Eat to Feel Good During the Holidays

Photo by Nevit Dilmen, 2006 CC-SA
The holidays can be a difficult time to maintain a fitness routine and healthy eating habits. Stress causes the body to release the hormone cortisol which increases blood sugar levels. Almost everywhere we turn there are delicious cakes, pies, cookies, puddings and candy. Traditional holiday dishes are often loaded with fats and sugar. Add the inevitable holiday stress to sugary foods and you have a recipe for weight gain. Nutritious foods, including whole grains and fresh fruit, can help improve your mood, reduce the impact of holiday stress and help you maintain your weight.
Start your day with a healthy breakfast that includes whole grain cereal such as oatmeal. Add some bananas or strawberries and drink a glass of orange juice. Vitamin C can help reduce the release of stress hormones. Oranges, grapefruit, strawberries, guava and  kiwi are rich in Vitamin C and taste delicious. Skip the eggnog and enjoy a fruit smoothie using fresh guava and kiwi instead.
Complex carbohydrates found in whole grains and beans stimulate the brain to release the hormone serotonin. Serotonin has a calming effect on the mind and body. Stimulate your brain to release serotonin by eating whole wheat breads, whole grain pasta, brown rice, dried beans, dried peas and fresh vegetables. Nourish your brain and muscles with protein found in nuts, fish and lean meats like turkey.
Coffee, tea, soda, chocolates and energy drinks contain caffeine. Too much caffeine in your diet can cause headaches and make you feel anxious. Help reduce your stress levels and feel better during the holidays by avoiding caffeinated drinks. Replace sugary, caffeinated sodas with water. Limit coffee to two cups per day and avoid drinking coffee in the evening.
You may not be able to avoid all the stress of the holidays, but you can alleviate some of the effects of stress by eating a variety of healthy foods. Remember to get plenty of rest and exercise daily.
For more information and meal plans, see: WebMD, Nutritional Training to Beat Holiday Stress, by Jean Lawrence, reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD. 2002.
For information about caffeine content in drinks, see: Mayo Clinic, Nutrition and Healthy Eating, Caffeine Content for Coffee, Tea, Soda and More. 2011

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