So many people struggle to eat healthy during the holiday season. This year is unique for all of us and the holidays will look different for most of us. It is important to be able to relax and enjoy the holidays and it is also important to eat healthy so that we keep our immune systems strong.
The keys to a strong immune system are:
· Healthy food
· Stress Reduction
With this in mind, here are some tips to help keep your holiday eating healthy and your immune system strong:
Eat Breakfast - Start your day with protein, a fruit or vegetable and a bit of a healthy fat such as avocado, nuts or seeds. Don’t skip breakfast so that you can eat a lot later. It is better to curb your hunger and cravings and set the tone for the day. A healthy breakfast will give you energy for the day and a balanced breakfast will provide you the protein and antioxidants to keep your immune system strong.
Doctor’s Tip: Skipping breakfast can actually lead to weight gain! Starting your day with low blood sugar alters your body’s metabolism and leads to increased cravings, poor concentration and mood swings. A healthy breakfast balances your blood sugar and insulin levels. Extreme highs and lows of blood sugar and insulin levels leads to insulin resistance which increases risk of weight gain/obesity and Type 2 Diabetes.
Eat Lunch - For the same reasons, you don’t want to be too hungry when it is time for your holiday dinner meal. You will want to include vegetables with a little protein and a little healthy fat for lunch. Fill half your plate with varied vegetables so you are guaranteed to get a boost of nutrients.
Doctor’s Tip: The nutrients and antioxidants from vegetables and fruit are critical for a highly functioning immune system. Many studies demonstrate that antioxidants (vitamins A, C and E) and vitamin D help your immune system fight infection, including COVID and other upper respiratory infections. In addition, the antioxidants neutralize free radicals which minimizes cellular damage caused by environmental toxins. This decreases the risk of heart disease, cancer and other diseases.
Be Prepared - If you are traveling, bring healthy snacks such as cut vegetables and hummus, fruit and nuts. Don’t use being away from home as an excuse to eat junk food!
Holiday Meal - Enjoy your meal including the stuffing and dessert! Control your portion sizes so you feel good after the meal. Include some veggies on your plate so you get to eat something healthy while you taste all the treats! Serve mixed berries or other fruit as an option for dessert so you can have a little pie and a little fruit.
Exercise - Don’t use the holidays as an excuse to not exercise. Start your day with some exercise! Choose any exercise you enjoy for at least 20 minutes 5 days a week. You can go for a walk, put on some music and dance, play tennis, hike in nature or anything you choose. If you are new to exercise, be sure to choose an exercise that allows you to build up gradually and exercise to tolerance. Studies consistently demonstrate that exercise has significant health benefits including blood sugar control, improved immune system function, decrease risk cardiovascular disease, weight control, improved brain health and improved mental health.
Remember - The holidays are a time to give thanks and enjoy family. Whether you are celebrating with family in person or remotely, remember that the holidays should not be a time of stress. Planning ahead helps minimize stress so you can enjoy the holiday. Also make sure you get enough rest. Don’t use the holiday as a reason to get less sleep. This will keep your body strong and healthy.
Doctor’s Tip: Sleep deprivation and stress not only deplete your immune system they also lead to increased cravings and weight gain! Lack of sleep and stress cause hormone disruption. Studies show that lack of sleep leads to increased production of the hunger hormone ghrelin and decreased production of leptin, the hormone that triggers you to feel full. Consequently, you eat more and make poor food choices. In addition, sleep deprivation and stress lead to increased cortisol and altered insulin levels. Again, this can impact your weight, but it also increases your risk of insulin resistance and chronic inflammation, impairing immune function.
Don’t use the holidays as an excuse to start a month of over-eating. If you eat smart during the holidays, you will feel great and have no regrets. Let’s avoid needing that New Year’s resolution to diet! We have all been struggling with the fallout of COVID 19 which has created significant stress for everyone. If you are gaining weight, having trouble sleeping, have digestive issues such as bloating, heartburn or stomach upset, suffer from anxiety or have other chronic health conditions you should see a nutritionist. For those of you who are sick and tired of being sick and tired, want to lose weight and improve your health, then now is the time to act. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for a 30-minute complimentary consultation where you will leave with strategies to solve your health struggles.
For those of you who prefer the support of working in a group to lose weight, reach out to me to join my 6-week virtual, medically guided group weight loss program via Zoom starting on Jan. 6th. For just $50 per week join a group of no more than 10 people and together you will learn about meal planning, food choices, shopping lists, healthy recipes and lifestyle habits that will help you lose weight, sleep better, improve your immune system and increase energy.
Dates and times:
Wednesday mornings - Jan. 6th, 13th, 20th, 27th and Feb. 3rd, 10th from 9:30-10:30AM
Wednesday evenings – Jan. 6th, 13th,20th and Feb. 3rd, 10th from 7:30-8:30PM
Email beth@bethatlas to sign up.