Ah Christmas, that joyous time of year when chocolate snacks for breakfast are standard practice and every day’s a ‘cheeky tipple with dinner’ kind of day. Gin hot toddy to warm your cockles before bed? Christmas cocktail?
But while overindulgence is all a part of the fun (they don’t call it the ‘most wonderful time of the year’ for nothing), it can wreak havoc in health terms. Especially if you have a particularly sensitive gut, or often battle energy slumps.
From carb overloads to sugar crashes, this is the season where indigestion reigns supreme, and food hangovers are no joke.
So to help you avoid ending the festive period a bloated, burnt-out version of your former self, we’ve reached out for some expert advice.
From drinking smart and snacking wisely, to indulging without the ‘consequences’ (bowels, we’re looking at you), here’s Alexis Poole, Registered Associate Nutritionist and Spoon Guru ambassador, on staying well during the feast:
1. Beat the uncomfortable bloat
Bloating can occur for many reasons, and over the festive season a common cause is simply eating too much in one sitting. Yes Christmas dinner, we’re looking at you. Try spreading your food intake throughout the day, and avoid excessively large meals to keep bloating under control.
You can also beat the bloat by avoiding foods which are known to contribute to excess gas production. High fibre festive foods such as Brussels sprouts and cabbage may be incredibly beneficial for your health, but are notorious for excess gas production, which can lead to uncomfortable bloating. Another way to ward the bloat off without compromising your fibre intake is to avoid prosecco and fizzy drinks, since these contain bubbles which release gas in your stomach.
2. Give your gut some goodness
Prebiotics are carbohydrates, typically fibre, which act as fuel for the good bacteria in your gut. Festive foods containing prebiotics include onions, garlic, cabbage, root vegetables and leeks. Gut bacteria are essential to keeping you and your gut healthy and that’s why, despite the bloat, you should still aim to get fibre into your diet. Probiotics are beneficial bacteria found in foods such as live yoghurts, which can be used to make a healthy festive canapé dipping sauce. Eating a balance of prebiotic and probiotic foods will promote good bacteria within the gut and keep you healthy.
3. Be energy efficient
During the festive season your social calendar is probably going to be the busiest it’s been all year, so you’re going to need to make sure you’re fuelling your body sufficiently. Festive foods like sweets, chocolates and mince pies are laden with sugar which will get absorbed quickly, resulting in an energy spike. While the sugar rush can be fun, the downside is that it’s relatively short lived and can leave you feeling sluggish. Aim to keep your energy levels sustained throughout December by still getting your complex carbohydrates, such as porridge oats and wholegrain bread, plus green leafy and starchy vegetables such as broccoli, sprouts, potatoes and sweet potatoes.
4. Drink Smart
If you’re trying to stay healthy whilst also getting merry, one simple trick is to enjoy a wine spritzer; diluting wine with soda water will help to keep you hydrated throughout the night and minimise the effects of a hangover the following day. If cocktails are more your thing, choose tipples made with a lot of ice and avoid ones with lots with sugar, syrups or creams. The ice will keep you hydrated, and avoiding overly sweet ingredients will prevent you from experiencing the energy slump that follows a sugar high.