by Dr Alexis Blanks, ND
Most people enjoy the holiday season and all that comes with it. There will be parties, indulgence, less sleep and broken routines. Without taking precautions the holiday season can challenge our immune systems, waistlines and overall health. Here are some ideas to take with you this holiday season to avoid those negative consequences while you enjoy yourself.
- Don’t go to the party hungry – you’ve heard this one before, but here’s a little reminder. It’s much more difficult to make smart decisions about food when you are starving. Make sure you have a healthy and sensible snack before you go out. Be sure it includes some protein, good fat and fibre to keep your blood sugar stable, this will help to avoid a sugar crash later.
- For potlucks, bring a healthy dish you love. This way you know there will be a healthy dish that you can fill up on and enjoy alongside some of the other treats you might not usually have. When I go to potlucks I usually bring a vegetable dish like a green salad. If you’d like some inspiration, check out the “articles and events” section of our website for my yummy salad dressing ideas.
- Give yourself permission to indulge in the things that you love most. If it’s not something that you love, try to remember that just because it’s there and it’s a “treat,” you don’t have to eat it.
- When you do indulge in the things you love, take time to savour it. Our lives are so full and busy we often do things on autopilot without being completely present. When you enjoy a treat, stop and take notice, eat slowly and savour it.
- Try out some alternative cooking/baking. Recipes for healthier alternatives can often be just as yummy and the Internet is a great place to find them. Here’s a site I love for its healthy and delicious recipes: www.nourishingmeals.com
- Plan some active family adventures. Routines and exercise schedules are often disrupted in December so try to plan for some fun active time with loved ones. Options might include a hike, the seasonal light display at Butchart Gardens, or a trip to the local recreation centre.
- Plan for some time for stress release. There is often stress involved in all of the planning, shopping, cleaning, baking and entertaining. Take some time for yourself and do the things that help you to lower your stress. For example, a yoga class, walk on the beach or just sitting down a couple times each day to take 10 deep, slow, focused breaths – this little practice can do wonders!
- Drink in moderation. For many, celebrating and spending time with friends and family means having a few drinks. Leaving aside the fact that red wine may contain health giving antioxidants, we know that alcohol is generally not terribly good for us and binge drinking is downright bad for us. That’s before you add the sugar and other things (colour, preservatives, calories…) that are in many mixed drinks. So make a plan now that you can stick to for this seasons parties.
- Drink water, it’s essential to your good health. Remember to drink water at parties and social events; this will help keep you from eating too much (sometimes we confuse thirst for hunger) and drinking too much. Consider adding carbonated water to your favourite drink rather than pop – you might develop a taste for it!
- Boost your immune system. Natural medicine offers many effective tools that help to support and nourish your immune system. Examples include vitamin D, probiotics and herbs like echinacea and astragalus. As a naturopathic doctor my preference is always to assess the individual and then choose which of these tools will be most effective for a particular person.