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6 simple ways to stay healthy during the holidays

The Christmas and New Year season is arguably one of the easiest times to overindulge as celebrations involve excess food, alcohol and treats. However, prioritising good health and wellbeing can take a back foot.

This holiday season, Australian lifestyle community Happy Healthy You encourages Aussies to enjoy the celebrations but also to consider what you are putting into your body to ensure you maintain good health, both physically and mentally.

Specialist naturopathic physician Sally James ND from Happy Healthy You said that while it’s important to enjoy the holidays, time with your family, and to take a break, it’s also an easy time to overindulge.

“A recent study conducted by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare highlighted the fact that less than 5 per cent of Australian adults are eating the recommended amount of vegetables, with more than half of all Aussies considered as over the average weight,” Ms James said.

“The lack of vegetables combined with an overindulgence in alcohol, and foods that are high in saturated fat, sugars and sodium and low in nutrients can result in ill health during the holiday season.”

“It’s more important than ever in this time to focus on your health to ensure you are putting the right nutrients and ingredients into your body. When people overindulge and omit their fitness regime, it can lead to releases of excess amounts of the hormone insulin, difficulty concentrating, fatigue, an overtaxed digestive system, heartburn and restless sleep.”

Triple-Olympian and co-founder of Happy Healthy You Lisa Curry won’t stop herself from enjoying the holidays, but added that moderation, exercise and listening to her body are key to maintaining her health during the holidays.

“I love Christmas and everything about it. It’s a time for family, friends and food, and I don’t want to be limited by a diet restricting me from enjoying the festivities,” said Lisa.

“I do, however, recognise the effect that excess carbohydrates or sugars can have on my body and mind, so my approach to my health over Christmas is to eat in moderation and listen to my body – so making sure I don’t overindulge and do continue to exercise regularly to ensure the extra energy from the calories are being used to the best of their abilities.

“I love my vegetables, especially broccoli, zucchini and cauliflower. I eat a lot of veggies with either salmon or meat for dinner. I also love rainbow salads and eat these at least five times a week. I eat as healthily as I can at home and then when I go out to eat, I eat what I like... it’s having the best of both worlds. Balance is the key. Your health is directly related to what you do, eat and drink most of the time.

“Other ways I notice when my holiday diet is debilitating my health is when I’m having mood swings or am easily irritated, which can be attributed to my hormonal balance levels. I believe it’s important to understand how your body is reacting to the intake of food and lack of exercise, so I take additional supplements to help regulate my hormone levels during this time of year.”

Ms James encourages Aussies to look after their health this holiday season by sharing her top five easy-to-implement healthy holiday tips:

1. Keep active

Moving your body is important to ensure you don’t completely blow out your health regime. At the very least, taking a long daily walk can help to improve mood, move the food through the digestive system, maintain muscles, reset intentions, reduce stress and give you a moment of peace away from the relatives! If you are at a family gathering, suggest a walk before the feast or even between dinner and dessert.

2. Stay calm

Emotional eating tends to increase over the holidays, so you might try incorporating relaxation techniques into your day to help manage stress. Even something as simple as taking three deep, mindful breaths can help reset your mood.

3. Don’t go out with an empty tank

Before setting out for a party, eat something so you don’t arrive famished. Excellent pre-party snacks combine complex carbohydrates with protein and unsaturated fat, like apple slices with peanut butter or some tuna with cheese on a wrap or with crackers.

4. Cook from (and for) the heart

To show family and friends that you really care about them, be creative with recipes that use less butter, cream, lard, vegetable shortening, and other ingredients rich in saturated fats. Prepare turkey or fish instead of red meat. Also ensure you make room for veggies. At meals and parties, don’t ignore fruits and vegetables. They make great snacks and even better side or main dishes – unless they’re slathered with creamy sauces or butter.

5. Pay attention to what really matters

Although food is an integral part of the holidays, put the focus on family and friends, laughter and cheer. If balance and moderation are your usual guides, it’s okay to indulge or overeat once in a while.

6. Drink to your health

A glass of eggnog can set you back 500 calories; wine, beer, and mixed drinks range from 150 to 225 calories. If you drink alcohol, have a glass of water or juice-flavoured seltzer in between drinks. Or better still, skip the alcoholic beverage. There are lots of alternatives to alcohol available, which not only cuts back on excess calories, but means you miss the hang over too. Avoid “topping up” other people’s drinks so they can keep count of standard drinks. Top up people’s water glass instead of their alcohol glass. Mix non-alcoholic drinks in the same esky as alcoholic drinks.

“After your Christmas dinner or another huge holiday meal, why not try one of our Happy Weight shakes or smoothies the following day – they are only 90 calories and can help balance your food intake,” Ms James said.

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