Healthy Holidays – Your Survival Guide

champagne2It’s the holiday season. I’m pretty sure that many of you are going to party a little bit, and no, I’m not going to try to discourage it.

During this time of year, many of us break from our routines somewhat, drink a little (more) alcohol, eat a lot of food, and even forget to exercise. But please don’t be too hard on yourself; it happens to almost all of us.

It’s okay to indulge a little and have some fun especially if it’s only a “once-a-year” occasion. However, it can’t hurt to take some precautions and practice a little moderation as well.

If you’re looking to minimise the damage, here are some survival tips to help make this time of year both enjoyable and bearable.

 

Holiday Party Pitfall #1: Alcohol

So you like to have a drink or two — or three — at the holiday parties. Big deal. But is there a way to drink moderately without causing excess strain on your body?

The answer is yes. Again, I’m not encouraging you to drink, I just want you to be prepared for it, in the event you do.

  1. The first rule is to drink moderately. Pace yourself, and try to drink as little as you can. The less you drink, the less havoc it will cause your body. Not exactly a revelation, I know.
  2. Try to be selective in your choice of drinks. Red wine, for example, contains beneficial nutrients like resveratrol that can protect your body. Skip the drinks with artificial flavours and colours, and those that are high in sugar (cocktails and soft drink mixers tend to be the worst offenders).
  3. Consider taking protective nutrients that can help block the damaging effects of alcohol.

For example, an extract from milk thistle called silibinin prevents alcohol from turning into acetaldehyde,[1] a potent toxin that can damage DNA and cause cancer.[2] I personally like LipoTone because it not only has milk thistle in it, but several other liver-supporting herbs as well.

Also consider taking N-acetyl cysteine.This antioxidant binds to acetaldehyde and prevents it from causing damage.[3]

For optimal results, take these nutrients before drinking or going to bed. Or ideally both!

  1. Stay well hydrated! Alcohol is a diuretic and causes you to urinate more frequently. Dehydration can make you feel ill. If you’re drinking alcohol, be sure to drink water too! Ideally alternate every alcoholic beverage with a glass of water, but if this is something you might struggle to remember – begin the event with a glass or two of sparkling water (add a wedge of lemon or lime) and leave a bottle of water on your kitchen bench or bedside table for when you get home.
  2. Don’t forget to take your vitamins. Alcohol depletes nutrients like vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, and folic acid.[4] CoEnzyme Q10 has also been shown to have a protective effect. Alongside LipoTone I also recommend a high-potency B vitamin (many multivitamins will fit this bill) and something like CoQ10 Lingual. Ideally you’d have each of these with a large glass of water and a snack or meal before an event, and again at the end.

A word of caution:

If you take prescription medications, avoid alcohol. Mixing CNS (central nervous system) depressing drugs like opioids and alcohol may result in death. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist for further information.

Holiday Party Pitfall #2: Excessive Calories

I get it: You don’t want to hurt Aunt Beryl’s feelings by not trying her latest casserole. Nor do you want to pass up the opportunity to sample your cousin’s famous spinach dip.

Given these constraints, here are a few tips for enjoying tasty foods without piling on the pounds:

  1. Develop a calorie budget: Plan your food day ahead of time. If you’re going to a holiday luncheon, have a light dinner or snack in the evening, like a soup or a salad. Similarly, if you want to eat dessert, go easy on dinner or sacrifice some items (the starchy carbohydrates) on your plate, like a piece of bread or a side of rice.
  2. Make wiser choices: Avoid high-fat and high-sugar soups, dips, and drinks. Go for the salsa dip instead. Choose low-glycaemic side dishes. For example, pick sweet potatoes or green beans over mashed potatoes. Balance the sugary snacks with protein.
  3. Use nutrients to your advantage: If you’re preparing to gobble far too much fat, you can help block some of its absorption by taking the right nutrients. For example, green tea as well as fibre[5] have been shown to block dietary fat.[6] Chitosan has also been found useful.

The added benefit of fibre is that it can help you feel full. Taking a fibre supplement some time before a meal may actually help you eat less and prevent the absorption of dietary fat.

Holiday Party Pitfall #3: Physical Inactivity

Two weeks of physical inactivity can leave you feeling out of shape pretty quickly. Make it a point to exercise wherever you are.

You can also involve your family in fun activities. Take a few walks, or even a bush hike, outside during the day. Also, dance when you have the opportunity; in one hour you could easily burn about 200 calories.[7]

Other activities to consider include cycling and swimming – and for those holidaying in the northern hemisphere… sledding, snowboarding, ice skating, and snow shoveling will help burn up some extra calories. Even boring old housework can give your metabolism a boost. Just find some way to get moving. Your body will thank you for it!

The Bottom Line:

Healthy living is about balance. You ARE allowed to slip out of your healthy habits from time to time and enjoy yourself. Just try to be smart about it.

Wishing you a happy and healthy holiday!

References

  1. Cancer Lett. 2010 May 1;291(1):120-9.
  2. Available at: http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh301/38-47.htm. Accessed November 26, 2012.
  3. Artery. 1995;21(6):312-6.
  4. Available at: http://www.bouldermedicalcenter.com/articles/Alcohol_Nutrition.htm. Accessed November 26, 2012.
  5. J Nutr. 2000 Nov;130(11):2753-9.
  6. Br J Nutr. 2011 Nov;106(9):1297-309. Epub 2011 Aug 3.
  7. Available at: http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsweek/Calories-burned-in-30-minutes-of-leisure-and-routine-activities.htm. Accessed November 26, 2012.

[Source: Modified Version of Your Healthy Holiday Survival Guide by Maylin Rodriguez-Paez, RN]

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