When it comes to gathering around a table with loved ones this festive season, our experts agree that a wholesome meal is also about celebrating togetherness – which is wonderful for your wellbeing.
Christmas, Hanukkah, Yule, Kwanzaa or any significant cultural occasion is a meaningful way to acknowledge all that has come before us, and hope of good things continuing. Celebrating with those we love is also important to our wellbeing in the present.
“These occasions are marked with special recipes and traditions and are integral to enjoying and fully participating in that celebration," says HBF Health Coach and Accredited Practicing Dietitian, Mary du Heaume
The festive season is around the corner and if you've ever wondered what a dietitian would eat during the holidays, well we've got one who speaks to just that.
Mary said her answer often surprises people and can be understood in the context of 'Blue Zones'.
The Blue Zones are areas of the world where people tend to live longer (beyond 100 years old), like Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Ikaria, Greece; and Loma Linda, California.
Research suggests some factors that contribute to this include:
- Moving naturally - creating an environment that encourages you to move without thinking about it i.e. working in the garden and walking to the shops
- Finding your purpose - getting to know and understand your intention or objective
- Downshifting - stress leads to chronic inflammation, associated with every major age-related disease so it's important to build routines that shed the stress
- 80% Rule - there is a difference between no longer feeling hungry and feeling full. The Okinawans remind themselves to stop eating when their stomachs are 80% full and they call this practice 'Hara hachi bu'
- Plant slant - all the areas follow a plant-based diet that includes fava beans, black beans, and soybeans as well as lentils. These ingredients are the cornerstone of most centenarian diets
- Belonging - the World Health Organization and the UN Charter for Human Rights state that spirituality must be considered a factor of health and wellbeing. The blue zone areas show that when you meet regularly with people who share your beliefs it can add 4-14 years of life expectancy
- Loved ones first - put family first. Keep aged parents close if you can, cherish a life partner, and love and nurture children if you can
- Right tribe - find a group of friends that support healthy behaviours
The Blue Zones tell us that what we eat is one of many factors that contribute to good health and longevity. It also tells us that food is part of how we find our tribe, build our sense of belonging, reduce stress, and nurture our loved ones.
On Mary's Christmas table, she has the turkey and ham, relishes the plum pudding and brandy sauce, and indulges in some wine and chocolate.
“I enjoy the company of loved ones and invite friends and family to celebrate with us," Mary said.
Whilst the Blue Zones remind us of healthy eating habits, Mary believes celebratory occasions should be enjoyed.
“Whatever foods you're looking forward to this time of year, I encourage you not to serve it with a slice of guilt but one of thanksgiving and joy for the way these foods bring your loved ones together," says Mary
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This article contains general information only and does not take into account the health, personal situation or needs of any person. In conjunction with your GP or treating health care professional, please consider whether the information is suitable for you and your personal circumstances.