Food choices play a huge part in how we feel and how we function. And food plays such an important role in the festive season. But enjoying the festive feasting does not have to mean feeling bloated, guilty, sluggish and in need of a New Year detox. What I want is for you to really enjoy all that the season has to offer and yet still feel great, physically and mentally. After all, a holiday is supposed to be a way for your brain and body to rest, feel rewarded and recharge, ready to hit the ground running when term and work start in January.
Lots of my books contain food advice and, when they do, I always check it with nutrition experts. For this blog post, I’ve gone one better and asked a nutrition expert to write something for me. I recently came across a new book, Eat Well and Feel Great – The Teenager’s Guide to Nutrition and Health by Tina Lond-Caulk. I really like the messaging, especially that not everyfood choice has to be the “healthiest” and feeling guilty and over-analysing our foods are not the ways to a genuinely great diet. And I like how the book is structured and signposted, making it very easy to find what you’re looking for.
Tina is the person behind The Nutrition Guru and heads a team of expert nutritionist and eating disorder dieticians educating and empowering young people on nutrition and healthy lifestyle habits. Tina says “In our clinic practice we work with all age groups. We use nutritional medicine and the latest functional medicine tests including genetic testing to create bespoke ‘health and dietary programmes’. We also host motivational talks and workshops to schools and workplace wellness events around the globe. We work with many of the top 100 schools in the UK and many more.”
I asked Tina to write something for you about how to make food choices over the holiday that really allow you to enjoy what’s on offer and bring health and vitality to your tired brain and body. Here’s what she said. And her advice is equally applicable to teenagers and adults. I’m following it!
The Nutrition Guru says:
We can’t control our environment or the food we eat 100% of the time – and we should not try to. Food is also a wonderful way we come together to celebrate special occasions and something that can really bring us joy. We can enjoy eating both healthy foods and less nutritious foods, and if we aim to eat well 70 to 80% of the time, there is no need to worry about other times when we can’t choose what we eat or we indulge in less nutritious foods.
During Christmas, our food can leave us feeling tired and lethargic – not helpful for motivation or memory or sleep. And that’s not ideal if you are studying for January exams, right?
Here are my top four tips to help you enjoy your Christmas food and feel great physically and emotionally.
Cut out the guilt
Feeling guilty about food affects mental and emotional well-being. When we label our foods as good or bad, this can influence how we feel about ourselves.
The human body is incredibly efficient at recovery, so even if you develop unhelpful habits in the holiday period, you can easily get back to healthy habits and start improving how you feel very quickly.
Choose protein rich breakfasts
It’s the best way to fuel your body and brain and set you up to not feel ravenous later. Meanwhile, high carbohydrate breakfasts (eg toast and jam or sugary cereal) set up a blood sugar rollercoaster for the rest of the day. This drives our hunger hormones and we find ourselves on an all-day quest for snacks. So choose breakfasts based on eggs, beans, wholegrains and yogurt or other dairy foods.
Avoid eating carbohydrate or sweet foods by themselves
Foods such as toast, biscuits and chocolate drive hunger, so we end up raiding the cookie jar an hour later or wanting to graze all day. My top tip is to ‘put a coat on your carbs’. What do I mean by that? Eat carbohydrate foods together with an equal amount of protein or fat. That way, you digest the sugars more slowly. For example, enjoy nut butter with wholegrain toast, add full fat live yoghurt to granola, and enjoy a sweet treat after meals rather than as an afternoon snack. Choose hummus on rye crackers as a snack rather than cookies or sugary treats. These simple hacks prevent blood sugar spikes and dips and so improve energy and concentration.
Follow the 80:20 rule
You can still live your best life if roughly 80% of your choices are healthy and 20% are less so. For example, Monday to Friday – 80% of the time – eat three balanced meals (and healthy snacks if you need them) each day. Then at the weekends you can be more relaxed. For that 20%, you needn’t worry about whether meals or snacks are balanced. You’ve eaten so well the rest of the time!
Depriving yourself of all treats and sweets simply isn’t sustainable and can create an unhealthy relationship with food or make an existing poor relationship even worse. So the 80:20 rule is great for a long-term healthy diet.
Thanks, Tina! Great advice. Parents, as we approach the holidays, have a think about what foods to have in the house over Christmas to make sure those great options are there when they’re needed.
I do recommend this book. I think it’s especially important for young teenagers, as they start to feel bombarded by messages about ‘healthy’ eating. They need proper, strong, evidence-based information. And this book is where to find it.
I wish you all a wonderful Christmas. You’ll find more about nutrition and creating healthy habits in my new book ‘Eat Well and Feel Great’ – The Teenager’s guide to nutrition and health (Bloomsbury) out now.
Written by Tina Lond-Caulk for Nicola Morgan – The Teenage Brain Woman