What we like to think of as “the most wonderful time of the year” is, for some, anything but wonderful. Blood sugar levels can spike from consuming goodies and treats that seem to be everywhere. The ensuing insulin spike often includes irritability, lethargy and foggy-headedness.
Shopping, rushing and standing in line can be stressful. Rising frustration and feeling stuck in line can foster a low-grade anxiety that can bring on cravings. Warding off the holiday blues takes a little food planning — but a little planning goes a long way.
Sure, we all know what we shouldn’t eat; but when sweets are all around us, finding a healthy snack feels like swimming upstream. Beth Reardon, director of nutrition at Duke University’s Duke Integrative Medicine says, “We reach for what we think will make us feel better, but we too often wind up making ourselves feel worse in the long run.”
Struggling with food choices can be an ongoing battle that lasts from Halloween to New Year’s. So rather than focus on what we can’t have — that list is a mile long — let’s gear up and be prepared with lots of yummy things you can have. The key is to be prepared.
If you have a bag of almonds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds or cashews in your pocket and snack on those mid-morning, you’ll be less hungry and in a better position to decide what you’ll eat for lunch. When meeting friends at your favorite spot, a cup of green tea, iced or hot, is available at most any counter and is a much wiser choice than the high-calorie, high-fat, over-priced coffee beverage. Green tea has the amino acid L-theanine, which is easily absorbed and has been shown by EEG tests to stimulate alpha brain waves. This can have a calming effect while improving focus, even though it has caffeine. I love that it’s an accessible, healthy option, easily found in the midst of the holiday craziness.
Eat plenty of wild salmon, tuna and trout — these are cold-water fish — to improve your mood. These contain the omega-3 fatty acid DHA, which has been shown to improve nerve function in the brain, especially in the amygdala and hippocampus —these areas of the brain are associated with mood. Since it’s a lean protein, fish stabilizes blood sugar, which also helps to keep your mood stabilized, so when you’re waiting in those long lines, you’ll feel a little calmer. Make sure you’re choosing complex carbs such as quinoa, spelt, barley and millet. These take longer to digest and are more likely to be unprocessed. And by starting the day with fresh fruit, your digestion will be better all day. Pomegranates, grapefruit, pears — oh, the goodness of seasonal fresh produce! The holidays can easily be filled with fresh foods that heal the body.
There are lots of choices and that’s the beauty of eating well. We just have to remember we do have options and rather than feeling restricted, like we’re missing out on something, we can be prepared, bring along fresh snacks and keep choosing well. I hope you eat well, enjoy good food and feel strong in this wonderful time of year.
I’ll see you in two weeks.
Love & health,