The season of parties and get-togethers, rich stodgy food and eating ‘til you’re stuffed, can take a real toll on our bodies.
If you want to enjoy yourself but also want to limit the damaging effects of that festive fun on your body so you’re not feeling groggy, bloated and tired come January, here are my top tips on how to do December in a more balanced way.
Before a big night out
Always eat food either before or during drinking (and ideally both!) Include good fats, protein and a little wholegrain carbohydrate and choose foods rich in glutathione (glutathione helps the liver detoxify and inhibits the toxicity of alcohol). Glutathione-rich foods include avocado, asparagus, squash, potato, broccoli, tomatoes, oranges and strawberries.
Take a milk thistle supplement before you go out. Milk thistle helps to protect the liver from some of the damaging effects of alcohol (though if you’re on prescription medicine, including The Pill, check with your GP first)
When you’re out – party smartly
Avoid dark spirits, cocktails that contain lots of sugar syrup and sweet dark shots as they’re high in sugar and dark alcohols tend to give worse hangovers. Go for cocktails that contain cold pressed juices and bitters or drink vodka, lime and soda with angostura bitters (it tastes more interesting than vodka lime soda on its own and bitters are detoxifying).
Champagne is a good option as it’s lower in sugar than many other alcoholic drinks though the actual amount of sugar it contains depends on the type of champagne. Brut Nature (also called pas dose or dosage zero) is the lowest sugar champagne (less than a sixth of a tsp of sugar per glass) and it is very dry, the next lowest sugar champagne is Extra Brut (a quarter of a tsp of sugar per glass). Sake is a good low sugar option too.
Champagne (along with vodka and gin) also contains very little yeast compared to other alcohols, like wine and beer, so it’s a much better choice if you’re prone to abdominal bloating or recurrent thrush (too much yeast is a key factor behind both these issues).
Mixing drinks can be fun at the time but usually means a much worse hangover the next day, so if you don’t fancy a pounding headache try sticking to the same drink all night. If you find that a bit dull then at least stick to no more than two different drinks and make them light-coloured.
Make sure you drink water throughout the night and pace yourself by having no more than one alcoholic drink per hour.
And hit the dance floor – dancing will help you sweat out some of those toxins!
When you get home
Drink a small glass of coconut water just before you go to bed. It helps prevent morning-after dehydration headaches as it’s packed full of electrolytes.
Make yourself a green juice and pop 1 Tbsp. of spirulina in it. It’s packed full of chlorophyll, perhaps the greatest detoxifier there is, and antioxidants that protect the liver and aid its recovery from damage and it can make a huge difference to how you feel the next day. But if you can’t be bothered with the faff of making a fresh juice then coconut water is a winner.
Supplements can help
A vitamin B-complex, 1000-2000mg vitamin C and NAC (n-acetyl cysteine) can be taken the night before and the morning after to help scavenge acetaldehyde, the toxic by-product of alcohol metabolism that’s responsible for many of the side effects of drinking i.e. the dreaded hangover. But NAC isn’t suitable for everybody so check with your healthcare provider before taking it.
The morning after hangover hacks
Yoga is great as it’ll get you sweating and twisting the toxins out of your body the next day and you’ll feel a lot better after. Also try an Epsom salt bath – add two big handfuls of Epsom salts to hot water and soak for half an hour. It’s super detoxifying and absorbing the magnesium through your skin is really relaxing (magnesium is “nature’s tranquilliser” so can help soothe hangover induced anxiety).
I really recommend fresh ginger root tea for nausea (fresh chopped ginger root steeped for 10 minutes in hot water) and more coconut water to rehydrate.
Food-wise, avocado, chopped tomato and fresh basil on sourdough toast is a really good call.
Stay on track with exercise
I find online yoga resources, like Yoga download, are really good when you’re busy and don’t have time to make it to a studio class. Some of their classes are as short as 20 mins so it means you can fit them in around your schedule. Ultimately you need to find something you really love doing as then it won’t be a chore as you’ll know how good it will make you feel. For me those things are yoga when I’m in the UK and surfing and diving when I’m away.
Give your liver some love
Add detoxifying chlorella and spirulina to smoothies, juices or water. Eat lots of cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, red, white and green cabbage, brussel sprouts and kale. These vegetables contain glucosinolate, which boosts the production of enzymes in the liver that help neutralise and detoxify toxins. Have bitter foods and drinks like chicory, rocket, watercress, Swedish bitters and angostura bitters. They stimulate bile production by the liver and aid elimination of toxins.
Balancing out a big dinner
On a day you know you’re going to be having a big dinner, aim for lighter meals, like a smoothie for breakfast, packed with antioxidants, and a nutritious lunch like sushi or soup.
When you’re at dinner try to eat mindfully. Taste each mouthful, chew really well and that way you’ll be in touch with how full you are getting and you won’t overeat. You don’t have to finish everything on your plate!
Be a healthy hostess
Some healthy canapés – are goat’s cheese and figs, smoked salmon on sourdough rye, sashimi, edamame, marinated grilled chicken skewers.
Spanish tapas padron peppers and boquerones (white anchovies in olive oil/vinegar and garlic) are also good options.
Good nibbles include chilli seeds/nuts, olives, hummus and baba ghanoush with vegetable crudités and grilled artichoke.
Navigating Christmas holiday snacks..
I’m a big believer that a little of what you fancy does you good, so if you have a favourite treat that Christmas wouldn’t be the same without then by all means enjoy it in moderation. Just savour the indulgences, no beating yourself up about them (guilt is really unhealthy!) or find healthier versions of your favourite treats. Read food labels and buy crisps without MSG and dark chocolate rather than milk chocolate.
Healthier snacks include Propercorn, Japanese brown rice crackers, mixed seeds with tamari or chilli and roasted seaweed snacks.
And finally, some baby steps if you don’t want to change much about your December eating..
Drink lemon in warm water on rising and practicing mindful eating – just slow everything down when you eat as when you do this you connect much more to how the food you’re eating is making you feel and you’re far more likely to do the right thing by your body.