Christmas is coming up, which can only mean one thing, filling yourself with plenty of festive food.
Unsurprisingly, for 75% of Brits, their favourite thing about the festive season is ‘stuffing themselves’ with food. We can all agree with that!
But, if you want to stay awake this Christmas - especially if this is the first time you are seeing certain family members and friends - we’ve collaborated with a qualified nutritionist to share what you should be eating to avoid the ‘festive food coma’ (and how to still eat all of the delicious treats).
Plus, our sleep experts have shared their top tips to stopping that post-dinner fatigue.
Google searches for ‘food coma’ increase by 115% at Christmas
Likewise, Google searches for ‘food coma’ increased by 115% in December last year, so we can see a pattern. We eat, and then we sleep.
But, what should you be eating if you want to stay awake and enjoy the fun?
The perfect plate to avoid a festive food coma on Christmas Day
You should always be eating what you want, when you want it. But some foods can make you sleepier than others.
To create the ‘perfect plate’, MattressNextDay has enlisted the help of Qualified Nutritionist, Daisy Hill, to provide tips on avoiding the post-dinner slump.
1. Stick to a homemade starter to avoid a sugar crash
Daisy recommends a homemade raspberry coulis with melon and grapes for your starter. She said, ‘making your own coulis can be really helpful if you are trying to reduce the amount of sugar you have, as it is the sugar that can cause the tired feeling after eating.’
When sugar, along with processed carbs, are consumed, they cause a rise in your blood sugar. This then signals your pancreas to produce insulin and remove that sugar from your blood. So, that rise and then the reduction means that you will feel exhausted.
2. Use a smaller plate for your main
Daisy said, ‘try not to overload your plate. Using a smaller plate can be helpful in achieving this as it makes it look like you’re eating more. Increase the amount of protein and vegetables you have compared to the carbohydrates.'
3. Don’t overcook your vegetables to keep in the nutrients
According to Daisy, you should ‘load half of your plate with your favourite vegetables. Try not to overcook them to keep as much of the nutrients in as possible. Green leafy vegetables such as brussel sprouts, cabbage and broccoli, are the best to opt for as they are full of iron, which is great for overcoming tiredness.’
4. Keep half of your plate free for protein
‘Fill the other half with mainly protein such as turkey, or another type of meat you enjoy. Or if you’re a vegetarian, a nut roast is a great option.’ But, that certainly doesn’t mean you should forget a few extras, such as potatoes or stuffing!
Eating protein can regulate your sleep as it prevents glucose (or sugar) from blocking the orexin cell responses. This is what causes you to feel sleepy after your meal.
5. Stick to roasties, not mash, to avoid the need for a nap
If you’ve ever wondered what type of potato is best for avoiding an afternoon nap, the answer is ‘roasties’ according to Daisy.
She said, ‘roast potatoes, if cooked in good quality fat, will not put you in a food coma and are better for you than mash. Roast potatoes can be cooked with their skin on which increases the amount of fibre and therefore will be better for your gut.’
6. Make your Yorkshire puddings with wholemeal flour
Daisy states that ‘Yorkshire puddings will not put you into a food coma as long as you don’t overeat!'
‘You can make the Yorkshire’s even healthier by using wholemeal flour. This will actually help your energy levels as the wholewheat will give slow releasing energy rather than a quick burst followed by a crash.’
7. Make your own sauce for less sugar
Daisy says she ‘can’t eat a roast dinner without gravy and some mint sauce’. But there are options for sauce that could help you fight off that post-dinner fatigue.
She says ‘making your own sauces is always a good option if a healthy Christmas dinner is what you are striving for. Fresh cranberries for a cranberry sauce, fresh mint and good quality vinegar for a mint sauce.'
‘Whilst you will need to add a bit of sugar, you can be in control of how much you put in, and the ingredients will be kept to a minimum. If you make your own gravy, be sure to add the water from the vegetables you cooked as this is where all the nutrients are. Never throw it away!’
‘If making your own sauce is just too much to do, look for a sauce with the fewest ingredients in it.’
8. Eat your dessert two hours after your main meal
Of course, once you’ve eaten your mains, there are trifles and yule logs to get through. But the important thing here is to space your food.
Daisy says not to feel guilty about eating pudding but suggests ‘not eating straight after the main meal if you are feeling full. Instead, wait an hour or two after playing a few family games. You will appreciate it more and it will also reduce your chances of a food coma.’
Five further ways to avoid sleeping after your Christmas Dinner
A recent study found that Brits lose around 501 hours of sleep each year, and that’s likely to get worse at Christmas with extra guests at home and excited children waking up in the early hours. So, we are sharing to keep your sleep routine on track during the holidays.
1. Stop drinking four hours before bedtime
Alcohol can make you sleepy. And, with Brits enjoying their first alcoholic drink at 9.05 am on Christmas Day, it’s no wonder so many are falling asleep halfway through the day.
But, your quality of sleep will be impacted which will make you even sleepier the next day. If you are drinking, try to stop at least four hours before bedtime.
2. Make sure you eat breakfast for a boost of energy
You might want to head straight for the mimosas but take some time for a balanced breakfast. The first meal of the day plays an important part in waking you up, ready for a day of celebrating.
3. Create a winding down routine after a hectic day
The holidays are filled with excitement, which means it’s harder to sleep. But, you can relax and reduce your stress hormone, cortisol, by stretching, meditating or even a bath before bed. This should help improve your sleep.
4. Keep your house bright to stay awake for longer
It’s getting darker, which means we may start to see issues with our sleep. Light is integral to regulating our body’s internal clock. So, expose yourself to natural light throughout the day. At night, start to dim your lights so your bedroom is virtually black when it’s time to sleep.
5. Get outside for a walk
A family walk is a perfect excuse for you all to spend some time together while getting that all-important vitamin D to help you sleep better at night.
Daisy agrees, saying ‘It’s all about the amount you eat, overeating any food can leave you feeling tired and heavy. However, it is Christmas, so if you do happen to overeat, go out for a post-dinner walk. The fresh air will make you full of energy and ready for the rest of the day!’
6. Be kind to yourself
It’s Christmas, so don’t feel you can’t eat what you want. Just balance your plate out with some good veg and protein to make sure you don’t impact your sleep cycle too much. After all, it is the ‘most wonderful time of the year’.
If you need a nap, this is how you do it the right way
If you are one of the 75% who wants to eat plenty of festive foods and doesn’t want the ‘perfect plate’, here’s our tips for napping the right way if you get post-dinner fatigue.
You should only be napping for 10-20 minutes. So forget that three-hour snooze. Anything more than 30 minutes means your body will have entered a deep sleep cycle, and you’ll be groggy when you wake.
Make sure you take your nap eight hours before your bedtime. Anything after, and you could be tossing and turning all night long.