Have a Happy Healthy Christmas
If you’ve read the blog post Ten Tips for Healthy Eating over Christmas you’ll have some ideas for how to eat for enjoyment without sabotaging your health. However, it’s not just over-indulging in food that can have negative effects on health over Christmas. The stress of the cooking, cleaning, organising and hosting can take its toll. The immune system may be exposed to unfamiliar bugs, and alcohol may be flowing rather too freely. Here are some tips to ensure your body, mind and spirit get through the festive season in reasonable shape:
Manage stress and maintain mental health
It can be lovely to have a break from work and to spend time with loved ones. However, it can also be extremely stressful. Some people may feel more lonely and isolated than ever. Others will struggle with the disruption to their routine. Some will feel the pressure of having to host and provide for everyone. This year, more than ever, many will be worried about their financial situation. Remember: The main aim is for everyone to have a lovely time together. If the decorations aren’t perfect and the food isn’t gourmet no one is going to mind as long as they feel relaxed and welcome. To reduce stress:
- Plan ahead – write a list and do as much as possible in advance
- Share the load – don’t feel you have to do everything. Involve your partner, children and wider family
- Think about what you enjoy and make sure you get to do those things
- Don’t compare your Christmas with the versions posted on social media
- Pace yourself – allow time for relaxation
- Get outside – a brisk walk can be a great way to release the tension
- Avoid turning to alcohol – alcohol is ultimately a depressant that can leave you feeling low
- Talk to someone you trust – don’t hold it in
- Volunteer – if you are dreading spending Christmas alone consider volunteering. Many places have community Christmas meals to which all are welcome.
Support your immune system
Christmas is a sociable time involving crowded rooms with people from different parts of the country. This is a recipe for spreading germs.
- Minimise your risk of catching a cold by having a healthy immune system; In the run up to Christmas eat a healthy diet and load up on vitamin C and zinc.
- Get enough sleep – the immune system gets to work when you are asleep so rest up.
- Wash your hands often and dry them thoroughly.
- Get outside in fresh air and avoid spending long hours in overly heated rooms.
Enjoy a tipple, but not too much
Moderate drinking may have some health benefits but over the Christmas period the units can quickly add up. Excessive drinking is associated with high blood pressure and cardiovascular problems, not to mention extra calories and potential weight gain. Everyone has a different capacity for alcohol and it’s important to know your own limits as well as being aware of the suggested weekly units.
Suggested alcohol limits in the UK are 14 units per week for men and women which is around 6 pints of beer or 6 glasses of wine in a 175 ml glass.
One unit of alcohol is about the amount of alcohol an average adult can process in an hour. The number of units in a drink is based on the size of the drink, and the strength of the alcohol.
How to Calculate Units of Alcohol in Your Drink
Alcohol content is usually expressed as alcohol by volume (ABV). You can find the ABV on the labels of cans and bottles, sometimes written as “vol” or “alcohol volume”. For example, wine that says “12% ABV” or “alcohol volume 12%” means 12% of the volume of that drink is pure alcohol.
You can work out how many units there are in any drink by multiplying the total volume of a drink (in ml) by its ABV and dividing the result by 1,000.
- volume (ml) x strength (ABV) ÷ 1,000 = units
For example, to work out the number of units in a pint (568ml) of strong lager (ABV 5.2%):
- 568 (ml) x 5.2 (%) ÷ 1,000 = 2.95 units.
- A 750ml bottle of red, white or rosé wine (ABV 13.5%) contains 10 units.
- A standard glass of wine (175ml, ABV 12%) is 2.1 units
- A small shot of spirits (25ml, ABV 40%) is 1 unit.
It’s advisable to have some alcohol free days each week and to not drink too many units of alcohol in one day.
Diluting wine and spirits with mineral water and ice or switching to low strength beers can help to reduce the amount of alcohol you imbibe. Remember to have something to eat before you drink to help slow the absorption of alcohol into your system.
Get Off the Sofa
Our lives involve prolonged sitting, whether that’s travelling from one place to the next, sitting at a desk at work, or on the sofa at home. The long hours of sitting around eating and watching tele at Christmas provide no respite from this. Evidence suggests that too much sitting is adversely associated with health outcomes, including cardiovascular risk factors, type 2 diabetes and premature mortality. Importantly, these detrimental associations remain even after accounting for time spent in leisure time physical activity. In other words, that hour at the gym does not compensate for the 12 hours a day we spend sitting down.
So, over Christmas spend some time with all devices turned off. Instead play physical games together or go out for a brisk walk, a cycle ride or a run.
Managing Excited Children
It’s hard enough getting children to go to sleep at the best of times but at Christmas the excitement can reach a whole new level. 3 top tips for keeping things under control are:
- Wear the children out on Christmas Eve by taking them out for some physical activity.
- Avoid sugar and additives.
- Keep to the normal bedtime routine.
And for information about how spices can keep you healthy read the blog post Spice Up Your Christmas.