It’s the pre-Christmas silly season with festive lunches and nights out – a fun time of year but with plenty of opportunities for piling on the weight or feeling sluggish and tired from over-eating and drinking. Food is never going to be a cure for drinking 10 beers but it can mediate some of the effects of alcohol on your body.
Eating well is what you eat over the course of a day, a week, a month – getting all the nutrients you need to be healthy. If you know you have a night out planned that will involve booze and canapes or a pub dinner that is guaranteed to come with chips, think about what you eat the rest of that day.
Preparation for a night out
Start with a good breakfast such as homemade muesli, porridge or toast with eggs then have a salad, soup or pasta dish with plenty of veggies for lunch. Don’t forget to eat your two portions of fruit during the day and drink lots of water, so you start the evening well hydrated. If it’s a cocktail party and you’re likely to be eating canapes only, have a good dinner or a healthy, substantial snack before you go out – you’ll be less inclined to pick at the pies or crisps.
The night itself
If you’re having a meal out, allow yourself a treat and eat whatever you fancy if it’s your only night out that week. Just make sure the meal includes some veggies – if not, order a side. If it’s your third Christmas party in a week then go for the lighter options – fish, chicken (or turkey) and avoid dessert.
If there is a choice of canapes or a buffet, try to eat a balance of foods – some meat or fish, bread to fill you up and whatever veggies there are. Avoid eating too much of the beige, fried food.
Try to stop drinking at least a couple of hours before bed. You’ll give your body a chance to eliminate some of the alcohol, allowing for better quality of sleep. If you haven’t eaten a big meal, have some toast and marmite (or vegemite for the Aussies) before bed. Alcohol depletes your body of several important nutrients – thiamin, niacin, magnesium and zinc. This can leave you feeling tired, nauseous and irritable. What you eat the next day can help restore equilibrium and assist your body to recover.
While you may be craving a fried breakfast – try to avoid the temptation. It could easily make things worse. There is a scientific reason for this. The liver is responsible for breaking down alcohol and metabolising fat. Alcohol is regarded as a poison by the body, so the liver prioritises processing the alcohol over any fats present. This leaves an accumulation of fats in the liver, waiting to be dealt with. If you eat very fatty foods, such as kebabs, chips or fried canapes while drinking or have a fried breakfast the next day, if there is alcohol still in your system, the fat will be left to build up. The liver also struggles to produce bile, which helps to break down fats. This may increase the feeling of nausea the next day and the excess in your system may be stored as fat in the cells.
So, to give yourself the best chance of feeling good the next day, you need to replenish the lost vitamins and minerals and minimise the strain on your liver. Eating these foods can help:
- Wholegrain toast with eggs (poached or scrambled at home to avoid excess butter added at a café)
- Toast with marmite
- Muesli (homemade if possible)
- Fruits high in vitamin C and antioxidants, eg. Blueberries, kiwi, oranges
If you must have a bacon sandwich, trim the fat and grill rather than fry the bacon (if you’re eating out, remove the rind). Serve on wholegrain bread with a small glass of orange juice.
These tips apply to Christmas eating too. Try to achieve balance within a meal and over the course of a day. Try not to eat until you’re bursting and get outside for some air and exercise whenever you can. And if that fails, continue to follow my blog in the new year, when I’ll be offering lots of practical advice on losing weight!