At SmartyPants, we’re all about upgrading – from making the best possible ingredient choices in our gummies, to making the most out of life by trying new things, or improving on what we already do. The SmartyPants Upgrade Series is dedicated to helping you make life and the things you love just a little bit better.
The days following New Year’s are some of the healthiest of the year. Everyone’s setting goals, hitting the gym, and vowing to stay “clean,” for 30 days! But what a difference an eve makes. A mere 24 hours prior, and cleansing is the farthest thing from many people’s minds – unless you count polishing off the cookie platter. But here at SmartyPants, we believe that you can have your party and be healthy too. Or, at least a little more healthy than you were last year…
Here are 9 ways you can upgrade your New Year’s Eve and party down in *better* health
TRY CANNED BLUEBERRIES
Sounds weird, but hear us out. You probably already know that berries are loaded with antioxidants, which are crucial when it comes to protecting and healing our bodies from the effects of lifestyle factors such as too much stress, smoking, and alcohol (hello, holidays!) While many antioxidants found in food are destroyed when exposed to harsh cooking methods, some actually become more potent.
A 2009 study found that pan-frying blueberries increased their antioxidant activity!
Cooking blueberries and then canning them, or even buying canned blueberries, can potentially be more nutritious than fresh blueberries. The same goes for tomatoes – the longer you cook them the more benefits they provide. Mind blown.
This New Year’s, when you’re crafting up your cocktails, try using cooked or canned berries in place of simple syrup and canned tomato juice in Bloody Mary’s (just remember to make sure your cans are BPA-free.)
- 2 cups fresh blueberries
- 1 cup Fair-Trade organic cane sugar
- 2 cups water
- 1 oz vodka (optional)
- 1/2 oz lemon juice
- Fresh mint
- Place blueberries, sugar, and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil.
- Let the mixture simmer for 5 minutes, cool, and strain.
- In a shaker, mix the blueberry syrup with vodka (optional) and lemon juice.
- Fill with ice and shake well. Strain into two ice-filled glasses and top with fresh mint.
ADD HERBS & SPICES
According to Mathieu Lalonde, organic chemist and Science Safety Officer at Harvard University, herbs and spices are second only to organ meats in terms of nutrient-density. While there are countless herbs with health-promoting qualities, a few just so happen to pair particularly well with New Year’s Eve refreshments.
Cayenne Pepper: Helps promote digestion, circulation, a healthy inflammatory response, and may help boost your metabolism! The pepper also contains vitamin C, B6, E, potassium, manganese, and antioxidant flavonoids.
Cinnamon: This holiday baking staple is loaded with antioxidants, promotes a healthy inflammatory response, and may help stabilize blood sugar. There are two kinds of cinnamon: Ceylon and Cassia. We recommend you look for Ceylon cinnamon, as this is the kind with the most research-backed benefits.
Try it in: Eggnog by The Prairie Homestead
Sage: Known for its antibacterial and antiviral properties, sage contains a variety of antioxidant flavonoids and it’s been shown to promote cognitive function and memory.
Try it in: The Sage Bee’s Knees Cocktail by Salt & Wind
Basil: Like the others on this list, basil helps promote a healthy inflammatory response – which is especially important when consuming alcohol – it’s packed with antioxidants, and has been shown to help protect the liver and support the immune system.
Try it in: Tito’s Basil Martini
Elderflower: Elderflowers have been used in traditional medicine and traditional cocktail recipes for hundreds of years! Elderflowers are rich in antioxidants, contain antiviral and immune-supporting properties, and are the primary ingredient in St. Germain liqueur.
Try it in: Elderflower Gin Fizz by Food Republic
But won’t mixing with alcohol defeat the purpose?
Actually, it’s just the opposite! Mixing herbs and a high-proof alcohol, such as vodka, is how the herbal remedy known as a tincture is made. The alcohol acts as a solvent, helping the plant release its alkaloids, glycosides, minerals, and essential oils.
Of course, too much alcohol will definitely defeat the purpose of any health-promoting food or practice. We recommend you keep moderation in mind and hydrate with eight ounces of H2O in between libations.
Electrolytes such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, and sodium are minerals with an electric charge that help us stay hydrated. It’s important to maintain a balance of these minerals. Drinking too much alcohol and eating too many salty foods (as one is wont to do on NYE) can throw our electrolytes out of whack. Foods and beverages that contain potassium will help keep you in balance and prevent the Hangover of Doom.
Foods highest in potassium include avocado, spinach, sweet potato, white beans, and bananas. Try to load up on these foods the week before and the day of your celebration. Coconut water is also particularly high in potassium, so to help rehydrate while you dehydrate, try adding coconut water to your cocktails.
We love this recipe for a spicy tequila and lemonade cocktail from Betsy Life:
- 1 oz tequila
- 3 oz coconut water
- 3 oz fresh lemonade
- ½ jalapeno, thinly sliced
- Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously.
- Pour over ice and enjoy! Garnish with additional jalapeño slices.
UPGRADE YOUR ALCOHOL
They say that cheap alcohol causes worse hangovers. “They” usually being people who have more money than ability to handle a night of drinking from a plastic bottle. Unfortunately, for those on a budget, this party lore is actually backed up by science.
Alcohol contains a variety of different compounds known as congeners, which include fusel alcohols, acetone, esters, aldehydes, and acetaldehyde. Congeners are largely responsible for the taste and smell of the alcohol, as well as one of the primary causes of hangovers.
Research shows that cheap liquors and dark liquors have higher levels of congeners, and produce worse hangover symptoms.
Every time a spirit is distilled it becomes purer and more congeners are removed. Filtration also helps remove some of the congeners. When shopping for spirits, here are a few tips:
- Avoid dark liquors – the congeners are what give many of these liquors their distinctive taste, so they’ll naturally contain higher levels.
- Go for the most number of distillations
- Note how it’s filtered
Alcohol and sugar can cause blood sugar fluctuations independently, but together, this dynamic duo can really send your glucose levels on a wild ride. If you’re headed for an event where you’re going to be imbibing and indulging, you can preemptively stabilize your blood sugar by eating protein-rich foods throughout the day. We love grass-fed beef because it’s full of protein and its high concentration of B vitamins helps promote liver function. If you’re vegetarian, organic tempeh packs B vitamins, probiotics, and hefty dose of fiber.
Fat slows nutrient absorption and helps keep you fuller longer. Eating a meal containing good fats prior to partying will help mediate the rate at which alcohol and sugar enter your bloodstream. It will also help to keep you from ravenously devouring a tray full of pigs in a blanket. Instead of waiting to eat at your party, fuel up before you go by pairing your protein with healthy fats, such as avocado, nuts, seeds, or pasture-raised dairy products.
DANCE, DANCE, DANCE
Fact: Richard Simmons lost 123 pounds just by sweatin’ to the oldies, so don’t be too-cool-for-school and spend your whole party on the sidelines.
You can burn over 400 calories per hour dancing
(depending on how funky your chicken is.)
The key is to move your whole body. We like high kicks and fist pumps for maximum burn. If you need more inspiration, check out a few of our favorite D-floor classics: The Elaine Dance, The Urkel, and (obviously) The Whip / Nae Nae.
Parties should be fun – not an occasion you worry about all week trying to figure out what to eat and drink. Not only does stress ruin your good time, it can also make you gain weight.
Our stress hormone, cortisol, increases appetite and promotes fat storage, especially around the mid-section.
Rather than stress out about what you’re consuming, or trying not to consume, focus on enjoying yourself and the people you’re with. If you’re too busy socializing, busting a move, and having a blast, you won’t have time to be dominating the buffet or getting to know the bartender on a first-name basis.
While most of these suggestions involve alcohol, drinking does not have to be a part of New Year’s Eve – or any party for that matter. Some of the most fun times we’ve ever had have been at events created specifically for sober socializing, such as our weekend at Camp Grounded – the digital detox + summer camp for adults – and Daybreaker, an early morning dance party that kicks off with an hour of yoga, followed by a no-holds-barred boogie sesh. If you really want to upgrade your New Year’s Eve, why wait until January 1 to start the cleanse? There’s no time like the present.
Know anyone who’s planning an NYE throwdown? Share this with them!
Posted on December 26, 2016