Christmas is notoriously a time to indulge, but don’t let this be the green light to overindulge!
You can still enjoy all the festivities of the season and get through the Christmas period without too much impact on your health and waistline.
Try our top 12 tips for a healthier Christmas 😃
Parties and gatherings are filling our calendar and that means many opportunities for eating and drinking. Here are our strategies for coping with the overindulgence and late nights that are an inevitable but enjoyable part of the festive season:
Bring ONE dish to share (a low-calorie nutritious choice for the meal)
Try to fill half your plate with raw or cooked vegetables for as many meals as you can. If you’re the one bringing the good stuff you’ll always have something green (or red, yellow & orange) to put on your plate!
TWO alcoholic beverages (sticking to two limits your liquid calories)
Alcohol only supplies empty calories, so avoiding proper meals to compensate for a booze splurge means you’re losing out on valuable nutrients, just when your body needs them to help it detoxify. To help prevent a hangover, stick to one type of drink and I make it a lighter-coloured one because they tend to be lower in the chemical by-products that can worsen a hangover. Aim to have no more than one alcoholic drink an hour, alternating with fresh juice or plain water – perfect if you don’t like holding an empty glass.
THREE healthy and well-timed snacks (have a slice of cake but keep track and don’t overdo it)
If you’re hungry when you arrive at a party, you will struggle to resist the cakes, so it’s always best to have a pre-party snack. One of my favourites is a small pot of plain yogurt with a sliced banana. The yogurt’s protein slows stomach emptying, which helps delay the effects of that first glass of alcohol while the potassium-rich banana helps balance any increase in the salt intake. Other snacks which do the trick include multigrain toast with nut butter, a bowl of muesli with milk, or a mug of soup.
FOUR fruits for snacking (when hungry, choose a serving of fruit instead of sweets)
Make fruit-based desserts. In winter, our access to seasonal fruits means that we have delicious, sweet treats, bursting with nutrition to fill our bellies after a meal. Think oranges, fresh berries, apples, plums and more!
FIVE veggies each day (get all those phytonutrients by meeting this daily minimum)
Having a good helping of vegetables with your meal will add vitamins, minerals and fibre and help you towards your five a day, but beware vegetables that come with added butter, cheese sauce or salt.
If you’re in charge of the cooking, offer steamed or boiled vegetables without salt, and steer clear of cheese sauces, or adding bacon to your sprouts, or butter to your carrots or peas. With everything else that’s on the table, no-one will miss these added extras. Ensure that your Christmas shopping list enables you to fill up the veggies bowl and get your recommended daily portions of veg.
SIX feet from the buffet (prevent mindless eating by moving away to converse)
Go for quality, not quantity. There is no shock that during the festive season we all eat, eat, and eat more. All justified because it’s Christmas. So, unfortunately, it doesn’t take long for those extra kilojoules to start to add up. So my tip, go for quality, not quantity. Instead of going for buffets dinners, have one meal and enjoy it. Instead of quickly drinking six glasses of wine, have two and enjoy it. It’s all about eating your favourite foods over the festive season in moderation!
SEVEN days of exercise (don’t forget to exercise regularly during the holidays)
Don’t forget to exercise over Christmas whether it’s a brisk winter walk, cycling, some yoga or any way you prefer to increase your heart rate. Stay active! Gather the family and walk up a mountain, run around at a playground, swim in the river or beach and just move as much as you can! Keep it fun!
EIGHT glasses of water (daily, and especially before and during parties and gatherings)
Don’t forget to keep drinking filtered water. It’s so easy to forget when we are not in our usual routine but dehydration will make you feel sluggish physically and mentally, give you dry skin, headaches and may lead to eating even more!
Choose plain mineral water over soft-drink or diet soft-drink. There is going to be enough sugar, fat and energy in the food at Christmas time. Enjoy the bubbles and fix without the excess energy.
NINE ounces of protein (three 3-ounce portions of lean, natural protein each day)
If you’re eating at home, try to plan what you eat with your health in mind. Choose lean cuts of meat, and remove any visible fat, and try to limit your red and processed meat you have in favour of fish, chicken, turkey and plant-based options.
If you’re eating out, try to choose the healthiest menu options to make the meal fit into your normal diet, rather than just going for your favourites.
TEN pounds we won’t gain (by sticking to a healthy eating routine through the season)
Aim for weight maintenance. It may be unrealistic to try to lose weight over Christmas. If you’re still on your weight loss journey, how about aiming for weight maintenance during the festive season. It’s good practice for how you’re going to eat long term after you’ve lost your weight. Resume your weight loss routine in the new year.
ELEVEN new choices (if you tried 1 new healthy food/month, we now eat more variety)
If your Christmas duties include cooking the dinner, then you must believe that Tasty food doesn’t have to be unhealthy. If you’re having a Christmas party at home, make this an opportunity to cook creatively. Bake instead of deep-frying, use olive oil instead of butter, etc. Replace salt with herbs and spices to flavour foods. You can also serve your friends with an assortment of healthy, home-made dips. Vegetable sticks with guacamole or hummus are great options.
If you’re attending a party, offer to bring something with you. This gives you and the other guests a few healthier options to choose from. A healthy appetizer, a salad or a fruit platter are options that you can make easily.
TWELVE counted blessings (count your blessings every day)
We all enjoy sharing a meal with family or friends but have you considered doing something different? That way you are more likely to avoid unhealthy food options, and you’ll save money, too. You could go for a winter walk together, perhaps with a flask of tea or coffee.
Rather than wait until January 1st to set your New Year’s Resolutions, take some time out now to think about what health goals you would like to achieve in 2021. Write them down and create a vision board around them. Doing this in December will help keep your goals fresh in your mind and be a gentle reminder to stay as healthy as you can over Christmas so you are not creating extra work for yourself come January!
Following these simple steps helps you remain healthy during the holidays.
Have a Merry Christmas and a Blessed Holiday Season!
By Priyanshi Bhatnagar