12 stress-free days to Christmas

    As the countdown to Christmas gathers pace, follow our food solutions and you'll sail through all the challenges of the season.

    1. There's a million things to do and you're already feeling wound-up!

    Food solution: Tiredness can exacerbate stress, so eat a power-packed breakfast for a slow release of energy through the day - wholemeal toast or porridge is ideal.

    Banana loaf2. You've got a long day of Christmas shopping in town.

    Food solution: Pop a few high-fibre snacks in your bag - fresh fruit, banana loaf or a slice of wholemeal bread with peanut butter. And before you go, eat a fortified breakfast cereal to get your daily dose of B vitamins and folic acid.

    3. It's the children's school play - they're over-excited and the play hypes them up even more!

    Food solution: Avoid fizzy drinks and sweets to reduce their intake of artificial sweeteners, which have been associated with hyperactivity, and put healthy treats in their lunchbox. Kids often love unusual combinations - try fruit or veg with dips, satsuma segments with blackcurrant yogurt, carrots and pure fruit jam or celery and peanut butter.

    Smoked trout and pea pasta4. With so much to do, you can't sleep.

    Food solution: Base evening meals around carbs, such as pasta (like this Smoked trout & pea pasta) and potatoes and avoid eating late. Tryptophan-rich foods, such as cauliflower, fish, milk and soya products, will help combat insomnia.

    5. It's all so busy that, 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 which is converted into serotonin, a chemical that controls good moods. Zinc also influences serotonin, so a handful of pumpkin seeds will also do the trick.

    Broccoli6. 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 - 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. All those festive lunches and parties - somehow you never get to eat properly!

    Food solution: Keep a stash of goodies in your bag. Go for dried apricots or mangoes, flapjacks, packets of mixed nuts, oatcakes, packets of raisins, rice cakes, rice cracker and mixed seeds, such as sunflower and sesame.

    Pan-fried camembert sandwich8. You're going to a party - is a hangover inevitable?

    Food solution: Eat something like a toasted cheese sandwich an hour before you leave. Fat is digested slowly, so can help to slow down the absorption of alcohol. And be aware of the size of your glass. A high-alcohol wine in a large glass could add up to a whopping three or four units of alcohol!

    9. You're almost there! The gifts are wrapped, the fridge is full, now there's just time 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 an apple, beetroot, carrot, celery and ginger smoothie to kick-start your immune system and relieve fluid retention.

    Glasses of water10. 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 will also help rehydration and replace lost minerals.

    11. With the prospect of so many meals over the next few days, you'd rather eat light at drinks parties.

    Food solution: Choose healthy dips and nibbles like dolmades, guacamole, hummus, olives, pitta bread, rice, bean or lentil salads, salmon and tzatziki. Avoid nuts – they're low in saturated fat, but they're still high in calories.

    12. It's Christmas Day and you need to keep going until everyone is fed.

    Food solution: Start the day with a vitality-boosting 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 dried apricots, fresh pineapple and a pear for all the nutrients you need and just the right amount of sugar to get you through the day.

    Comments, questions and tips

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    7th Sep, 2015
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    20th Nov, 2013
    Half this page is white and blank! The old look of Good Food, was colourful and exciting, what happened?
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