The year-end festivities are a time to celebrate but celebration doesn’t have to rhyme with overindulgence in food and drink. After all the holidays are primarily an opportunity to spend time with family, friends, and other loved ones. And though food and drink are part of that, there’s no reason your celebrations can’t be healthy and delicious without the overindulgence!

Keeping the eating and drinking healthy and enjoyable during the festivities doesn’t have to be difficult – all it takes is a bit of re-focus and moderation. Here are a few tips that can help you do just that, without too much effort! Your body (and your family) will thank you, and your New Year’s resolutions will also be much easier to tackle!

  •  Keep the focus on fun, family and friends!

Instead of focusing on the food, focus on relationships and fun. Learn to make wreaths and decorations with plant material picked in the woods during walks with family and friends. Or make food preparation part of the meal experience. For instance, make healthy treats to give away as gifts for your loved ones – I find that people are grateful to receive home-made gifts. See below for a healthy biscuit recipe that makes a perfect treat to give.

  • Fresh air and exercise

Go out into the crisp winter air. Take time out in nature, breathe in deeply, take short walks before and after meals, sledge if there’s snow, go ice skating, play team sports against each other – keep it moving and playful! A US study showed that people who exercised during the holidays did not gain the usual pound per year that adults otherwise gained (and then could then not get rid of) at this time of the year!

  • Focus on quality of food and drink rather than quantity!

When it comes to the celebratory feasts, focus on home-made “slow” food using quality locally-sourced ingredients. Experiment with healthier versions of your favourite recipes. Make cooking a family affair and get creative by making your family’s favourite cake and biscuit recipes using alternatives for wheat flour or white sugar. See below how I transformed a typical wheat and sugar recipe into a delicious gluten-free and no sugar biscuit recipe.

  • Learn the art of savouring your foods, instead of gorging on them! 

Make mindfulness practice a part of the meal experience. This doesn’t mean a meditation – simply take the time to use all of your senses to enjoy and be grateful for the meal you have. Try a little of everything in small portions, savouring the flavours and textures by taking your time to chew thoroughly and taking breaks between courses. This gives your stomach the time to feel full. Remember that it takes about 20 minutes for your stomach to register fullness. Then take seconds only if you are really hungry for more.

  • Continue with your usual healthy eating habits

Just because it’s the season of food and parties, doesn’t mean your everyday habits should now fly out the window. Continue to start your day with lemon water, morning exercise and a healthy breakfast.

  • Make smarter choices when eating out

Fill your plate with a higher proportion of vegetables/salads and accompany them with some lean protein, rather than loading up on refined carb dishes.

  • Sugar, processed foods, carbs and alcohol beware!

These “foods” feed and create a favourable environment for unhelpful bacteria, yeast and fungal infections to thrive, unbalancing your gut flora and making your body more susceptible to infections and inflammation. Keep them to a minimum, drink plenty of clean water and if you want to indulge in something sweet, make it part of a healthy meal and keep it in moderation. To help you avoid the main meal binge, have some healthy snacks between meals or before eating out – especially those rich in proteins and healthy fats, which will keep you feeling full longer. These can include raw organic seeds and nuts, in butter form or even just a teaspoon of coconut oil!

  • Add healthy, delicious vegetable and fat options (yes, fat!) to your festive meals!

Adding fibre-rich and nutrient-rich vegetables as well as good healthy fats to your festive meals will not only help keep your diet more balanced but will also keep you feeling more full and therefore less likely to overindulge. Include a rainbow of vegetable colours and flavours to your meal. Use plenty of healthy fats such as organic extra-virgin olive oil, coconut oil, hemp seed oil, flax/linseed oil or ghee. Make it a discovery of new flavours and colours! Click here for a delicious and colourful festive cabbage salad recipe which is a favourite in our family.

  • Juicing for balance!

Fresh vegetable juicing is one of the easiest ways of getting your 4-5 cups of veggies a day in a concentrated nutritiously-packed way. Plant enzymes in the juice will support your liver and digestive track in helping your body’s natural detoxification processes, making recovery from the festive overindulgence less difficult! Remember that when juicing you want to stick to vegetables and limit fruits to keep sugar levels low. Blending may be a better option since it maintains the fibre that is so important to health. All you need to get started on this healthy habit and bring your body a little bit of balance during the festivities is to have 1 a day!

  • Warming Yuletide drinks!

Staying hydrated is essential in helping with elimination (and has the added benefit of keeping you feeling full) but be sure to drink water, and not sugary or fizzy drinks. Why not try some warming and healthy drinks that have the benefit of being anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial as well? What could be more seasonal than warming spicy teas such as: hot lemon juice or fresh ginger tea with a touch of honey to aid digestion? Or tea and milk-free chai: combine ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and black pepper and boil for 10-15 minutes in water – add liquorice root as well if you want a bit of sweetness.  Make an alcohol-free festive spiced “wine” by substituting raw organic apple juice for the wine and simmering with the above spices.

  • Digestive Support!

Taking digestive support is a “symptomatic” solution but sometimes that is simply called for. If you’re prone to gut discomfort, intolerances, reflux, “liver” headaches, inflammation, or difficulty digesting alcohol you may want to consider taking the following preventatively.

  • Milk thistle in tincture form or as capsules. Ask your friendly Medical Herbalist (me!) for a small bottle to keep around for such occasions. Milk thistle can protect the liver from overindulgence and help it metabolise and excrete toxins more efficiently. If you don’t have access to a Medical Herbalist you can use these drops (which are also combined with other liver-supporting herbs). Take 20 drops about 30 minutes before your meals or 1-2 hours after. If you order at the Natural Dispensary you may use my practitioner code terra10 to receive 10% off.
  • Digestive enzymes help speed up breakdown, absorption and excretion of macronutrients that may be toxic or inflammatory. I recommend these or these which contains a mix of helpful enzymes, especially helpful for refined food indulgences or protein-rich meals.
  • Pre and probiotics help maintain your healthy gut flora balance. I suggest some Saccharomyces boulardii (actually a type of “friendly yeast”) if you have been indulging in a lot of sugar-rich foods. Click here for my choice of probiotic.

Here’s to happy, healthy and fun celebrations with you and your loved ones!

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