Stay healthy through the holidays
It’s tough to stick to a healthy routine every hour of every day every other month of the year, but the holiday season brings a whole host of new challenges. When the height of cold and flu season is jam-packed with parties, full of warming cocktails and tantalizing treats, it can seem impossible to stay on track. Here’s how you can minimize the damage you do in December, guaranteeing a more joyful January.
Limit your sugar
Dr. Sara Celik, a naturopath, homeopathic master clinician and national spokesperson for Renew Life Canada, suggests limiting your sugar intake throughout the season – though it’s not just about fitting into your NYE LBD. Dr. Celik notes that “sugar has a dramatic effect on the immune system for hours after consumption,” so skip the holiday candy each day and you might just keep the doctor away. Craving something sweet? Try these guilt-free snack ideas.
Eat more fruit
Since you’re staying away from the sweet table, you’ll need a dessert replacement, and fruit just so happens to fit the bill. Dr. Celik recommends strawberries, grapefruits and oranges, which are all high in immune-boosting vitamin C.
Make healthy substitutions
Mashed potatoes might be a holiday staple, but mashed cauliflower or mashed sweet potatoes can be just as tasty – with half the calories, and a host of added health benefits. You can also replace sour cream with Greek yogurt, pop with flavoured sparkling water or eggnog with hot apple cider.
If you’re not already taking probiotics, now might be a good time to start. According to Dr. Celik, probiotic bacteria known as Bifidobacterium bifidum is especially important during the holiday season, as it’s been shown to boost immunity against cold and flu during times of acute stress (and we know how stressful gift shopping can be).
It might seem counterintuitive when we’re talking about a busy party season, but no matter how jam-packed your social calendar is, Dr. Celik warns against skipping your beauty rest. She recommends getting “as much sleep as possible during the holiday season, with a minimum of seven hours of sleep per night.” In fact, the body requires more sleep during the winter months since fighting off bacteria and viruses requires additional energy.
Maybe the tallest order on the list, but limiting the number of merry martinis you consume this season can make a big difference when it comes to your health. Not only are cocktails often packed with sugar (see slide two) but they’re also full of empty calories. Too many can lower inhibitions which can also lead to making extremely poor food choices. Try this grape mocktail recipe instead.
Skip the coffee
If you need a warm drink in the AM, Dr. Celik suggests going for an herbal tea instead of your regular cup of joe. A tea like Melissa officinalis (Lemon Balm) carries antibacterial and antiviral properties, and will also improve your sleep quality. (Something everyone can use after a few too many mugs of eggnog.)
Divide your plate
It’s easy to pack your plate with seasonal treats like mashed potatoes with gravy and candied yams, but try to limit them. Dr. Celik recommends filling half your plate with dark leafy vegetables, which will not only keep your caloric intake in check, but have also been found to be the source of a chemical signal that’s key to an optimally functioning immune system.
Make an exercise schedule
Just like you use your calendar to schedule your social events over the next few weeks, use it to schedule your workouts as well. Staying active will keep the strength of your immune system up, and it’ll also help ease the physical effects of the extra merriment.
Never skip meals
One of the biggest mistakes you can make during the holiday season is hitting a party on an empty stomach. It’s hard to make healthy choices when you’re hungry, so make sure you stick to your regularly scheduled meals, no matter how great the party menu is going to be.
Eat fermented foods
Another way to boost your immune system through cold and flu season is by increasing your intake of fermented foods like kefir, kimchi and sauerkraut, says Dr. Celik. These high-nutrient foods will support healthy digestion and help you fight off seasonal bacteria and viruses.
It’s easy to go for a white mocha over water when it’s chilly outside, but staying hydrated is key to staying healthy through the holidays. Make sure that you alternate between boozy beverages and H20 – not only will it kill a potential hangover, but it’ll help you fight off any germs that come your way.
Do your research
Once you know the venue for a holiday soirée, scope out the menu online before you go. Decide what you’re going to order, and call the restaurant if you have any questions. If there aren’t any healthy options, eat a protein-packed salad beforehand, and opt for something small while you’re there.
Suggest a potluck
Potlucks might mean more work for party guests, but they also mean more menu input. If you can, suggest sharing the cooking, and then make sure you bring a healthy (and hearty) dish. Plus, we’ve got 50 crowd-pleasing potluck recipes to choose from.
Carry hand sanitizer
Soirées often mean an abundance of air kisses and handshakes, which is one sure-fire way to pick up people’s germs. Always carry a small bottle of hand sanitizer with you to use when a trip to the ladies’ just isn’t in the cards.
Clean your office
Your desk may have become holiday HQ, but it’s important that you keep things clean to avoid picking up any cold and flu germs that are circulating the office. Keep a bottle of antibacterial cleaner in your drawer and regularly wipe down all surfaces through the season.
Timing is critical when it comes to tackling an infection, so make sure your medicine cabinet is always stocked. New innovative products, like Cold-Q, will help curb a cough or cold, just as long as you take it as soon as you feel that familiar tickle in your throat.
It’s been a long year (maybe the longest?), but pampering yourself this time of year offers more than a well-earned hour of bliss. Studies show that a 45-minute massage can boost white blood cells, which are responsible for fighting infections.
Skip the stretch
While it might be tempting to wear your baggy boyfriend jeans or super-stretchy sequined leggings to every festive fete in your calendar, you’re better off wearing something a little more fitted. Nutrition and fitness expert, JJ Virgin, says form-fitting clothing offers a subtle reminder not to overeat.
Focus on non-food-related activities
Instead of baking cookies or roasting a turkey, invite your family and friends over for a crafty afternoon or a game of Pin the Nose on the Reindeer. By taking the focus off eating, you’re less likely to overdo it on the canapes and cocktails.