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How to stay healthy (ish) over Christmas

Enter the new year feeling a healthy (ish) version of yourself.

Christmas is a time when we traditionally let go of our health woes and enjoy the many treats and mince pies on offer.

After a challenging year, we should let our hair down and enjoy ourselves – but too many temptations can leave us susceptible to overindulgence at the expense of our health and wellbeing.

Yet, with a few simple tweaks, there’s no reason you can’t combine relaxing and celebrating over Christmas with staying healthy (ish). Who knows – perhaps you will even discover some healthy new habits to bring into 2022.

We have put together several tips to help you enter the new year feeling a healthy (ish) version of yourself.

MORE FESTIVE SPIRIT, LESS ALCOHOLIC SPIRIT

If there is ever a time of the year which we tend to overdo it on booze, it is the festive period. We all know that too much alcohol is bad for us for many reasons – not least the additional calories. However, a lesser-known fact is that drinking alcohol enhances your appetite for food [1]. So, that extra Christmas sherry could make it more challenging to say no to another mince pie and another, and another...

If you want to cut down on alcohol without going ‘cold turkey’ (ahem), here are some tips that can help:

  • Before starting your night, set your limit on how much you plan to drink and keep a mental note of it.
  • Try sipping water alongside your beverage to keep hydrated (easing the dreaded hangover) and drink more slowly, reducing the overall quantity of alcohol you consume in an evening.
  • When choosing your tipple, opt for beers and wines with a lower alcoholic content - you should always be able to find the ABV % on the menu or bottle. Most UK beers range from as low as 4% up to as much as 7% [2], almost doubling the amount of alcohol they contain.
  • Many alcohol-free versions are now available, including spirits such as gin. Nobody will notice (not even you).

Our Liver Blood Test can tell you if your drinking habits are affecting the health of your liver and whether it is inflamed. In its early stages, liver damage can be reversed, which is why it’s important to detect it early. For a more comprehensive screen, check out our Health and Lifestyle Blood Test.

For more information on the effects of alcohol on the body, and support, visit our blog, alcohol awareness – are you aware of the risks?

SECONDS, ANYONE?

Our Christmas dinner has a reputation of being the ultimate indulgence. But the truth is, with a few simple changes, our Christmas dinner can not only be nutritionally balanced but the ultimate nutritional feast.

  • To cut down on calories, switch some of your potato roasties for mash or boiled.
  • Try including more vegetables on your plate. These are relatively lower in energy and more filling, reducing your snacking later in the day.
  • Trim the fat off your meat - you probably won’t miss it (much) anyway.
  • Eat your sprouts. Brussels sprouts belong to the group of vegetables called brassicas, which contain compounds called glucosinolates. These fascinating nutrients are responsible for that characteristic bitter flavour but offer many health benefits [3].
  • Lastly, have a mince pie or two (and enjoy it!). A little bit of what you fancy may help reduce cravings and calorie intake in the long run.

EMBRACE THE OUTDOORS

Don your hat, scarf and gloves and get outside this Christmas—it’ll feel twice as cosy when you get back inside.

  • Christmas day wouldn’t be the same without watching all your favourite films and sitcoms on TV back-to-back. Try breaking up your festive movie marathon with some short outdoorsy walks with family and friends. Not only will this help you to burn off any extra calories, but socialising is good for mental wellbeing.
  • Dare to go for an outdoor wild swim. A festive dip in the sea is a tradition in many areas on Christmas day, but if you don’t live by the sea, wild swimming areas are available all over the country in lakes and public baths.

ENJOY SOME GUILT-FREE TIME FOR YOURSELF

Although it has its advantages, remote working has meant that work has invaded our home lives, making it challenging to separate work from play. Try to take some time for yourself this festive period to relax, unwind and refresh for the new year.

  • Spend a few days unplugged from all your work devices and focus on reconnecting with loved ones, whether remotely or in person.
  • Check in on friends and family who may not be lucky enough to be together with others this Christmas. A small gesture, like a phone call, can go a long way.
  • Dig out that book you were planning to read this year, put your feet up and try to get in some quality you-time.

KEEP THE SNIFFLES AT BAY

There are many claims about which nutrients are beneficial to support or boost our immune system over winter – but what is the truth behind these claims?

  • A balanced and varied diet is key to supporting your body and keeping your immune system healthy [4].
  • Practising good personal hygiene, such as washing hands frequently, is the most beneficial thing you can do to protect your immune system [5].
  • Some vitamins and minerals are great for the immune system and might help you fend off a cold this winter. One of these is vitamin D – most of us are deficient, which is why we should top ourselves up with a 10µg supplement over autumn and winter [6]. You can check your levels with our Vitamin D (25 OH) Blood Test.
  • If you do catch a winter bug, there is evidence that taking vitamin C regularly (such as in a glass of orange juice) may reduce the duration of a cold [7]. Whether or not you choose to have your orange juice alongside champagne in your Christmas day bucks-fizz is a decision we will leave up to you.

Simply having a healthy (ish) Christmas time

The New Year doesn’t have to be a time of regret—by making some small changes to your Christmas traditions, you can make this season a healthier one.

Medichecks provides a range of blood tests that can help you establish whether your lifestyle is affecting your overall health. Try our Health and Lifestyle Blood Test or our Advanced Well Man Blood Test and Advanced Well Woman Blood Test for a more comprehensive check—be a happier and healthier you this New Year. 


REFERENCES

  1. Yeomans, M.R., 2010. Alcohol, appetite and energy balance: is alcohol intake a risk factor for obesity?. Physiology & behavior, 100(1), pp.82-89.
  2. The Spruce Eats. 2021. What Does ABV, ABW, and High-Point Have to Do With Beer?. [online] Available at: <https://www.thespruceeats.com/alcohol-by-volume-353204> [Accessed 29 October 2021].
  3. Ciska, E., Drabińska, N., Honke, J. and Narwojsz, A., 2015. Boiled Brussels sprouts: A rich source of glucosinolates and the corresponding nitriles. Journal of Functional Foods, 19, pp.91-99.
  4. BDA. 2021. There is no diet to prevent Coronavirus. [online] Available at: <https://www.bda.uk.com/resource/there-is-no-diet-to-prevent-coronavirus.html> [Accessed 29 October 2021].
  5. UK. 2021. Coronavirus (COVID-19) – 5 things you can do to protect yourself and your community - UK Health Security Agency. [online] GOV.UK. Available at: <https://publichealthmatters.blog.gov.uk/2020/03/04/coronavirus-covid-19-5-things-you-can-do-to-protect-yourself-and-your-community/> [Accessed 29 October 2021].
  6. 2021. Vitamins and minerals - Vitamin D. [online] Available at: <https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-and-minerals/vitamin-d/> [Accessed 29 October 2021].
  7. Hemilä H, Chalker E. Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013 Jan 31;2013(1):CD000980. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD000980.pub4. PMID: 23440782; PMCID: PMC8078152.