Oh, my word, December!! A month of planning, spending, partying, and ultimately exhaustion!!
How do we manage our energy during this hectic period?
How do we ensure that we stay healthy so that when the parties are over, we are less likely to go down with the lurgy?
December is our darkest month with the shortest days. It’s often a month of mild, damp days with a few crisp frosty ones mixed in. The sunlight, when we get some, is weak as the sun hangs low in the sky. A month for staying cosy, when we’re not partying, of course! So, what can we do to help us manage the craziness of December?
The first priority is to ensure our immune health is in tip-top condition. Our vitamin D levels are dropping due to a lack of sunshine here in our northern climes, so we may need to take steps to top us up. The government recommends that we all take (from age 1 upwards), 10µg (400IU) vitamin D3 daily. But before you grab the supplement bottle, get your vitamin D level checked. You can use a rapid screener (a finger-prick test at home to give an indication of your vitamin D level) or a blood test to measure the actual level of vitamin D (you can get this done at the GP or you can buy a test). Always ensure that your supplement contains Vitamin D3, not D2.
Your immune system not only needs vitamin D3, but it also requires a number of other nutrients to support its function: Vitamin A and C, zinc, and selenium. These nutrients help your defence systems such as your mucus membranes inside your nose and digestive tract. Their antioxidant nature also helps prevent your immune system’s action on the virus or pathogen from causing other damage to your body. Having a supply of good quality immune support nutrients, especially vitamin C and zinc, to take when an infection strikes, can help you to recover more quickly and experience less severe symptoms.
Secondly, to mange all the busyness of December, we need great energy levels! Inevitably, we overindulge in the sweeties, biscuits, cakes, and drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) that are laden with sugar which messes with our energy levels, initially giving us a blast of energy that is often followed by a rapid crash, during which we crave more of the sweet stuff, leading to a roller-coaster ride of highs and lows. However, we can reduce the effect by adding one of these healthy snacks. Before you go out for the party, try having a small green salad dressed with olive oil or some oatcakes with hummus with vegetable sticks or a small bowl of mixed nuts with an apple or a small bowl of dahl (spiced lentils). Further support your energy levels by having regular balanced meals with lots of lovely vegetables, quality protein, and healthy fats.
Finally, in between all the busyness, it’s important to rest and get quality sleep to refresh yourself. Ensure your bedroom is dark and cool and that you set aside all screen-based gadgets at least an hour before bedtime. Ideally, try to get 7-9 hours of sleep every night, at the same time each night! Remember to allocate yourself time each day, even just a few minutes, when you can simply rest your mind from the demands, read a book, listen to music, meditate, or practice mindfulness.
Red Lentils with onions
This is one of my favourite recipes, loved by everyone who’s tasted it. Feel free to add other vegetables (I often do) such as roasted chunks of pumpkin, parsnip, carrot, and chopped spinach.
2 large onions, chopped (or cut into rings for a change)
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1tsp ground turmeric
2tsp medium curry powder
225g red lentils, rinsed
450ml vegetable stock
2 red peppers, chopped into large chunks
Fresh coriander, chopped
1. In a large casserole, melt the butter, fry the onions until brown and crispy on the edges, at
least 5 minutes. Lower the heat.
2. Add garlic and spices and stir well, cook for a couple of minutes.
3. Add the lentils, peppers, and stock and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer for about 30
minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking to the base of the pan. (If it dries out, add
some more water or stock to keep it soft/loose).
4. Stir in the coriander and serve hot.