With the silly season just around the corner, it’s time to brace ourselves for the most decadent, frivolous and exciting period of the year! As a certified health coach, I wouldn’t suggest starting a new diet regime at this time of year but I do feel, as with many things in life, it’s about balance and enjoying this special time mindfully.
If you feel like your healthy habits typically fall to the wayside around this time, don’t stress, you’re not alone. I'm here to inform you that it is possible to enjoy the treats and temptations of the season without totally letting ourselves go.
Discover how you can stay healthy and balanced this festive season with the following top tips I follow personally and share with my clients...
Top 8 ways to stay healthy this silly season
Switch sugar-laden moscato and bubbles for dry white wine, vodka, soda and fresh lime, or gin with a low-sugar or zero-sugar kombucha. This sweet fizz is FULL of sugar and for very little alcohol payoff. You’re basically guzzling down soft drink! Just one 150ml standard glass of moscato has roughly five teaspoons (yep, you heard it, FIVE spoonful’s) of sugar compared to the same volume of a dry non-bubbly varietal which has around one-two teaspoons of sugar. It might not sound like such a big deal, what’s an extra couple of teaspoons of sugar?! But health is about making lots of little tweaks in all areas of life. So rather than commit to excessive restrictive regimes over the holidays, why not instead make a healthier choice that still allows you to enjoy yourself without feeling guilty or resentful.
Enjoying a festive beverage at the London Edition, circa 2018
Upgrade store bought dips for homemade versions. Supermarket dips are LOADED with preservatives, flavourings and cheap fillers such as dairy and refined vegetable oils. DIY dips can be a nutritious, crowd-pleasing and moreish addition to any festive spread. A humble hummus or, better yet, hummus-three-ways (I like original, beetroot and curried versions) makes for a cheap and cheerful yet Insta-worthy platter at ‘bring a plate’ gatherings. All you need is a good blender and a few tins of chickpeas. You probably have the remaining key ingredients, such as olive oil, lemons, spices etc, on hand. Especially delicious served with a selection of seasonal veggie crudites. Check out my trio of hummus recipe.
Sub soft drink for kombucha. Friendly reminder: a can of coke contains 10 teaspoons of sugar. Yes, you heard it 10!!!! Shocking right?! Whether you’re after a refreshing alternative to water or a mixer for your Christmas cocktails, swap the soda for low-sugar or, better yet, zero-sugar kombucha (I like Remedy Drinks and Lo Bros) which is basically a lightly sparkling soft drink bursting with beneficial bacteria thanks to the fermentation of brewed tea leaves, the star ingredient. I favour Remedy as it’s completely sugar-free and I Quit Sugar approved, while Lo Bros is low-sugar and has some pretty creative fruity flavours that are hard to beat. Anything that’s delicious and offers health benefits gets two thumbs up from me!
A very festive brunch, washed down with delicious Remedy booch. Image credit: moi.
Trade toast for smoothies. It still surprises me how many people begin their day with nutrient-lacking toast and processed spreads. Being one of the busiest and most stressful times of the year, we want to give our immune system a big helping hand. One of the best ways to do this is by starting your day right with a nutrient-packed smoothie that’ll help fill any nutritional gaps. Start with 1-2 handfuls of energy-boosting dark leafy greens, 1 cup nut milk, 1-2 serves fruit (banana, berries, melons and mango are my faves), some good fats such as 1 tablespoon nut butter, ¼ avocado, one tablespoon hemp, chia or flax seeds. Blitz until smooth and creamy! This is a perfect on-the-go breakfast that’ll keep you going until lunch, but if you do find it’s not filling enough, add in ¼ cup oats next time. For extra wellness bonus points: throw in some anti-inflammatory herbs, spices or superfoods such as maca, turmeric, mint, aloe vera, cacao, goji, spirulina, acai etc.
Green drinks: the fastest way to holiday-ready skin.
Keep hydrated. This one goes without saying, but a friendly reminder to space out each alcoholic drink with water, coconut water or a kombucha. You’ll be thanking yourself the next morning when you can wake up without a heavy, hazy, hungover head. At those boozy bashes, choose hydrating fruit and veg such as cucumbers, tomato, melons, capsicum, radish and celery for all your nibbling needs. With a side of homemade beet hummus of course (see recipe link above)
Infused waters. A creative way to make plain old water taste and look delicious.
Choose your “naughty” credits wisely. Rather than shamelessly bingeing the whole season, ask yourself what is it you absolutely cannot resist? For me, it’s anything dark chocolate-y. With my dairy intolerance I can easily pass on the festive favourite cheese platter, but offer me a gooey chocolate brownie or chocolate cake (dairy-free, of course) and I’m all in. The key I want to emphasise here is quality over quantity; it’s about mindfully savouring the one or two treats you can’t say no to. Use your credits wisely and you will feel so much better for it – both physically and emotionally.
Have your cake and eat (a little of) it too!
Don’t skimp on sleep. Did you know that sleep deprivation increases appetite and decreases satiety, meaning not only are you hungrier than usual, but you’re more likely to overeat and binge? I’m sure we’ve all been there after a big night out, we want to eat everything in sight! And it’s typically not carrot sticks we reach for, but instead processed, sweet, salty and refined “foods”. Holiday season aside, make a conscious effort to set a consistent bed time and give yourself a good hour to unwind before bed. I like to diffuse lavender oil in my bedroom, dim the lights and turn my devices to airplane mode from 9-10pm to signal sleep time.
Sleep and cat. Two things guaranteed to bring bliss, stat!
Prioritise self-care. Last but very not least, the festive season is the time to treat yourself to some TLC with a little ‘me time’. I know it may sound counterintuitive, but carving out more time for precious you actually helps to create more space for the things you truly love. While I’m typically a DIY mani and pedi girl (using a 5-free formula, of course, such as Zoya), this is the one time of the year I outsource and get a “proper” SNS or shellac mani with a fun colour that screams “PARTY” such as red or anything sparkly/shimmery. Don't forget to fill up your cup mentally and emotionally, too. Think time in nature, massage, breathwork exercises, yin yoga, sweating excess stress away through exercise, choosing carefully who you spend your precious time with wisely, and diffusing mood-elevating essential oils (I love a blend of Siberian fir, orange, cinnamon and pine for instant festive feels).
Taking in the beauty of Killarney, Ireland, from Aghadoe Heights.
Here's hoping it's a happy and healthy festive season.