With Christmas, New Year and Chinese New Year coming up, and restrictions for COVID-19 gradually been lifted, it’s time to enjoy the holiday season filled with gatherings and feasts again. While we enjoy these warm and hearty meals, some of us might be worried about gaining extra weight or feel crappy and guilty after the holiday season.
Here are some tips to help us stay physically and mentally healthy and happy while we enjoy this precious time of the year.
Enjoy your meals mindfully
Eat and drink slowly, chew foods thoroughly and eat with a relaxed mood.
Know your body’s limits and listen to your body's cues. Consume foods and drinks in moderation.
Stop eating when you feel full.
Say no to second glass of wine if you can only tolerate one glass before having a headache.
Avoid things that you know will make you have a migraine, a stomachache or make you feel "crappy."
Mindfulness and awareness are the key.
Appreciate the foods and stay mindful of what you are eating, choose real foods and homemade foods rather than processed food products.
Choose healthy substitutes/alternatives
Choose cookies, crackers and chips with simple ingredients without harmful food additives. Healthier options usually have less ingredients and without ingredients that you can’t pronounce or recognize. E.g. A bag of chips with only potato, salt and non-hydrogenated oil is way healthier than a bag of chips with hydrogenated oil, aspartame, monosodium glutamate (MSG), food colorings, and high-fructose corn syrup.
Look for low sugar alternatives but avoid artificial sweeteners like aspartame, acesulfame potassium, and sucralose.
Nourish your body with nutrients and other goodies
Eat well-balanced meals so your body has all the nutrients needed to help break down the alcohol and help you stay energetic and happy throughout the holiday season.
Have adequate vegetable and fiber intake to help feed the good bacteria in the gut since the pastries and alcohol tend to feed the harmful bacteria. An unsweetened Greek yogurt with fresh fruits or chia seeds would be a good way to end a meal to feed beneficial bacteria too.
Have adequate amount of proteins to balance out your blood sugar while you enjoy more sweets and chocolates. The amino acids will also help keep your neurotransmitters in balance and help you stay in a good mood.
B vitamins (like vitamin B6, B12, and folate), vitamin C and magnesium are key nutrients to help keep our liver, adrenal glands and brain happy while we stay up later and party more. You can search for foods rich in these nutrients and add these foods to your feast.
Choose and add in healthy oils/ fats, and reduce unhealthy fats. Not all fats and calories are the same, consuming healthy oils can help you stay in shape and keep your brain happy after the holiday season.
Healthy fats and oils: nuts and seeds, olive oil, avocado oil, salmon, mackerel.
Unhealthy fats and oils: margarine, trans fats, animal fats, fatty meats, hydrogenated oil, fried foods.
Consume nutrient dense foods (e.g. colorful and fiber rich vegetables and proteins) first can help ensure adequate nutrient intake and also prevent us from overconsuming high sugar, high refined-carbs and high fat foods.
Keep yourself hydrated, with water. Beverages don’t count toward your minimum daily water intake, so make sure to drink adequate water.
Move your body
We all can get a little lazy when it’s the holiday season and when it’s cold outside. (And yes, gyms might even be closed!) It’s best to continue with our regular exercise routine so our body won’t go out of shape and we won't feel guilty after the holiday.
It’s okay if we can’t always keep up with the routine. Going out for a walk or a run, or going for a hike with friends and family can be good alternatives too!
Keep your immune function in check
While we pass on the happiness with gatherings and meetings we can also pass on bacteria and viruses, especially when there new COVID-19 variants keep evolving.
Some tips to help support our immune function:
Avoid overconsuming sugar, refined carbs, fried foods and processed foods.
Ensure adequate intake of vitamins A, C, E, and minerals like zinc and selenium.
Stay in the sun for 15-20 minutes a day during the midday to boost vitamin D level.
Maintain a healthy gut flora with fibers and probiotics.
Get enough rest and sleep.
Manage stress - the holiday season can be stressful for some of us and making time to take care of ourselves and to relieve stress is also important.
Make time for self-care routines
Spend some time at the end of the day to unwind, relax and sit with yourself. Allow your nervous system to calm down and return to its baseline after exciting events and moments.
Make time for rituals or routines to recharge yourself. (E.g. meditation, deep breathing, yoga, going for a walk, reading a book.) Especially if you’re an introvert or if staying in the crowd and talking to people can drain you.
Let us continue to take care of our body and mind during the holiday season and start the new year with fresh and healthy vibes!