If you haven't succumbed to buying an Advent calendar stuffed with chocolate or sweeties and would prefer a healthier alternative, then I have some ideas for you.
As the frenzy of the festive season kicks into high gear, taking a little time to look after yourself could make all the difference to your energy, mood and stress levels. Rather than munching your way through 24 days of chocolate, how about 24 days of simple acts that will help to build your strength and resilience?
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Make your own version, or choose from the suggestions I have for you below. Write them down, stick them into an empty jar and select one a day.
EAT YOUR FIVE A DAY, OR MORE, TODAY
Eat an extra portion of fruit or vegetables. Berries on breakfast, soup with lunch of an extra sprout or two with dinner.
GET OUTSIDE IN THE MORNING
Morning daylight may help balance energy levels and improve sleep, so wrap up and get out there.
Top up your water levels. Aim for about a litre and a half. Water and herbal teas count.
Take time to taste and savour your food. Notice how it looks, smells, tastes and even feels on your fork or spoon and in your mouth.
EAT AN EXTRA GREEN LEAFY VEGETABLE
There are plenty more to choose from if Brussels sprouts are not your thing. Try kale, broccoli, watercress, rocket and leeks. Green leafy veg are a good source of magnesium, which is important for energy function and stress balance.
Herbs and spices are packed with polyphenol antioxidants and other plant chemicals with health benefits. Turmeric, garlic, ginger, rosemary, thyme and cinnamon will add a little boost to your meals.
CRUSH AND CHOP YOUR GARLIC...
And then leave it for 10-15 minutes before cooking to help maximise the levels of sulphur-containing antioxidants you'll get from it. Ideally add at the end of the cooking process, not at the start as heat inactivates these ingredients. The same for broccoli and brassicas.
The higher the cocoa content, the better. Check the sugar content too. If your tastebuds allow, opt for 85 per cent chocolate to get the antioxidant benefits and keep your sugar intake lower.
ADD A POP OF PROTEIN TO BREAKFAST
Do this, and notice how you feel by mid-morning. Nuts and seeds, natural yoghurt, eggs and fish are all easy ways to top up your protein at breakfast. Aim for a palm sized portion.
POP A FEW HIGHER FIBRE OPTIONS IN YOUR TROLLEY
Beans, lentils, wholegrains, nuts, seeds, fruit and veg will help you reach the recommended 30g fibre a day that most of us don't get anywhere near.
Cultured and fermented foods will help feed the healthy bacteria in your gut microbiome. Olives, pickles, sauerkraut and kimchi are great with cheese and oatcakes or flaxseed crackers.
RETHINK YOUR DRINKS
Add some low- or no-alcohol drinks to your shopping list, sip on green tea and try kombucha as a better alternative to fizzy drinks.
Add a drizzle of olive oil to steamed veggies to maximise your absorption of fat-soluble nutrients. It tastes great too.
MAKE MULLED BERRIES
Put a bag of frozen mixed berries in a saucepan with a mulled wine sachet and a touch of honey, if you want some extra sweetness. Simmer gently, allow to cool and add to yoghurt or porridge for a seasonal and healthy breakfast.
WALK AFTER DINNER
This helps stabilise blood sugar and insulin levels and aids digestion. Even just 15minutes will do the trick.
EAT WITHIN A 10-12 HOUR WINDOW
Give your digestion a rest and fast for 12-14 hours overnight. You might even find you sleep better too. Be gentle with yourself and don't fast for longer than 14 hours, as this can trigger the fight-or-flight stress response.