods may be causing in the body. Eating foods high in Vitamins A, C, E and Selenium will easily fight off any cellular damage caused by carcinogenic foods and drinks. Foods such as berries, bell peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, pecans and Brazil nuts are all high in antioxidants. Eating plenty of dark, leafy greens will help alkalinize the body and provide the body with all the needed B vitamins, Calcium, Folic Acid and Vitamins D and K. Spices such as turmeric, cloves, cinnamon, garlic, ginger, parsley and rosemary all have many beneficial properties for reducing inflammation, fighting viruses, balancing blood sugar, providing heart health and brain support. Try to include as many of these types of foods into your diet over the holidays, especially on days you know you will be eating less “healthy” options.
- Be Kind
Be kind to others but more importantly to yourself. Let go of judgment and expectations on yourself. Self-criticism and high expectations on oneself only leads to further stress and anxiety. Stress and anxiety leads to nutrient depletion which will create a decline in your health. This time of year is not meant to put more pressure on you but to bring joy, laughter and bonding time with family and friends. So if you are hosting a dinner and feel the need to have everything just right, be gentle on yourself if it all isn’t as picture perfect as a magazine cover page. Nobody will remember the minute details that didn’t get done, how clean your house looked or the slight burn on the turkey. Everyone will, however, remember how much fun and happiness your presence brought to them. Your energy is what will make the holidays so much more memorable than all the things we choose to showcase. Remember to laugh and let go. Stay calm and enjoy this time of year for what it is supposed to bring – Cheer!
- Savour Your Foods
It doesn’t matter what you are eating, but whatever you choose, be sure to use all your senses to enjoy it. Eating a piece of chocolate cake and then feeling guilty afterwards will create stress within our body and not only will it take away from the enjoyment of it, it will just raise your cortisol levels (stress dealing hormones) which will in turn cause you to store more fat. So eat the cake, drink the wine, but slow it down and savour each bite or sip. This method of experiencing your food will allow you the pleasure (or perhaps the realization of displeasure)of the food or drink you are ingesting. Think about how you feel while you eat and how it makes your body feel after you eat it. This will provide you with great clues to which foods make you feel good and which actually make you feel more lousy. Eating and drinking slowly will also give your brain time to receive the signals that you have had enough and you will likely want less of it. Remember to eat healthy foods, but if you are going to eat some cheat foods during the holidays , really take pleasure in them!
It might be tough to get to the gym over the holidays, but if you can squeeze in a 15 minute home work-out, it will definitely do your body good! Exercise is a great way to release stress, as it helps to lower stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. Exercise also increases the production of endorphins, which are chemicals in the brain that elevate mood and are natural painkillers. Endorphins are natural relaxers and give the feeling of optimism. So if you have had a busy day running around gift-shopping or trying to get from one place to another in traffic, fitting in a quick workout will likely help you unwind and relax all that built up tension from the day. Starting your day with a workout can keep you in a lighter and more pleasant mood to protect you from feeling stressed or anxious. Keeping your exercise routine will also reduce feelings of guilt and prevent the waistline from bulging with the holiday foods. Exercise will build your strength, stamina and confidence!
- Create some time and space for yourself.
Whether you start your day with a morning practice or you complete your day with a yoga class or meditation, it is always beneficial to create some time to work on yourself to allow for mental and physical healing and strengthening. Many people get up feeling rushed and start their day reading emails that heighten anxiety with the information being bombarded at them or they are scrambling to get kids up and out the door and that anxiousness is carried with them throughout their day. If you can get into a habit of waking up even 20 minutes earlier, you can create a time to practice self-care. Taking long, deep breaths upon waking to release toxins and wake up the mind and body. Giving yourself time to meditate, stretch or just to be grateful can be so helpful in lowering stress and anxiety levels.
Just remember the most important advice – smile and stay positive throughout the holiday season! Your positivity will help you get through any moments of stress and anxiety. Keeping a cool head and letting yourself really enjoy all the madness that the holidays can bring, will allow you to truly appreciate everything you do each day. Be in the moment and try to make the most of it by smiling and laughing. Don’t stress about what happened yesterday or what will happen tomorrow. Peace of mind is only in the now. Positive thinking and feelings of joy can overcome any feelings of discomfort or illness. So strengthen your immune system with good vibes!
Happy holidays to everyone and stay safe and healthy to start 2018 on the right path to wellness!
Come see me for a free 15 minute consultation to discuss how I can support your January reset on health!
Nindy Grewal – Holistic Nutritionist, (CNP, LBA, B.Ed)