Are you ready? Set!  Go!

December 7th: you have two parties this week, an average of 5 hours of sleep per night, your kids are sick with the flu and you are not even half way done with you Christmas shopping.

Ah the holidays! What a great time to rejoice over food and drink with family and friends!  Amongst all the enjoyment, this period is also marked by the beginning of the cold and flu season, a bit of
overindulgence with fine meals and alcohol as well as a certain increase in stress.  My neighbourhood herbalist and I have compiled this short and simple guide to help you dodge the many health jeopardizing obstacles December holds.

First strategy: Preparing your defence

Our number one enemy this month are colds and flues.  To avoid these keep your immune system
healthy by first getting enough sleep, finding ways to relax and exercising.

Your fuel also needs to be of optimal quality: get plenty of fresh vegetables, legumes and whole grains.  Your intestinal tract also needs to stay strong with foods containing good bacteria such as yogurt, sauerkraut and miso.  Try to avoid sugar as much as possible, although sugar containing foods will give you a quick energy burst, they will soon leave you energy less; they also hinder your body’s defence mechanism.  Last but not least, consider a supplement treatment for a period of 2-4 weeks.  Consult your pharmacist or herbalist about plants like Echinacea, Ginseng, Nettle or immune
system complexes.

Holiday survival guide to eating:

Here’s what you can do during those few weeks of marathon holiday parties to make sure you moderately indulge while your digestive system stays healthy and you stay lean:  Start by making sure you eat 3 meals a day and try to keep your meal times at consistent hours.  Skipping meals is not a great idea, if you are not hungry at meal time, have small veggie-rich meals and avoid snacking as much as possible.

The day after a large dinner, have small light meals.  Freeze those leftovers and choose vegetable
soups or salads, these will help you cleanse your system, prevent you from getting in the habit of eating rich heavy foods while giving you some steady energy to go outside and play. As well as choosing the pleasures of eating, why not choose the pleasures of moving?  There are endless ways to make this enjoyable.  Moving helps digestion, gives you energy, helps you evacuate some stress and allows you to enjoy the holiday food, guilt free.

Drink water and stay away from sugar containing drinks as these will make you hungry.  Note that
the body often misinterprets thirst for hunger.

Dinner party guide to better eating:

Don’t go to a dinner party starving. I know what you are thinking; ‘There will be so much food tonight that today I won’t eat during the day.’  Bad idea:  You have slowed down your metabolism and you are now so hungry that you will make up for the calories in one evening.

Be alert of satiety signals; food simply does not taste as good when the stomach is full, listen to your body and stop eating before you feel too full.  To reduce your calorie intake, when possible, choose foods that are steamed, poached, baked or roasted; opt for the lighter options such as tomato sauces rather than cream; fill up on vegetables and most importantly: don’t completely avoid the foods you
love, this causes frustration, simply have moderate portions.

After feast suggestions:

Don’t touch that fruit!  Yes, that’s right!  Fruit after a large meal will only slow digestion with gassy consequences…  Get up and dance! It will help your body digest. You can also take a digestive tea such as mint, camomile or melissa.  Lastly, continue partying and refrain from going to bed immediately after eating, your body needs a chance to digest and a vertical position facilitates this.

Enemy number 2: the hangover

The holiday festivities most often include alcohol.  If you are like me and feel you are too old to deal with a hangover, here are a few tips on how you can prevent them, and if it’s too late, cure them!

Alcohol is firstly absorbed in the stomach, if you first eat fat containing foods you will coat your stomach lining therefore less alcohol will get absorbed.  Eating carbohydrates will also help as these regulate you blood sugar level and reduce your craving for alcohol.  It’s also well known to stay away from salty foods; these will dehydrate you and increase your thirst.  If you have the feeling you will be drinking a lot tonight, pick white wine over red wine; and white coloured hard alcohol (vodka, white rum…) over dark coloured hard alcohol.  Didn’t you know white was the new red?!  Think back to your college days; one of the only rules that I applied was: no mixing different types of drinks!  If you are drinking a lot of Sparkling wine or other bubbly drinks, note that its little bubbles accelerate the effects of alcohol.   And the classics:  Drink one glass of water for one glass of alcohol and take 1 or 2 big glasses of water before bed time.

Now for your partner who is not likely to follow the above directives; three simple rules: sleep, eat easily digestible foods and drink.  The drinking part is really important, choose: water, diluted juice, herbal tea like camomile or ginger.  If you need reinforcements, drop by your health food store and ask for bitter teas (such as Kuki cha) or plants that help with hangovers.

Have you started building your defence? The holidays will be here before you know it and they are so much more joyous when you are healthy!  Wishing you happy and healthy holidays.  Salute to all!

Michelle Savard, Naturopath