It’s that time of year again. The festive (silly!) season. With that, comes the Christmas food and drink which can throw us out of normal eating routine, adding extra calories, fat, and sugar we would not usually consume.
So how can we enjoy what Christmas has to offer without over-indulging and adding to our midriff?
Christmas often leaves us feeling stressed. We get caught up doing a million tasks – such as shopping for presents, buying groceries, preparing food and drink, and the list goes on – with limited time. Be mindful and remember to breathe – the quickest and surest way to calm ourselves. Take five deep breaths and notice how you feel afterwards. It will then be easier to prioritise tasks and execute them with precision.
Eat a healthy breakfast
Don’t forget to energise your mind and body in the morning. By consuming a nutrient-rich breakfast, you will minimise over-indulging in decadent Christmas treats later. Opt for good fats and high-quality protein to keep you feeling full. Try poached eggs with smashed avocado on wholegrain toast or Greek plain yoghurt with fresh seasonal berries for those that like it sweet.
Supercharge your food with nutrients
There are many ways we increase our nutrient intake over the Christmas period. Some healthier options to try: make your cheesecake base with nut and seeds as opposed to processed biscuits and top with fresh, seasonal, anti-oxidant rich berries, or whip your cream with a third of Greek plain yoghurt for your pavlova. Try bliss balls instead of truffles, and dip in dark chocolate rather than milk chocolate. Cut the fat off all barbecued meat. Opt for green salads or those using fresh, seasonal summer vegetables and go for healthy oil-based, like hemp seed oil (to get your hit of omegas!), vinaigrettes rather than creamy dressings. Aim to fill most of your plate with vegetables or fruit with dessert. The Ministry of Health recommends we consume three servings of vegetables and two of fruit every day, and that includes Christmas (Ministry of Health Information: 5+ a Day)
Enjoy your food
Food is meant to be enjoyed and denying yourself may lead to over-eating later on. Instead, watch your portion sizes, serve yourself, and eat slowly and mindfully. Savour each mouthful and check in with how you are feeling. Signs of gas, bloating, and feeling sluggish are your body telling you that you are over-indulging. Note, it is the first one-to-two bites of any food that offer the most pleasure and taste satisfaction. If you are mindful when eating, you can identify when these decrease and more easily identify when you are full (Darling 2013)
Go easy on the alcohol and sugary drinks
It is not just the food at Christmas time that packs a calorie-rich punch but the drinks, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic. Alcohol itself contributes 29 kilojoules or 7 calories per gram. The mixers we choose to go with alcohol adds further calories as does the food choices we make after consuming alcohol (Alcohol and Nutrition n.d.). Staying hydrated is also important when consuming alcohol which dehydrates the body (Jewell 2019). This can be a recipe for disaster especially during hot summer days so keep up the water.
It’s summer so it’s a great time of year to get outside and exercise which helps to maintain a healthy body weight. A walk post-Christmas lunch is a great idea and a social one too that can include the whole family. Keeping up a regular exercise regimen will help manage the stresses we often feel during the festive season. If exercising outside, don’t forget your sunscreen, wear a hat, and stay hydrated. Or beat the hot temperatures, with an early morning walk or run.
So there you have it – ways to stay healthy over the festive (silly!) season. Be mindful, keep moving, and enjoy your food. It’s a time to be merry and everyone’s included.
This column is not intended as medical advice but rather to provide information for educational purposes. Consult with your GP or other medical professional regarding the applicability of any of the information provided.
Alcohol and Nutrition, alcoholthinkagain, viewed 20 Novemebr 2019, <https://alcoholthinkagain.com.au/Alcohol-Your-Health/Alcohol-and-Your-Long-Term-Health/Alcohol-and-Nutrition>
Darling, N., 2013, The First Bite Is the Best: Thoughts on Eating, viewed 20 November 2019, <https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/thinking-about-kids/201301/the-first-bite-is-the-best-thoughts-eating>
Jewell, T., 2019, Does Alcohol Dehydrate You?, viewed 20 November 2019, <https://www.healthline.com/health/does-alcohol-dehydrate-you>
Ministry of Health Information, 5+ a Day, viewed 20 November 2019, <https://www.5aday.co.nz/5plus-a-day/ministry-of-health-information/>