12 stress-free days to Christmas
As the countdown to Christmas begins, juggling all the preparations for the big day can be stressful. But, follow our simple food solutions to tackling the season's problems, and you'll be able to enjoy everything the season has to offer without coming undone.
If it seems like Christmas has hardly started but you're already feeling burnt out, take a breath and read through our 12 easy food solutions to reduce stress, boost your energy levels and stay healthy over the festive period.
1. The problem: there are a million things to do and you're already feeling exhausted
2. The problem: you've got a long day of Christmas shopping in town
Food solution: Pop a few energy-boosting snacks in your bag, such as flapjacks, fresh fruit, some banana loaf or a slice of wholemeal bread with peanut butter. These easy, no-cook apple crumble energy balls are a perfect on-the-go snack. Before you head out, eat a fortified breakfast cereal to get your daily dose of B vitamins and folic acid.
3. The problem: it's the children's school play and they're over-excited
Food solution: Avoid giving them fizzy drinks and sweets on the day. This way, they won't consume as many artificial sweeteners, which have been associated with hyperactivity. Instead, put fun, healthy treats in their lunchbox, such as fruit & veg wedges with spiced nut butter, chocolate-dipped tangerine segments, cheese & pesto star sarnies or a fruity yogurt sundae.
Discover more healthy snacks for kids.
4. The problem: with so much to do, you can't sleep
Food solution: Base your evening meals around carbs such as pasta (like this easy pasta with salmon & peas) and potatoes, and try not to eat too late in the evening. Tryptophan-rich foods, such as salmon, chicken, turkey, cauliflower, milk and soya products, will also help combat insomnia.
Read more on how to get a good night's sleep.
5. The problem: even when you get half an hour to yourself, it's difficult to unwind
Food solution: Don't wait until Christmas Day to eat turkey! It contains tryptophan, an amino acid that is converted into serotonin, a chemical that controls good moods. Zinc also influences serotonin, so a handful of pumpkin seeds could do the trick too.
Read more about how to boost your zinc levels.
6. The problem: it's time to head to the supermarket for the big Christmas food shop
Food solution: Combat fatigue by eating foods rich in magnesium, iron, zinc and B vitamins, including bananas, broccoli, dark green leafy veg such as spinach, eggs, nuts, oily fish, oranges, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, walnuts and wholemeal pasta. Keep your fluid intake up, too.
7. The problem: with all those festive lunches and parties, you somehow never get to eat properly
Food solution: Keep a stash of filling snacks in your bag. Go for dried apricots or mangoes, flapjacks, packets of mixed nuts, oatcakes, raisins, rice cakes, rice crackers or mixed seeds, such as sunflower and sesame.
8. The problem: you're going to a party and you feel like a hangover is inevitable
Food solution: Eat a combination of carbs and fat, like a toasted cheese sandwich, an hour before you leave. Fat is digested slowly, so it can help slow down the absorption of alcohol. Be aware of the size of the glass you're drinking from at the party, too. A high-alcohol wine in a large glass could add up to a whopping three to four units of alcohol!
Discover more tips on how to cure a hangover.
9. The problem: you're almost there – the gifts are wrapped, the fridge is full, but now you want to look your best for the festivities
Food solution: Give yourself a last-minute detox with superfoods such as apples, broccoli, carrots, lemons, linseeds, papaya and quinoa. Treat yourself to a vitamin-booster smoothie to kick-start your immune system and relieve fluid retention.
10. The problem: despite your best efforts, you've overindulged
Food solution: A few large glasses of water before you go to bed (plus a few more when you get up) will help to ward off alcohol-induced sluggishness and headaches. A can of sports drink can also help with rehydration and replacing lost minerals.
Read more advice on how to stay healthy over Christmas.
11. The problem: with the prospect of so many meals over the next few days, you'd rather eat light at cocktail parties
Food solution: Choose healthier dips and nibbles like dolmades, guacamole, hummus, olives, pitta bread, rice, bean or lentil salads, smoked salmon and tzatziki. Avoid bowls of nuts – they're low in saturated fat, but they're still high in calories.
Check out more quick and healthy snacks.
12. The problem: it's Christmas Day and you need to keep going until everyone is fed
Food solution: Start the day with a vitality-boosting super berry smoothie that's full of vitamin C. Stock the freezer with frozen summer berries, ready to whizz in the blender. Or, opt for a breakfast of natural yogurt topped with sliced peaches, dried apricots, and nutty granola for all the nutrients you need and just the right amount of sugar to get you through the day.
Read more advice for a stress-free Christmas
How to get ahead at Christmas
10 quick and healthy dinners to survive the festive season
How to store food at Christmas
Easiest ever Christmas dinner menu
Easy Christmas desserts
How to share the cooking at Christmas
Last-minute Christmas dinner menu
Are you in charge of Christmas prep this year? Leave your tips below...