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How to stay healthy / plant-based during the holiday season

It can definitely be an intimidating time of year – lots of upcoming food and drink celebrations, people weighing in on each-others life choices, financial stress of buying presents and knowing what to get everyone… I can totally relate and empathise with you. I get so many questions from clients and through social media about not only how to stay on track, but also how to deal with relatives and loved ones who have A LOT to say about their dietary choices. A small part of the equation is diet, but by and large, i would say a larger component is having the mental fortitude to get through the challenges with ease and most importantly, whilst enjoying yourself. Keep my Holiday season tips in your back pocket over the next few weeks:

  • First and foremost, relax – ‘Tis the season to be jolly. You can not and really should not be too strict this time of year. No matter what kind of year you have had, or what kind of holidays you do or don’t celebrate, I really believe December is a time to relinquish control and enjoy yourself, treat yourself, and reflect on the year that was. If this does not come naturally to you, give yourself explicit permission to. Write it down in a journal, or a place you see daily, and keep reassuring yourself that a few weeks of a very long year is not much in the scheme of things. Remind yourself that a huge part of the health equation is love, laughter and pleasure. You are deserving of these things, free of guilt.

 

  • Keep up a few good habits – Whilst I encourage you to indulge, try to stick to a few key principles to ensure you still feel good throughout the silly season:
    1. Warm water with lemon or ginger tea upon rising;
    2. 1 x green drink / day – even better if it is your breakfast green smoothie – best to have one meal of the day that is brimming with easy-to-digest nutrients! If not, a mostly veg green juice as a snack, or a greens powder in water will do just fine;
    3. Try not to eat too many snacks/starters before you sit down for food. Go easy on the cheese plate, and if vegan or dairy-free, BYO nut-based cheese or hummus so you don’t feel like you miss out here. Best eaten with some cherry tomatoes, carrot sticks or seed crackers, if possible;
    4. Fill up on sides – often a celebratory spread has plenty of good options, they just might not be the star of the show. Make them the star of your plate i.e. have more of the salads, roast carrots, baked potatoes, or steamed greens than the meaty main;
    5. Consider bringing a delicious home-cooked meal of your own to share how tasty clean plant-based dishes can be – that way you can load up on this and have little bites of other, less-healthy foods alongside. If you need a little inspiration, see my plant-based Christmas spread here;
    6. Drink a glass of water 20-30 mins before your meal to make sure you don’t overeat out of thirst, rather than hunger;
    7. Always plate your food, try not to eat standing, and place fork and knife down in between mouthfuls. Fun lunch/dinner chat makes you eat slower, so get chit-chatting but do not scoff your food in the process!
    8. I’m not going to give you too many guidelines around alcohol. We all know what it is and what it does to us. Be honest with yourself if you need to take it easy, drink mindfully, and always with food in your stomach, and try to drink a glass of water for every alcoholic beverage;
    9. Carry a water bottle with you and keep up 2L/day, more if you are drinking alcohol;
    10. You might want to consider a magnesium supplement and vitamin C – whilst this is a time for relaxation, if you are running about, cooking like crazy, meeting the demands of 20 different relatives, drinking a lot of alcohol, eating less healthy foods or just find this time of year stressful, use these supplements to nurture your adrenal glands. Chat with your healthcare practitioner or the practitioners at a health food store for specific advice;
    11. Try to walk 10K steps every day. Dancing is a great way to get these up! If you are having a beach day, do a lap or two of the sand. Meet a friend for a walk, or enjoy a scenic hike. Release the pressure to do anything more.
  • Meet people where they’re at – We’re all doing the best we can and are all on our own journey. Be ok with the fact that that person questioning you is at a certain stage in his/her life, and that’s their prerogative. We cannot change people or convince them. All we can do is be respectful of others, be confident in our choices, and lead by example. This is powerful.

 

  • Come armed with a little, light-hearted research – this might seem counter-intuitive after I just said the above, but whilst we cannot change people, we can inform them. Be cautious here, you do not want to come across as preachy. But if you know you are going to get questioned about your dietary choices have a few fun facts in your arsenal for confident and quick responses, with kindness. Note, vegans, this is probably not the time to detail what you saw in Earthlings. It will probably fall on deaf ears and dampen the Holiday spirit. Keep it relatively light. You might teach them something new and make a huge positive impact in their lives.

 

  • Let them know you feel your best when you eat this way – sounds so simple, but it works. No one can argue with how you feel. It’s a great way to cut a conversation that won’t go anywhere without having to say too much or offend anyone 🙂

 

I hope these tips help you embrace the holiday season a little more. Don’t be too hard on yourself, and do something that brings you joy every day 🙂

 

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