Christmas is notoriously a time to indulge, but don’t let this be the green light to overindulge! You can still enjoy all the festivities of the season and get through the Christmas period without too much impact on your health and waistline. Try our top 10 tips for a healthier Christmas.
1 Don’t sit down all day
We know every Christmas special under the sun will be showing on the TV, but you don’t need to plonk yourself on the sofa all day! Encourage the whole family to get out for a walk at some point – ideally, after dinner to aid digestion. The more activity, the better, so take along any new outdoor gifts, like bikes, scooters, footballs or Frisbees, or play old-fashioned games.
2 Go easy on the booze
If you are firmly ensconced at home over the festive period, those alcohol units can really mount up. Mulled wine on Christmas eve, Bucks Fizz with breakfast, wine with dinner, Baileys, brandy… the list goes on! So, do try to keep tabs on how much you are drinking, and intersperse alcoholic drinks with soft ones.
3 Don’t give yourself a Christmas stuffing!
Recent research suggests that we consume around 3,000 calories in our Christmas dinner – more than the entire recommended daily intake for a grown man! This huge feast not only contributes to weight gain but also to indigestion and heartburn – not to mention lethargy for the rest of the day, reducing the chances of you burning much of it off. Instead of gorging yourself on Christmas dinner, eat a normal-sized meal and then take a 20-minute break to see if you are still hungry (it takes this long for the brain to register that the stomach is full). The chances are, you’ll realise you’ve had enough.
4 Keep colds at bay
Colds are rife at Christmas, partly because many of us travel around the country, exposing ourselves – and others – to different cold viruses. Minimise your risks by maintaining a healthy immune system (eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep and not smoking will help), so you are more able to fight off any viruses.
5 Don’t stress
‘Tis the season to be jolly’ but jolly is the last thing many of us feel with overspending, cooking, cleaning, endless ‘to do’ lists and visitors we could do without. Try to keep a sense of humor and proportion. Is it really the end of the world if the carrots are overcooked or if the mantelpiece is a bit dusty? Do you really care about Auntie Mary’s disapproval of the fact that you and your partner are living together and aren’t married? Remember, Christmas is just one day out of 365 and it isn’t worth stressing over.
6 Eat fruit
Let’s be honest, most of us get through the entire Christmas period eating no more fruit than the satsuma in the Christmas stocking. It just doesn’t really feature on the Christmas menu. But at this time of late nights, overindulging and partying, it’s more important than ever to get your vitamins and minerals, to help you stay in good health. Ensure that your Christmas shopping list enables you to fill up the fruit bowl and get your recommended daily portions of fruit and veg. (And no, mulled wine doesn’t count as one portion!)
7 Do something for others
It’s hard to avoid the consumerism that has overtaken Christmas in the western world, but it doesn’t all have to be about giving or receiving gifts. Try to do something for others this festive season, whether it’s baking some extra mince pies for an elderly neighbor, inviting an acquaintance who doesn’t have family around them to your home or helping out with a local Christmas fete or carol service.
8 Think before you eat
Christmas is a time of plenty, and with nuts, chocolates, mince pies and cheese straws wherever you look, it would be rather Scrooge-like to suggest that you don’t eat any treats over the festive period! But rather than mindlessly popping whatever is in front of you in your mouth, spend a moment thinking about whether you really want it, or are just eating it because it’s there.
9 Engage your brain
Instead of switching off in front of the TV, keep your mind active by playing games like Trivial Pursuit or Charades. This is also a great way of getting everyone together. If you aren’t a ‘game’ person, engage your mind by setting up any new gadgets, such as Playstations, iPads, mobile phones or laptops.
10 Be a careful cook
If your Christmas duties include cooking the dinner, you won’t be delighted to hear that according to the Food Standards Agency, December is one of the most common months for people to get food poisoning. To minimise the risks, don’t leave food out all day. Put out small amounts at a time, so that what is on the table has just been cooked or just come out of the fridge. Ideally, try to use any leftovers within 48 hours or freeze them. As for the turkey, always defrost it in the fridge, allowing 10 to 12 hours per kilo and do not wash the bird, as this can spread bacteria around, which will be destroyed by cooking anyway.
And most importantly, have a happy, healthy festive season!