It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Or so they say. In fact, Christmas can be a very stressful time. From an abundance of festive foods to bubble-filled parties, it’s situation in which over indulgence can easily become the norm. All of this can set alarm bells ringing when it comes to heart health.
Although average Brit consumes over 6000 calories on Christmas day, there are ways to protect your heart health and still enjoy the festivities. Take a deep breath and follow some of these tips from nutritionist Sarah Flower to help protect your heart, and remember Christmas only takes place once a year – so the occasional indulgence is okay!
1. Don’t go overboard
Christmas is just one or two days for most of us, yet we buy vast amounts of food, snacks, drink and sweets. Be realistic and buy what you need or you will find you will still be eating mince pies, quality street and dried figs in January.
“Shops are flooded with Christmas food from September, but if you do need to buy early, remember to store these away and be disciplined. Do not start to make a move on Christmas snacks until the day itself, as mindless eating can be your downfall. Those little nibbles add up and these nutrient deficient foods will ensure you pile on the pounds.”
Keep nibbles out of sight (unless it is a tasty fruit bowl) and when you do indulge, eat sparingly. If you find it hard to resist, put them away.
Family toasting at Christmas dinner
2. Keep it natural
Just like every other day of the year, keeping our food home-cooked and natural is the best way to promote heart health. Much processed food is devoid of essential nutrients and full of salt, sugar and unhealthy fats. Real food supports a healthy heart, mind and body.
“Opt for colourful plates packed with antioxidant rich vegetables, fruit and nuts, which are full of healthy oils, magnesium, vitamin E, selenium, l-arginine and zinc which all help to protect your heart. Some studies have also shown the antioxidants in dark chocolate can prevent bad cholesterol from sticking to your artery walls, but just make sure you choose a high quality dark chocolate and remember milk chocolate doesn’t count!”
Tomatoes should also be high on the list of anybody worrying about heart health this Christmas, as they are rich in lycopene, which has been clinically proven to actively help protect against high blood pressure, heart disease and cholesterol. Certain food supplements such as CardioMato contain this heart healthy nutrient.
3. Plan ahead
Planning in advance may keep you from making bad food choices further down the line. Plan your meals, and fill your freezer with homemade ready meals to eat when you are busy or entertaining over Christmas.
“You might not think it now, but salads, homemade dips and fruit platters will also be a welcome treat after the heavy indulgence of a Christmas dinner. Before you go out to party, ensure you have eaten a good healthy meal. You are less likely to over consume and it will help line your stomach if you do overindulge a little on the bubbly.”
Christmas can be incredibly stressful, juggling money, families and catering requirements, but stress has been linked to heart disease and high cholesterol.
“Remember to make some time for yourself. Go for a walk to burn off those calories and spend quality time with your loved ones.”
5. Get drink savvy
Nobody wants to be seen as a party pooper but sometimes you just want to refrain from too much alcohol.
“There are some fantastic alternatives available. If you are out and about, you can opt for soft drinks or alcohol free substitutes or alternative every alcoholic drink with a soft drink.”
Always keep bottles of water handy in the fridge – dehydration causes headaches, constipation and a sluggish body.
Don’t beat yourself up if you’ve gone a bit overboard this festive season, as there are quick and simple ways to go about refreshing and re-energising your body.
“Tomato juice is the perfect cure for a hangover. Add a few drops of Milk Thistle, which helps the liver to detox, and you can get on with your day. My personal favourite for detoxing is Green tea, which is brilliant for heart health. Try mint green tea too, as it is packed with antioxidants and is also great to help settle an upset tummy, nausea and aid digestion.”
A few days of light meals after the Christmas blow out will also give your sluggish system a kick start to recovery.