With the silly season upon us, it’s time to brace ourselves for the most decadent, full-on and frivolous month(s) 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 relishing this special time mindfully. Is it possible to enjoy the never-ending temptations without letting ourselves totally go and ending up with major post-festive-season guilts?! I’d like to think so.
If you feel like your healthy habits typically fall to the wayside around this time, don’t stress, you’re not alone. Discover how you can stay healthy and balanced this festive season with the following top tips I share with my clients:1) Make healthy swaps: a healthy swap or upgrade involves choosing a healthier option. Rather than go without or go overboard, you can still enjoy your fair share of treats with this guide:
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. Sweet fizz is FULL of sugar - you’re pretty much drinking soft drink! A 150ml standard glass of moscato has roughly five teaspoons of sugar compared to the same volume of a dry wine which has around 1-2 teaspoons of sugar. As you can see, there’s a big difference and this can easily add up over the holiday season.
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 more-ish 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. Most other ingredients you probably have on hand (lemon, garlic, cumin, olive oil etc). Especially delicious served with a selection of seasonal veggie crudites. Check out my trio of hummus recipe.
Sub soft drink for kombucha. Friendly reminder (um, public service announcement): a can of coke contains 10 teaspoons of sugar. 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!
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.
2) 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 hummus of course.
3) 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.
4) 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”. 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.
5) Prioritise self-care. Last but very not least, the festive season is a fabulous time to treat yourself to some extra TLC with some (underrated) ‘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 normally a DIY mani and pedi girl (using a 5-free formula, of course!), this is the one time I outsource and get a “proper” treatment with a fun colour that screams “PARTY” such as red or anything sparkly. Other ways to nourish yourself include massage, mindfulness exercises, sweating the stress away at barre, starting the day with warm lemon water to flush out toxins, choosing who you spend your precious time with wisely and diffusing mood-elevating essential oils (I love Siberian fir and pine for instant festive feels).
I leave you with my delicious spiced dark chocolate clusters recipe that you can enjoy with loved ones this season. These nutty bites make a great a festive dessert, if you don’t eat them all beforehand that is! Not only are they simple and fuss-free to whip up in flash, they’re also packed with nutrients thanks to the vitamin E-rich nuts, hormone-balancing seeds and antioxidant-rich dark chocolate. Enjoy!
By Bianca Chaptini
Certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach
Bianca is the Co-Creator of the Aleenta BARRE 2020 January Reset & Renew Challenge. Click here to learn more.