Guide To Healthy Christmas Treats

A Holly, Jolly, Healthy Season

For many, the period of mid-December to mid-January truly is the most wonderful time of the year. It’s a chance to take some time off, catch up with good friends and family, have fun with the kids, enjoy favourite traditional meals and treats, or simply take a break as the busy year winds down.

Considering it’s such a jolly time of year and we know that relaxing and being social are proven measures in keeping us healthy, it’s a bit surprising that it’s often the very time of year that we’re hit the hardest with fatigue, stress, cold and flu.

Ask people if the season wears them down and although many will say they love Christmas, the weeks leading up to and immediately after can really take a toll. Days are dark and cold. Stress levels are high trying to meet year-end deadlines at work or school. And of course, running around to find the perfect gift for everyone on your list. Yes, seasonal parties are happening but often result in consuming too much alcohol, treats high in sugar or fat, and staying up too late. All of these can result in that run down feeling and being succeptable to seasonal bugs.

To boost immunity, stay healthy and glowing through the Christmas season and into the New Year, here are my super 7 preventive measures:

  1. Keep a steady supply of fresh, canned, frozen, or even dried fruit on hand. Many fruits are a great source of vitamin C, which helps in fighting colds and flu. Even though the summer-ripe bounty of August is not available, get creative with choices like pomegranate, dried cranberries, kiwi fruit and grapes. These are great additions to the vitamin C powerhouses like oranges and grapefruits, which are at their peak in January and February.
  2. Stay topped up with vitamin D. With longer, darker days and less sunshine, our bodies simply aren’t making as much vitamin D in the winter months. All adults over 50 should be taking 400 IU of vitamin D by supplement daily, but also emphasize vitamin D-rich foods like fish, milk and fortified beverages and cereals.
  3. Get enough zinc. Zinc is a key mineral for the immune system. You’ll find it in cereals, whole grains, lean meats and seafood.
  4. Eat evenly and consistently, every 3-4 hours, to prevent drops in blood sugar that can leave you tired, grouchy or craving the wrong food. This is important daily, but even more so on days when you may have a party to attend. Arrive at parties without being famished. This helps you exercise portion control on all of the goodies.
  5. Stay well hydrated. Getting enough fluids is not as obvious as it may be on hot summer days when we feel warm and are sweating, but still aim for your 6-8 glasses daily. If your sinuses and nasal passages get too dry (which is highly possible given the use of heaters in our homes and work places) you’re at a greater risk for a cold or flu.
  6. Stay strong and vibrant by keeping active and making time for exercise. Book some time to exercise in your schedule,like an appointment, to help make it happen.
  7. Be sure to get enough sleep. Getting overtired can run you down very quickly.

And on the note of holiday health: just because it’s the festive season doesn’t mean all festivities have to be based on not-so-healthy treats. There are endless entertaining ideas for appetizers, entrees or desserts that can not only impress and taste amazing, but don’t leave you feeling bad for indulging. I especially like to make apps with vegetables. Cherry tomatoes hollowed out and stuffed with a little pesto sauce, an elegant-looking veggie platter with hummus, lightly steamed asparagus spears wrapped with prosciutto, and more. For desserts, cranberries, pears, apples and pomegranate make a healthy base. Even when it comes to alcohol, consider offering lighter versions or virgin cocktails such as a spicy Caesar, Mandarin or Pomegranate martini!

I’d love to hear your favourite ways to stay healthy throughout the hectic season. And if you have any fruit or vegetable-based entertaining ideas that are always a hit at your parties, please share.