Have yourself a balanced little Christmas

It’s the most wonderful time of the year: a blur of Christmas parties, brandy butter and Bucks Fizz for breakfast.    

We all love a bit of indulgence around Christmas time with friends and family, but if the thought of a mountain of mince pies, cheese boards and festive tipples has got you panicked, here are my tips to bring some nutritional balance back into your Christmas routine.

01. Go for gut health 

Christmas can take its toll on our digestive system, which is suddenly bombarded by an excess of rich foods and alcohol. As a result, you might end up feeling gassy, constipated and more stuffed than the Christmas turkey. 

Fibre is your friend when it comes to gut health – as well as keeping everything moving along nicely, fibre provides food for our gut bacteria. Think fruit and veggies, oats, beans, lentils and chia seeds for the best sources of fibre. If you’re not used to eating much fibre, increase slowly to avoid more gas and bloating!  

Bitter foods are another great way to help digestive function, especially before a big meal. A small salad of bitter leaves (like chicory, watercress, dandelion, rocket and endive) with a sharp, lemony dressing is helpful for getting those digestive enzymes flowing, thereby helping us to digest our food properly. A small glass of water and fresh lemon juice before a large meal can also help with digestion.

I also love herbal tea as a digestive aid. Fennel and peppermint are two of my favourites for a bloated, gassy tummy, and I always have a box of Dr Sally’s Happy Gut tea in the cupboard around Christmas time.   

02. Love your liver

Another drink?’ ‘Oh go on then, as it’s Christmas!’  

Sound familiar? At this time of year our alcohol intake can increase dramatically. As a result, our poor liver can take a battering, leaving us feeling sluggish and headachy.     

With so many Christmas festivities, it’s often hard to abstain from drinking, but try and give your body a break if you can. If you do drink alcohol, drink plenty of water in between alcoholic drinks and try not to drink on an empty stomach.  

To help our bodies detoxify the toxins from excess alcohol, try and make sure you’re eating plenty of fruit and vegetables. These are high in fabulous fibre, as well as phytonutrients, which help with detoxification. Particularly good for detoxification are cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and kale), watercress and rocket, onions, garlic, bitter greens (see above) and beetroot. 

A milk thistle supplement can also be helpful for protecting the liver, especially from alcohol-related damage. Take before and after you start drinking alcohol for best results (and always drink responsibly!).  

03. Calm & bright

Let’s face it, as well as being fun, the Christmas period can also be completely frantic. With a list of things to do and people to see, many of us suffer from stress and anxiety during this time and end up rushing around like a headless turkey. The pressure to have ‘the perfect Christmas’ is often overwhelming and as a result the festive period can be anything but merry.  

If you are feeling anxious, try and avoid stimulants such as caffeine, alcohol, chocolate, and refined sugars. Focus on building as many colourful fruit and veggies into your diet as you can. Also supportive of stress are foods rich in magnesium (Swiss chard, spinach, kelp, squash, steamed broccoli, other green vegetables) and vitamin C (salad greens, broccoli, peppers, strawberries, parsley, green leafy vegetables, citrus fruits).

L-Theanine & Lemon Balm is a useful supplement for stress and can help if you’re feeling anxious, tense and nervous, or have difficulty sleeping or concentrating. Ashwagandha is also a lovely one to take in the run up to Christmas, as research shows it can help with both stress levels and sleep.[1]

04. Plant power  

If your diet over the Christmas period consists mostly of beige foods with a few Brussel sprouts thrown in for good measure, try to add some colour to your plate. A mix of different coloured vegetables is ideal (think red cabbage, red peppers, sweet potatoes, beetroot, carrots). 

Easy wins to add in more plant foods:

  • Hummus and raw veggies instead of crisps and dip
  • Make a fresh salad to go with dinners – see how many plant foods you can pack in
  • Try vegetable soup for lunch (good for leftover veg)
  • Keep your fruit bowl filled 

If you feel you need a little something extra to supplement your diet over the festive period, I love Terranova’s Life Drink powder, which is packed full of goodies for digestive health, immunity, and energy support. 

05. Make it mindful 

The most important thing for me is being mindful with whatever you choose to put on your plate. Enjoy your meals, engage with your food and the people around you. Listen to your body, notice when you’re feeling full and stop eating. 

There will be lots of delicious food on offer around Christmas time, so please don’t feel guilty about eating those foods that you might usually avoid throughout the rest of the year – if you choose to have a piece of Christmas cake or a mince pie, make sure you really enjoy it! For more tips on mindful eating, read my article here.  

Wishing you a very merry (and healthy!) Christmas!

[1] Choudhary, D., Bhattacharyya, S., & Joshi, K. (2017). Body Weight Management in Adults Under Chronic Stress Through Treatment with Ashwagandha Root Extract: A Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Trial. Journal of evidence-based complementary & alternative medicine22(1), 96–106. https://doi.org/10.1177/2156587216641830.