Holiday Eating Tips To Keep You Well Throughout The Season

October 4, 2011,  Thomas Wenger
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The Christmas season, right through to New Year, is perhaps the most stressful time of the year for your body. Not only do we eat more often than usual, but the meals are also richer and more elaborate than our regular "lunch on the go" or "steak & salad dinner".  If you are hosting a festive meal in your own house, stress might be a further factor you have to deal with. The key to feeling good, fit and getting the best out of the Christmas season is to keep your blood sugar levels even. Going without meals for hours and then indulging in heavy meals coupled with chocolates and sweets sends the sugar levels in our blood on a roller coaster and makes us sleepy and sluggish at odd times while we are fit and ready to go on other times. This can make us irritable and susceptive to mood swings and also makes us gain weight.

Holiday eating tips

The key to feeling good, fit and getting the best out of the Christmas season is to keep your blood sugar levels even.

This article is not intended to take the fun out of Christmas, or to make your days gloomy by thinking about the weight you might have gained, but perhaps pass on just a few small tips to keep you from feeling tired and drained half way through the season.

Take care of your blood sugar level

Without being diabetic or suffering from hypoglycemia, a person’s individual blood sugar level is the main cause of feeling sluggish, drowsy and tired or restless, sleepless, moody and irritable at times. Keeping our blood sugar levels in control and level will help us to be radiant, dynamic and feel good not only throughout the festive season but in general week in and week out.

The blood sugar level in our body is controlled by hormones, which are released by the pancreas when needed. Insulin regulates high blood sugar levels after a meal, when carbohydrates are broken into glucose, our body’s energy source, and Glucagons raise the blood sugar level if it falls too low. Adrenalin, produced by the adrenal glands may quickly raise blood sugar level in response to a crisis. Insulin also ensures that glucose is stored in the body; by adding fat if there is an over supply.

Since we often have large festivities planned during the “silly season”, we starve ourselves for the rest of the day in anticipation of the big meal to follow. This will lower our blood sugar levels and hence the body releases Glucagons. We then feel the need to eat a small snack, in general sweets like cookies, chocolates or salty items like chips and crisps to get us over the craving. We should snack on fresh fruits, fiber rich cereals and salads and instead of a soda or even an alcoholic beverage.  Of course, there is just nothing better for your body than plain, pure water.

Instead of trying to starve ourselves for hours and then indulge on a heavy meal we should have a healthy breakfast and eat every 2-3 hours a small amount carbohydrates, plenty proteins, fruits and fibers. In general we should eat more protein (fish, meat, poultry and dairy products), raw fruits and vegetables (antioxidants, fibers and vitamins), be it in form of a juice or as a salad and less sugar (desserts, soft drinks) and carbohydrates (pasta, rice, bread, potatoes and more). Our body needs carbohydrates, but we should ensure we use whole grains, brown rice and potatoes, rather then white bread, white flour products and pasta. We should stay away from all food that has sugar added to it such as cookies, chocolates, cake, soft drinks and candy.

Find the “goods” in your Christmas meals

Firstly, not all Christmas specialties are heavy and fattening. There are nuts (preferably unsalted) for protein and fibre, dried and fresh fruits such as mandarins, oranges, Clementines, Satsumas or apples for more fibre and important vitamins as well as  Cranberry sauce with lots of antioxidants. The Christmas turkey by itself has also very lean meat, it is really the stuffing, the gravy and those candied yams that make it a heavy meal. You can get the best quality meat from Pork Porterhouse where they sell all kinds of the best meats at a reasonable price.
Salmon is good for omega 3 and protein, and Brussels sprouts for more vitamins, iron and other essential nutrients.

In general there are sufficient vegetables around a traditional Christmas feast, for everyone to be able to make the right choice; mashed suedes, broccoli, parsnips and cauliflower and of course the already mentioned sprouts. Dark chocolate, in moderation, can help reduce high blood pressure.  Breakfast is a very important meal; high-fiber muesli provides more fiber and that freshly squeezed fruit juice will add more vitamins and antioxidants to get you through the day. Snacking on all those Christmas cookies and chocolates of course is one of the things that one should try to avoid or minimize, particularly late at night. Don't forget to vacuum seal your food to keep it fresh for the next day, I use this Foodsaver vacuum sealer.

Keep moving, keep exercising

Keep your regular workout or sporting schedule right throughout the festive season. With all the parties and the accompanying dinners a person attends during this period it is very important to keep working out, to keep fit and to burn calories. Take afternoon walks to look at the Christmas decorations in town or walk to your neighbor around the corner when you visit during the holiday period. We do not always feel like a workout, especially when the party the evening before dragged on too long, but giving ourselves a two to three week break over the Christmas season will not only leave us feeling heavy in January, it also means that when we go back to our normal schedules it will be that much harder to get back on track.

Eat six to eight small meals and snacks during the day starting with a healthy breakfast. Nutritious snacks will get you going throughout the day and will help you regulate and keep your blood sugar level steady and make you feel better throughout the day. Even if a heavy lunch or dinner is planned, do try and eat at least fresh fruits for snacks to avoid spikes in your blood sugar levels.

Christmas is a time to be shared with family and friends and if we just are a little sensible towards our body and with our eating habits and keep our regular work-out schedule we will arrive on the 2nd of January without added pounds and/or feeling tired – ready to begin another successful year.

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About Author

Born in Bern, Switzerland, Thomas followed in the footsteps of his mother and entered a three-year cooking apprenticeship program and graduating it at the age of 20. Working a few short stints in a winter ski resort and a city hotel in Basel/Switzerland during the following years he took the opportunity to work in New York in 1986.

What was originally planned as a one-year experience in New York lasted three years and went on to a global career, which led him to Australia and on to Hong Kong in 1990.

For the past 15 years, Thomas has explored South East Asia and it’s cuisines and regional specialties. He worked in some of the most exciting cities in the world – Singapore, Hong Kong and Bangkok and his culinary style reflects the many experiences and the people he worked with.

Throughout his career, Thomas liked the challenges and diversity of hotel operations. He recently joined a Hotel & Restaurant Management school in Manila, Philippines as Senior Culinary Faculty.

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