The holidays can be a wonderful time of year to reflect on love and family. But, we’re also usually under the pump, running from work to Christmas parties, while searching for the perfect gift for our mother-in-law, and grabbing whatever food is lying around. This combination of seasonal stress—travel, work duties, family responsibilites—and intense self-reflection that comes with major holidays can get anyone a little down.
Thankfully, there are actually quite a few nutritional tweaks you can make to your diet to increase happiness and fight the effects of the Christmas blues. Here’s what you can do to get in the holiday spirit this year.
When you wake up in the morning, you should have a pretty good idea of where your meals are coming from. We’re not saying you need to know exactly what and when you’ll be eating, but having a flexible construct of what’s coming will help you from going off the rails later in the day. Don’t skip meals unnecessarily—it can throw off your blood sugar levels and increase mood swings.
Take a look at your schedule when you wake up, and figure out what you need to eat in order to get through your day. Early morning workout? Be sure to eat a filling, protein-packed breakfast afterward. Holiday cocktail party after work? You might wanna eat a large, late lunch or grab a snack before you head out so you won’t be tempted by the cheese plate (and so you don’t overdo it on the vino).
Vitamin D plays a vital role in regulating mood, and can even fight depression and anxiety—and it’s easy not to get enough, especially if you’re covering up with heavy SPF or battling the winter weather. According to Dr. Chris Kresser, you should aim to get in at least 15 minutes of unprotected sun exposure a day (so counterintuitive, right?) because it’s easier for our bodies to create vitamin D through sun exposure as opposed to through food alone. It might also be a good idea to supplement your diet with a little more vitamin D during this time of year if you’re dealing with limited sunlight; fatty fish, egg yolks, ghee, and cheese are all good sources of vitamin D.
Feeling emotionally fried? Ditch the morning coffee and reach for adaptogenic herbs instead. The adrenal system is responsible for managing the body’s stress levels. So many things can elevate our stress hormones, including:
Over time, consistently elevated stress levels force the adrenals to overwork, and they stop doing their job. That means it’s harder for us to recover from stress—and resilience is exactly what you need around this time of year! Chugging a caffeine-laced beverage daily definitely won’t help frazzled adrenal glands, but adaptogens can actually help your body recover from stress. Check out these healthy coffee alternatives, or hit up Lifehouse Tonics for a morning boost!
You’re putting your body through a lot during this month—parties, workouts, late nights at work, and of course, travel. Don’t feel pressure to eat perfectly all the time (too stressful!). Instead, present your body with a peace offering: For one meal a day try to eat whole, nourishing, unprocessed food. It doesn’t have to be boring—here are a few recipes to inspire you—and it doesn’t even need to be homemade.
So you planned on grabbing a bite to eat before the office Christmas party, but you got caught up and now you’re stuck picking over the buffet table for sustenance. Don’t fret. When in doubt, load up your plate with raw goodies like crudites, sashimi, and tuna tartare. Sticking to these high-protein, high-fiber foods will keep you fuller for longer, and decrease the likelihood that you’ll ravage the dessert tray later in the evening. Whatever you do, avoid sugar—if you’re already stressed, it’ll just inhibit your body’s ability to relax and recover.
If you can, avoid alcohol. It causes inflammation—which you want to try and diminish if you’re anxious or stressed—and the more you drink the more likely you are to make food choices you’ll regret in the morning. Alcohol is also a depressant, so if you’re already feeling down or overwhelmed it’s not likely to make you feel better! If you need to grab a cocktail because you’re at a party or event, stick to something simple and light. Vodka, tequila, and gin are less likely to cause inflammation than darker alcohols like whiskey or scotch.
Omega-3 fatty acids are necessary for optimal brain function—and not getting enough of these healthy fats can negatively impact your mental health and can lead to mood swings and depression. Beat the blues by upping your daily fat intake; aim to get at least three servings of nuts, fatty fish, algae, or avocado.
So much of psychology behind overeating or indulging junk food “cravings” can be linked back to emotional eating. I can honestly say that no one is immune to emotional eating—we look to food for comfort, satisfaction, warmth, and often as something to pass the time. Try to be aware of when and more importantly, why you’re reaching for certain foods.
Personally, I’m a bit of an introvert. Attending parties and events where I don’t know most people makes me intensely uncomfortable, and often I find myself hovering by the bar or buffet in an attempt to avoid talking to people. It’s totally silly, but I noticed I eat way more at events that I attend by myself. So I’ve made it a priority to bring a friend (or a date!) to every event I go to this holiday. Having a buddy will keep my anxiety levels low, so I won’t have to stuff my face with cheese balls in order to avoid conversation.