Even if your diet is the epitome of good health the rest of the year, the treats and traditions of the festive season can be enough to lead even the most disciplined health foodie into temptation.
As soon as December begins do you start breaking the healthy habits you have the rest of the year? Do you feel the need to reach for more sugary treats than usual to fuel the onslaught of festive shopping?
From now until Christmas Day, we seem to have a free licence to start our day with a chocolate hit from the Advent calendar, just have a wee sweetie out of the tin with our mid-morning coffee or munch our way through a whole box of mince pies between Zoom classes while working from home.
Before we know it, we are on the sugar rollercoaster, wanting more and more sweet treats and feeling the festive fatigue.
When we eat sugary stuff a whole cascade of events happens in our body. After a glass of mulled wine, a handful of Quality Street or another slice of gingerbread, our blood glucose levels spike, triggering our pancreas to kick into action with a surge of insulin to help correct the balance and get our sugar levels settled back on an even keel.
Insulin draws sugar into our cells and stores it as fat. All of this biochemistry creates a dip in blood glucose levels, leaving us feel tired, crabbit and craving more sugar, no to mention the accompanying headaches, interrupted sleep and stress that can be caused by the effect of a high sugar diet.
I am not being a Christmas scrooge and saying don't eat anything sweet, or to cut sugar completely from your diet, but just being a little bit more mindful of what you are munching on will really make a big difference to how you feel.
Plan ahead and think about what you could have in the house when you get tempted to graze on the snacks you have secretly stored for Santa and his reindeer.
So next time you are in the supermarket, pop a few healthier treats in your trolley. Here are a few ideas you might like:
- 70-85 per cent dark chocolate
- Nuts and seeds
- Small oranges
- Vegetable crisps (made with beetroot, carrot, parsnip)
- Dates and figs
- Oatcakes and cheese
- Houmous, guacamole and healthy dips with raw veg sticks
If you are planning to hit the shops or online stores for a weekend of Christmas shopping, then fuelling up on sugar will leave you crashing in a Chrimbo heap later in the day.
So here are some simple ways to keep yourself well fuelled and energised without getting your tinsel in a twist:
- Start your day with a high protein breakfast. Add a handful of walnuts and a spoonful or flaxseed to your jumbo porridge oats, or have eggs for breakfast. The protein hit will help maintain your blood sugar and keep you on an even keel until you get to the end of your Christmas shopping list.
- Keep well hydrated. Dehydration will leave you feeling fuzzy headed and demotivated. Take a water bottle out with you and take a sip between shops.
- Pop a sustaining snack in your shopping bag. A pack or trail mix, some nuts or a banana will keep you going.
- If you stop for a cuppa, how about sipping a cup of green tea in your favourite coffee shop to pop a little antioxidant hit into your day.
- When you get home, put the kettle on and make yourself a brew. Herbal teas like cinnamon, ginger or lemon can help refresh and re-energise you after a busy day at the shops.
This blog post first appeared as my column in The Irish News on Saturday 4 December 2021.