By Andrea Sarjeant, CNP

Tis the season of holiday fun, rich food, heavy-handed cocktails, and stress, which, if not managed can lead to weight gain, low immunity and burnout.  As someone who loves to enjoy this season to its fullest, I can tell you that you don’t have to stay home to stay healthy! Here are five ways to help you be merry without abandoning your health and wellness.

1. Plan some time to be virtuous.
When we’re busy, we often neglect our own well-being. We eat rich food that’s been depleted of nutrients, sleep less, and let our numerous to-do lists stress us out. This translates to a worn down immune system, which can make us more vulnerable to catching a bug. Not being able to celebrate because of a cold or flu is a bummer, so plan for a few nights of downtime to keep your immune system strong. Eat lightly (to counteract the heavy party foods), drink lots of fluids (to help keep you hydrated), take an Epsom salt bath (to help you relax, detoxify, and replenish stores of magnesium which are depleted by alcohol), and be sure to get some sleep.

2. Stay hydrated.
The holiday season can be very dehydrating, especially when you consider all the glasses of bubbly and the festive cocktails. To save yourself from the dreaded morning after headache, aim to drink one glass of water in between each cocktail. There! You’ll have less of a burden on your liver, and you’ll feel better in the morning. It’s a win/win situation.
Another reason to drink lots of water: a big glass 20 minutes BEFORE a meal will actually help you to feel more full from less food.

3. Eat the real food at the holiday spread.
Holiday food is rich, plentiful, and hard to resist. When you find yourself at a giant spread, try to stay away from the not so fab food groups: fast, frozen, fried, junk and processed. These guys are high in calories, bad fats and sugar and low in nutrition. Instead, focus on the colourful, real foods. You know, the homemade entrees, and lots of veggies. Real holiday food may be rich, but it’s better for you in the long run.
If you’re concerned about overeating, don’t underestimate the power of an apple (or seasonally plentiful clementine) to help you feel full. Any raw fresh fruit or vegetable has fibre (which will help you to feel full) and vitamin C (which will boost your immune system).

4. Eat slowly and enjoy each and every bite.
The holiday season is full of rich food that is often steeped in tradition and memories. The point isn’t to avoid these foods, but to eat smaller portions, mindfully. In his book, Savor, Thich Nhat Hanh says that, “mindful eating means simply eating or drinking while being aware of each bite or sip…

[this] allows us to fully appreciate the sensory delight of eating and to be more conscious of the amount and nature of all that we eat and drink.” So do this: focus on the way the food looks, how it smells, eat slowly, take small bites, really try to taste each bite and chew thoroughly.

Tip: If your stomach hurts because you’ve overdone it, have some ginger or peppermint tea – both help to soothe your digestive system.

5. Be merry, and don’t beat yourself up for indulging a little.
This is the magical season of merriment, after all. And it’s important not to forget why you’re going out in the first place, celebrating with your nearest and dearest. The holiday season is about togetherness, so let yourself feel the love and thankfulness as you indulge a little!

Lastly, don’t waste your time worrying about over indulging a little. You can come see me in January.

All the best this holiday season, and I look forward to meeting you in the new year!