At the time I’m writing this, we’re still in the early stages of the holidays. Trees and lights are going up, Christmas shopping has begun, and I’m pretty sure I’ve already heard Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You” at least 5 times. – not that I’m complaining. Holiday parties are starting, and I’m sure we can all agree that no matter what celebration you’re going to, food will also be in attendance.
As I said last week when we were chatting about how to maintain healthy habits during holiday stress, we live in a very food-driven culture. It’s been part of celebrations and gatherings for centuries, and the holidays probably wouldn’t feel the same without those dishes we only have at this time of year. While some are wonderful from a nutrition perspective, there are certainly a ton of tempting treats, sugar, booze, and empty carbs. We enjoy them (some more than others), all the while knowing that there will be a price to pay to the universe for doing so. That price can come in the form of…
- sugar comas
- bloating and digestive issues
- feeling exhausted and lethargic
- weight gain
So what happens when you find yourself dealing with one or two of these things, or worst case, all of them at once?
That’s what this little guide was built for!
I’ve outlined the things to avoid and things to do more of in order to return to feeling awesome ASAP. You’ve got people to see, things to do and fun times to have, and none of the situations above should hold you back. Bookmark this post and keep it handy to get the most out of the holidays.
You’ll want to avoid these things
adding more toxins
Coffee is a diuretic, which means that it causes your body to release more water and salt than usual through urine. A lot of water loss can create dehydration, and if you’ve been out late, not sleeping as much as usual, consuming alcohol and already feeling that post-party hangover, dehydration is the last thing you want. Coming off of a coffee-driven caffeine high can also leave you feeling like all your energy has been zapped out, and if you’ve got sweet treats nearby, the urge to grab them for an energy boost becomes way more tempting.
Instead, swap coffee with herbal non-caffeinated or green tea. Although green tea still contains caffeine, the lift in alertness you feel is more of a gradual curve than a spike and crash. Dandelion has amazing liver detoxification abilities, and also tastes a bit like coffee so I’d check it out Dandy Blend or a dandelion root tea if it’s the taste you crave. Other great herbal options include licorice, ginger and peppermint teas, which have gut soothing properties and can help reduce any post-party bloating you’re feeling.
Probably a no-brainer, but it’s worth including. Just like caffeine, alcohol is a diuretic which means all the stuff above about dehydration applies after a night of drinking. The loss of fluid from the body means blood vessels constrict, including ones to your brain which is part of the reason we experience hangover headaches. Potentially worse is the fact that when alcohol is processed in the body, it actually introduces new toxins on top of what’s already circulating. What you feel is nausea and fatigue, and even though you might not feel it, that toxic stress also weakens the immune system. Oh, and it can mess with digestion too, because the stomach responds by squirting out more acid than usual. Ewwwww.
Specifically, avoid a non-organic dirty dozen, which are the 12 foods known to carry the highest pesticide content. If your goal is to remove toxins from the environment and any processed or less-than-whole foods you’re eating through the holidays, it doesn’t make sense to compound the issue by adding more fuel to the fire, right? Opt for organic produce when it comes to these 12 items, and if possible, for your animal products too.
Get plenty of these things
phytonutrients + antioxidants that encourage detoxification
Organic dark leafy greens
Kale, spinach, chard, whatever you like. These leaves and other green vegetables contain chlorophyll, which is great for flushing environmental toxins out of the body – especially the liver. You could get your chlorophyll by drinking green juices, but my preference is to choose green smoothies or eat your greens fresh or steamed. This is because you’ll get more fibre, which helps to keep blood sugar in check. (By contrast, green juices have almost no fibre, so the sugar is absorbed far faster into the bloodstream. A green smoothie or small salad before going out to an evening holiday party is a great idea to keep you feeling satisfied and less-tempted to overeat.
This might sound like a tactic that’ll make you feel more bloated, but it actually works far more in your favour. Staying hydrated not only helps you to maintain stable energy levels and mental clarity (necessary when you’ve got days at the office, weekend errands and Christmas shopping to power through), but also helps flush toxins out of the body through our urine and sweat. Without enough water, digestion slows down and the not-so-great after-effects of holiday feasting get prolonged.
Drinking water consistently throughout the day will help you to feel satiated, less likely to reach for more food, and definitely helps if you’re dealing with a hangover – as I’m sure many of you can attest! I’ll let you file this one under #Sh!tHealthCoachesSay, but drinking warm water with a squeeze of lemon juice when you wake up in the morning really does help prime your digestive system. If drinking water sounds boring, try these flavoured water cocktails, one of the herbal teas listed above, or check out the next tip…
Water-dense fruits and vegetables
That’s your cucumbers, zucchini, celery, tomatoes, bell peppers, cabbage, berries, grapefruit, oranges, and of course, more greens. All of these are made up of over 90% water, which will help you maintain hydration levels needed to flush toxins out of the body. As a bonus, the water content in these foods, combined with their rich vitamin and mineral profiles also contribute to healthy, glowing skin. That pairs really nicely with your LBD!
Water content aside, consuming more fruits and vegetables will help you feel satiated, naturally crowding out the desire for less nutrient-dense foods. Look out for deep blue and purple-ish pigments (think beets, berries, pomegranate, figs, purple potatoes, red cabbage, etc) which indicate lots of free radical-zapping antioxidants perfect for cleansing the blood. Many cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage etc) are also top choices due to their high levels of glutathione, an antioxidant that supports the liver’s detox process.
I’m talking about oily fish such as salmon and sardines, extra virgin olive oil, eggs (specifically yolks) hemp and flax seeds, chia seeds, almonds and walnuts. Not only are foods high in essential fatty acids great because they reduce inflammation, but the fat also acts as a lubricant for the digestive system. (I think I’ve used this analogy in the past, but think of it like a waterslide with water running through it vs one without – things get stuck in the latter!)
Avocado is another great source of healthy fat, and one of my favourites too! These contain monounsaturated fat, which encourages the gall bladder to release bile and therefore remove more toxins from the body. If you really want to be a detox rockstar, combine one of these healthy fats with the water-dense fruits and veggies above for maximum absorption of fat soluble vitamins (that’s A, D, E and K.)
I think we’d all stand to benefit from more gut-friendly foods in our diet during any time of year, but they’re especially important if you’ve been eating, drinking and partying like you mean it. I’ve talked here on the blog plenty in the past about how more and more science is suggesting that the gut is where it’s at when it comes to tackling so many health conditions, from those immediately impacting digestion to things like brain fog, overall energy, immune and mental health. If we can set ourselves up for happier guts by eating more delicious whole foods, I’m all for it and I’m guessing you probably are to.
So what to choose? If your digestion is feeling sluggish for whatever reason – too many treats, drinks, starchy carbs, too much stress, etc – consider working kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi, pickled vegetables, miso, tempeh and coconut kefir into your next-day meals. Fermented foods contain probiotics which help feed the good bacteria in our digestive systems. By doing so, we’re better able to absorb the good bits in what we eat (vitamins, minerals etc) and get rid of the bad bits (toxins, waste products, etc.)
One more to remember: apple cider vinegar. Not only is the kind with the mother (those floaty bits at the bottom of the bottle) also a fermented food with the same benefits I just mentioned, but it also has antibiotic and antiseptic properties that help repair gut damage. While it’s great for consuming the day after a big meal to help remove toxins, it’s also beneficial when taken before to help stimulate digestive enzyme production.
Similar to water, moving your body helps the digestive system hum along, encouraging food along its merry way. This absolutely doesn’t have to be intense exercise. In fact, doing super tough workouts while your body is trying to digest food really isn’t a great idea, no matter how tempted you might be to sweat out the excess calories.
Digestion requires energy, and when your body is in this process, blood flows towards the organs doing that work. If you fire up a HIIT session, that blood is forced to flow to the working muscles, and the result is likely going to be cramping in your stomach – not cool! Instead, go for a post-meal walk. If you get home late, get yourself to a yoga class in the morning (after you’ve had your warm lemon water, of course.😉) The light movement will keep things moving, and it’ll get you away from tables and buffets where seconds and desserts are still around calling your name. As an added bonus, exercise can also stimulate the body’s production of glutathione, which as mentioned above, supports the liver’s detoxification process.
Summing up: Your Holiday SOS Detox Shopping List
- Leafy greens: Spinach, kale, chard, collard greens, dandelion greens, beet greens, turnip greens, romaine lettuce etc
- Water: straight-up, herbal/non-caffeinated teas, and infusions using fresh herbs + produce
- Water-dense fruit + vegetables: cucumbers, zucchini, celery, tomatoes, bell peppers, cabbage, berries, grapefruit, oranges, greens
- Deeply-pigmented blue + purple produce: beets, berries, pomegranate, figs, purple potatoes, red cabbage etc
- Cruciferous vegetables: Broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, bok choy, radish etc
- Healthy fats: salmon, sardines, mackerel, extra virgin olive oil, eggs, hemp seeds, chia seeds, flax seeds, almonds, walnuts, avocado
- Fermented foods: kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi, pickled vegetables, miso, tempeh, coconut kefir, apple cider vinegar
- Gentle exercise: walking and yoga
Now over to you! Tell me… if you have a little too much fun (as in, to the point where you have to pay a painful price in bloating, digestive issues, hangovers etc), what are your tips for feeling back to your normal self ASAP?