YES! You can enjoy Christmas the healthy way!
Christmas is around the corner… Another year, another round of Christmas festivities – including chocolate and (lots of) alcohol.
Let’s be real, these are unavoidable because food is the focal point of enjoying Christmas with our family and/or friends. This is why, on average, Australians gain 0.8 – 1.5kg of weight over the Christmas period.
Luckily, you can still enjoy this exciting time of the year without totally losing track of your healthy eating goals. So, to help you avoid gaining (too much) weight over the silly season, here are some of the most important things you should be doing from this day forward (or atleast until mid-Jan when things settle down again!)
Do NOT go to events/ parties on an empty stomach… I repeat, do NOT go to events/parties on an empty stomach.
I hope I don’t have to repeat that a third time.
It is so important to continue with your normal eating routines every day, no matter what you have on. So don’t have the thought of ‘I’m going to have a big night, I better starve myself all day until then’ – because there is nothing worse than getting to a party in starving mode.
This means that you must eat something before leaving home, because if you don’t, you’ll get to your party/event and you will lose control on all the delicious food.
It is helpful to have a healthy snack with some protein before leaving home, like:
yoghurt with fruit,
or a handful of nuts,
or even a can of tuna.
Otherwise, during the day and every day, make sure you are having a wholesome breakfast, a filling lunch and a light dinner. Remember, it is better to have your daily calories over 3-6 meals during the day, instead of all at once.
Make the best choices at the events/parties leading up to Christmas
Stand as away from food as possible, because if those yummy platters are in reach, then you are going to reach for them.
Turn your listening ears on and listen to what your body is telling you. When you’re full, stop eating – put your plate away, walk away from the food, or just get up from the table and go to the bathroom for 5 minutes.
Eat most of the vegetables and fruits, and mostly avoid deep-fried, high-fat varieties like sausage rolls, pies, or spring rolls. This will help you avoid extra unwanted saturated fat, while you get fuller on the better, more filling choices
If you are going for the higher-fat options, try a little bit of each but avoid making those choices your mains.
Have a big glass of water before drinking alcohol, then drink 1 glass of water between each alcoholic drink. Not only will it help lower the amount of alcohol being consumed, you’ll also wake up not-so-seedy the next day.
Enjoy pre-mixed alcoholic drinks in moderation. Instead, go for your own mix: my favourite is vodka with soda water, a slice of lemon and mint leaves.
Sip your wine very slowly, make each glass last! Drinking out of a smaller glass can help too.
Stay as active as possible over the whole Christmas period
Regular exercise not only will give you more energy to cope with the stress of the holiday bustle, but it can also help to compensate for some of our over-indulgences
Strive for at least 150 minutes (2 ½ hours) of moderate to vigorous activity per week. That’s not much, you can do it.
Make physical activity part of the holiday fun to provide a balance to eating. Plan a hike, bike ride, swimming etc. on you trips away.
No time to get to the gym? Try for incidental exercise, like walking to the supermarket when you only have a few items to pick up? Carry your groceries as a substitute for lifting weights. Choose the stairs instead of the elevator. Take the dogs for an extra walk – they deserve it.
Every bit of physical activity you can sneak in counts. If you can’t get out of the house, do indoor exercise while watching your favourite TV show or chatting on the phone – squats, stretches, legwork, sit-ups, push-ups, treadmill…. the possibilities are endless.
Finally... ENJOY your Christmas Day
If you really think about it, Christmas Day is 1 day out of 364 days – so there is absolutely no harm in relaxing a little and not worrying about anything, including food and drink choices. If you’ve looked after yourself to the best of your ability those 364 days, then I promise, that 1 day is not going to set you back.
To summarise, be mindful of your choices on the days leading up to Christmas. Stay active wherever you can, choose better options of food and drinks at events and parties, and most importantly, listen to your body – learn to stop eating when you’re full.
Finally, enjoy the time with your friends and family, especially on Christmas Day. Have a happy and safe Christmas, and I wish you all the best for the new year!
Yours in health and wellness,
Joyce Haddad, Director of A Dietitian's Mission, is an Adelaide based Dietitian, Nutritionist and Master Personal Trainer with a passion for health and wellbeing. ADM aims to help the public make informed and realistic nutritional choices and ensure everyone has a healthy relationship with their body and with food.