The Twelve Tweaks of Christmas
By Rachel Favilla BHSc (Nutritional and Dietetic Medicine)
What’s not to love about an Aussie Christmas? Holidays? Check. Balmy weather? Check. Check. Efficient air-conditioning so you can still bake a fruitcake, despite the 40 degrees forecast outside? Check … unless you’re from South Australia, then you’d best stick with a menu that isn’t at the mercy of consistent power supply (am I right Adelaide?). That said, Chrissie is also a time we associate with intentional food hangovers and alcohol-fuelled siestas. Though a little birdy partridge in a pear tree tells me that Christmas is a 12-day celebration, it’s not uncommon for us to begin festivities in early-November.
The way our society tends to party, said celebrations often go hand in hand with haunting hangovers, bloated bellies and liver-loathing regimes. There always seems to be a buzz around ‘shedding Christmas kilos’ come January, where the focus is solely on body weight. Rarely do we stop to consider how the silly season can burden our guts, livers and alternate organs of detoxification.
Perhaps the best way to get better acquainted with our digestive organs is to personify them and learn their basic functions. ‘Delilah Digestive Tract’ is our dependable intestinal tube. She works tirelessly to absorb nutrients from foods, manufacture endorphin-inducing evacuations (yes, poo!), manufacture hormones and support optimal immune function. ‘Larry Liver’ is our loyal protector, stopping at nothing to detoxify the chemicals within and around the body. The dynamic pair lives to digest and cleanse, and love looking after us. That said, with their metaphorical ‘hands’ full, they appreciate it when we don’t add to their demanding schedules by partaking in food (particularly the processed kind) and alcoholic gluttony.
Is there a middle-road solution? Can we have our fun whilst sparing a thought for dear Delilah and loving Larry? Indeed. Check out the following ‘Twelve Tweaks of Christmas’.
Tweak #1 – Guilt-free Gutsy Guidance
Hands up who intentionally (or perhaps unconsciously) plans to overindulge throughout the festive season? Instead of planning to tax dependable Delilah and overload loyal Larry, why not simply attend to your natural hunger cues. The rewarding thing about listening to your intuition like this is that when it comes to rare (I’m talking once or twice a year max) treats, you may, in fact, be guided to enjoy a wee bit more than normal for soul comfort’s sake.
Tweak #2 – ‘Krazy’ Kombucha
What’s fizzy, sweet, tangy and comes in a bottle that fits a standard size stubby holder? Kombucha – a fermented brew of tea, a fun guy fungi called ‘Scoby’, and sugar. Scoby consumes the sugar, using it as fuel to yield bubbles and digestive-aiding probiotics. This groovy beverage is the perfect happy hour infusion. It looks the part next to bubbly champaign and colourful cocktails, whilst sparing Larry of recreational toxicity. Snaps to Scoby.
Tweak #3 – Deceptive Desserts
I would never suggest you forego Chrissie treats unless you genuinely lack the sweet tooth ‘gene’. That said, I’m an advocate for having your cake (or pudding, cookies, chocolate what-have-you) and feeling nourished too. There’s an abundance of clever recipes online that use nutrient-dense ingredients to create ridgy-didge tasting treats. Not sure where to start? Have a crack at Christmas Pudding, Cookie Dough Dip or Jaffa Euphoria balls. Glorious.
Tweak #4 – Stunning Seafood
Australia’s balmy December weather means that fresh prawns and barbequed salmon are as welcome on Christmas menus as ham and turkey. This is good news. Not only are such sea creatures’ tasty accompaniments to vibrant salads and comforting roast veggies, but they also contain anti-inflammatory Omega-3 fats that nurture our immune cells, hormones, hearts and brains. As a bonus, seafood tends to be easier to prepare than slow-roasted meats and, if barbequing, don’t require an electric oven. Did you hear that South Australia? Marvellous.
Tweak #5 – Groovy Gravy and Jolly Jelly
If you can’t resist a traditional turkey roast with cranberry sauce, then make it a nourishing affair by preparing your own condiments. This gravy recipe contains banana flour which supports digestive health, whilst this cranberry jelly is free of refined sugar and processed gelling agents. As a bonus, leftover gravy, jelly and turkey make for beaut sandwiches when wedged between organic sourdough bread slices with ripe avocado and salad greens.
Tweak #6 – Exercise Early
Take advantage of the early morning sunlight, rising early on Christmas day to sneak in a jog, walk, yoga session, or alternate activity of your choosing before brekkie/present time. Not only will you feel jollier than Santa on the back of your exercise-induced ‘high’, but this small injection of physical activity will also boost the number of beneficial microbes residing in your gut, whilst lowering gastrointestinal inflammation. This should make digesting Christmas lunch a far easier task for devoted Delilah Digestive Tract.
Tweak #7 – Yuletide Yoges
In addition to the obligatory game of backyard cricket, why not try recruiting willing family members for a gentle, digestive-aiding stretch session an hour or so after dinner. Yoga can inject calm into an otherwise busy day, and help diligent Delilah shuttle lunch through your digestive tract and package it up onto a poo-phoric prezzie for you to relish in ‘un-wrapping’ before the first ball on Boxing Day … if you catch my bowel-related drift.
Tweak #8 – Humble Helpings
The easiest way to avoid burdening Delilah and Larry is to ensure that you’re only buying and serving what you need. We may believe we aren’t good hosts if we don’t have a surplus of food, but in reality, over-catering can lead to food wastage. This is especially true for animal products that can’t be eaten after sitting out in the heat. My advice? Pack away leftovers before sitting down to lunch, and if you feel you must cook extra ‘just in case’, make sure it’s something that’s easily used up the next day; i.e. a large mango, spinach and avocado salad that can be served with grilled salmon for a nourishing Boxing Day meal.
Tweak #9 – Seductive Salads
Calm down, I’m not suggesting that you invite your baby greens to bed. ‘Seductive Salads’ is my playful way of encouraging you to make vegetable ‘side dishes’ the stars of the show. Jazz lettuce leaves up with innovative dressings and tasty extras such as; pomegranate seeds, lashings of avocado, fresh herbs, freshly cooked chickpeas, cloves of roasted garlic (yum), or pepitas sautéed in coconut aminos (a gluten-free soy sauce alternative). When it comes to cooked veggies, you can’t go past coconut oil-roasted pumpkin with cinnamon and vanilla bean, or spuds with olive oil and sea salt. Try popping a dish of runny tahini (sesame paste) or hummus on the table to enhance the plant-based excitement. You might even forget to pop meat on your plate … whoops. Accidental veganism at its finest.
Tweak #10 – Smoothie Sailing
Smoothies make for nutrient-rich meals that are so easily digestible that they almost make Delilah feel as though she’s on vacation. Try a simple green smoothie made from frozen banana, kiwi fruit, coconut milk and a handful of baby spinach for a light, no-fuss brekkie on Christmas day. If you’re wanting to give Delilah and Larry a nutrient-dense break come Boxing day, enjoy a smoothie for both breakfast and lunch (snacking on fresh fruit or leftover salad if desired) before enjoying a simple meal of leftover veggies and seafood for dinner.
Tweak #11 – Hell’s No Hot Cross!
No sooner have we found homes for our Christmas gifts, that it seems Hot Cross Buns are pouring out of bakery ovens the nation over. Have some respect for the intention behind these moreish doughy delights and save yourself for the Easter long weekend in four-months-time!
Tweak #12 – Novel New Year’s
Enjoy a memorable, low-key New Year’s of setting intentions for the year ahead, gratefully reminiscing the year’s ‘highlights’, and relishing the opportunity to spend time with loved ones. Raise your gut-friendly, liver-loving Kombucha bottle come midnight before calling it a day. Vow to sleep in come sunrise (if possible) to make up for unusually tardy bedtime.
Monda, V., Villano, I., Messina, A., Valenzano, A., Esposito, T., Moscatelli, F., … Messina, G. (2017). Exercise Modifies the Gut Microbiota with Positive Health Effects. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, 2017, 3831972. http://doi.org/10.1155/2017/3831972
Swanson, D., Block, R, and Mousa, S. A. (2012). Omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA: health benefits throughout life. Advances in Nutrition, 3(1), 1-7. Doi: 10.3945/an.111.000893
Read more from Rachel on her blog www.realsoupfortherealsoul.com