Survive the festive season

Christmas food and drink can put a strain on your digestive system. Here’s how to lighten the load

Tis the season to be jolly… but with all that jolliness can come a lot of bloating, indigestion and hangovers. There’s no getting away from it – rich Christmas food and drink may look and taste wonderful but it doesn’t always sit that well with our digestive systems. So how can we make sure that we enjoy a merry, but healthy, Christmas?

Have a proper breakfast
Making sure that you eat a proper breakfast is the best way to start your Christmas morning, according to Sarah Green, Registered Nutritional Therapist and Vice Chair of BANT (www.BANT.org.uk). “Studies show people who eat a decent breakfast tend to eat fewer calories in a day without even trying,” says Sarah. “A good breakfast including some protein (nuts, seeds, eggs, fish or meat) and fat (avocados, nuts, seeds or salmon) within an hour of getting up will help to keep your energy levels up and reduce cravings.” Sarah suggests adding nuts, seeds and some fresh fruit to a whole oat porridge or even to improve your regular cereal or having mashed avocado on toast topped with a poached, scrambled or boiled egg. Be sure to avoid fruit juice though – a 250ml glass of orange juice has around six teaspoons of sugar – about the same as a glass of coke.

Step away from the canapés
“The most important thing to look out for during the festive season is not a big dinner itself – it is the extras that come before and after it,” says nutritionist Kamilla Schaffner (www.mylondonnutritionist.com). “You really don’t need to eat half of your body weight in canapés pre-dinner party. Most often it is the surest way to ingest excess fat, carbs and sugar (plus all those drinks constantly being topped up!) before you even sit down to eat. So, exercise a tiny bit of willpower and say a flat no to all greasy canapés, sugared nuts, bowls of crisps and cocktail sausages that are always offered. The same goes for after dinner: say no to endless chocolates, biscuits and alcohol-proof digestive drinks that are just sugar and fat on steroids!”

Pace yourself
“It sounds boring, but you’ll thank yourself if you enjoy the party spirit without having to pay for it the next day,” says Sarah. “If you’re stressing about Christmas weight gain, remember alcohol not only directly increases your calorie intake, it weakens your resolve and stimulates your appetite, so it’s much harder to resist that extra mince pie after a few drinks! Slow your drinking down by opting for an original 125ml wine glass rather than a modern day 250ml and sip your drink. For each glass of alcohol you drink, have a glass of water. In relative terms, wine and champagne are a better choice than calorific, high-sugar cocktails and liqueurs.”

Avoid the ‘food coma’
“Try your best to avoid reaching the ‘food coma’ point,” says Kamilla. “This sleepiness and lethargy after a big meal indicates that the body is overwhelmed with the amount of food to be digested, which unfortunately will not be digested to some extent. If you are planning to repeat these food comas at least two or three times during the month then it can seriously damage your digestive system, particularly your pancreas – an organ responsible for the body correcting insulin secretions which can offset all sorts of metabolic issues. So try to be careful and do stop when you feel the button of your jeans or zipper of your top slowly digging into your tummy!”

Load up your plate with veggies
The average person reportedly consumes a whopping 7,000 calories on Christmas day, and considering that men and women should only be eating 2,500 and 2,000 calories respectively, that’s an awful lot of turkey and trimmings. “Smart swaps are the name of the game when it comes to traditional Christmas lunches or dinners,” says Kamilla. “Of course, we all expect a massive traditional roast, but you will be surprised that once you know how to navigate it correctly you are in no danger of gaining an extra 3kg the following day. So instead of a pile of roast potatoes, go for other roasted vegetables such as carrots, parsnips, Brussels sprouts and courgettes as these are all full of incredible fibre and beta-carotene plus vitamins C and K. If you have a full plate of these amazing roasted veggies alongside your turkey, then hopefully there will not be a place (and need) for anything else.”

3 ways to look after your liver

“Many people find themselves thinking about cleansing in January and detoxing their liver following the Christmas festivities,” says Caroline Harmer, nutritionist and digestive care expert for Renew Life UK (www.renewlife.co.uk). “But there are things you can do to support your liver’s health while indulging in festive food and drink.”

1 Reduce stress
Whether you enjoy long walks in nature, hot yoga or a bath, take time out to connect with your body, slow down and let go of stress. Our fast-paced lifestyle does not support healthy liver function.

2 Eat your greens
Try to avoid unhealthy packaged foods if you can, and aim for a diet that is rich in broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, green cabbage, cauliflower, garlic, artichoke and beetroot. These liver-friendly foods help support the body’s natural detoxification methods and are rich in vitamins, minerals and fibre.

3 Support your liver
Consider using a 30-day liver detox supplement that contains hepatoprotective herbs and amino acids in one formula, and does not require you to change your diet or lifestyle. Helping protect the liver and supporting the liver’s detoxification pathways and during the festive season can help the liver cope better. A sluggish or stressed liver can lead to symptoms of fatigue, digestive issues, headaches, acne and skin issues.

Top tip

“Push those calories into your muscles, by going for a walk after lunch,” says Sarah. “It will also help your digestion if you move around before passing out on the couch.”

Try this
“Try serving Christmas lunch on smaller plates,” says Sarah Green. “Research shows people who eat off smaller plates eat significantly fewer calories and still feel full.”

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