Christmas health-busters

Monday, December 13, 2010
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As Christmas beckons, it's easy to lose sight of the year's health goals. Rich food, plentiful alcohol and lack of exercise all contribute to a sluggish system, not to mention the family hazards that might fly your way. Try following these tips to minimise the physical and emotionaldamage.

Stay off the snacks
Around Christmas time, many of the kilos packed on are due to snacks that lie around the house. Go easy on the chocolates and nuts, they are full of kiljoules and are unnecessary when you are also enjoying large meals! As a substitute, have bowls of fruit available (grapes and berries are good) and help fill kids' stockings with an orange or apple, too.

VIEW GALLERY: Snacks under 150 calories

Plan a walk
Just because it's Christmas doesn't mean normal life has to stop completely! Build some time into your day to take some exercise, even if it's a simple walk along the beach, a swim or a game of cricket in the backyard. Taking time out can also be helpful for avoiding family tension: if there's a storm brewing, calm yourself down by getting out and about for 30 minutes or so.

Bulk up on veg
Whatever your chosen Christmas meal, max out on vegies and cut back on the meat. It doesn't have to be dull — look up inventive ways to make a splendid salad or dress up those sprouts. As long as your vegies aren't covered in butter or rich salad dressing, you can scoff lots without packing on too many kilos.

Be sensitive to others
Not everybody finds Christmas a pleasant time — be sensitive to the feelings of those around you, especially if there's been a recent bereavement or loss. Even happy events such as the birth of a child can cause emotional havoc, so stay aware and steer clear of potentially hazardous topics.

Don't start on the booze too early
Tempting though it can be to crack open the bubbly as soon as you're dressed, save it for later in the day. When eventually you do have a drink, remember to space alcoholic beverages with soft ones, allowing your liver a chance to fight back. Don't forget that it's harder for your liver to metabolise alcohol when your sugar intake has been high: it prioritises the absorption of sugar over alcohol, so if you've been on the chocolates all day, any alcohol will remain in your system for longer.

VIEW GALLERY : Avoid the holiday binge

Get organised!
If you leave all your preparations to the last minute, things can get stressful. Financially, too, leaving everything until last can create a big hole in your wallet. Space everything out by writing lists and buying presents ahead of time (this will also save you cash). Buy foods that won't go off in advance, too, such as Christmas puddings and so on.

Choose your drinks carefully
If you're watching your weight, some drinks will kill your diet. Obvious ones to look out for are creamy cocktails, but keep an eye on your intake of premixed drinks and cocktails in general. Stick to straight spirits, mixed with low-joule drinks, or wine.

Set out expectations
Christmas can be a very happy time, but it can also be stressful. If your parents are separated or if you're planning to spend the holidays with your partner's family, make sure the other set know in good time. Disappointment often breeds resentment and the last thing you need on your hands at Christmas is a family feud. As at any other time of the year, communication is of paramount importance — hiding away from telling somebody something they won't want to hear will only prolong the issue.

Your say: what is your Christmas-time weakness?


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