Nutrition at Christmas
Do the two words go together? Actually yes, the food eaten at Christmas can be very nutritious, it’s the one time vegetables do have a starring role. Carrots, parsnips and red cabbage feature on most people’s menus. The poor Brussels sprout is also eaten, with reluctance but tradition allows it to have its day on the 25th. Turkey is a lean source of protein and a rich source of tryptophan, tryptophan is an amino acid that helps with your mood and sleep. For more information of the value of dinner read this.
Christmas is also about excess, too much alcohol, sugar, food and family! There are a lot of social media posts and newspaper articles about how to cope and eat at Christmas so I am trying to keep it very simple and not also come across as someone who insists that you must still be thinking about nutrition at this time of year – just let that side happen.
- Chew your food – chewing food is one of the most important habits you can start. There is no better a time to do this on Christmas Day. Practice mindful eating – think about the lovely person of people that have prepared your meal, think about the farmers that have grown the veg or reared the turkey, think about the turkey. Be mindful of the staff in shops that has been extremely busy in the lead up making sure you can have a Christmas dinner. Pause on Christmas Day and think about people who are on their own and not managing to have a good Christmas. In doing this you prepare your body for digestion. Chewing your food and slowing down stimulates saliva, where immediately carbohydrates are broken down in the mouth. This in turn sends messages to your stomach where acid will be produced to help break down your food even more, and then the pancreas releases enzymes further helping the process. Put simply this will help you digest and absorb your food. It will also help towards not eating excessively (though I always do on Christmas Day).Slowing down to eat may also reduce the Christmas bloat and even avoid the after-effects of Brussels sprouts. On a side note here, adding fennel to cooking or chewing on fennel seeds after eating may also help avoid a bloated, windy tummy.
- Have fun! Play games, laugh, pull crackers and wear hats – it’s the one time of year to take advantage, so do it! It’s not easy at this time of year spending time with family, take time out in the lead up to Christmas. Look after ‘yourself’. Have baths, read, meditate or have long walks, take time out from the hustle and bustle. Improving you coping mechanisms before a big event like Christmas Day can help towards how you react on the day.
- Go for a walk after your main course. Studies have shown that exercise after eating may help with blood sugar levels. Why is this important? Maintaining optimal glucose control may help towards avoiding type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity. You may also feel less tired, less need for reaching for the sweet foods and less grumpy.
These 3 tips can be applied in the New Year, simple but can have dramatic effects on your health and how you feel!
Happy, happy Christmas and have a wonderful New Year.
See you in 2017!