The holiday season is fast approaching.
For many, that means a period of excessive eating and drinking and minimal activity.
With all the celebrations happening at this time of year the temptation to indulge is greater, and failing to plan for a healthy holiday can often lead to unwanted weight gain.
According to Nutrition Australia, Australians gain an average of 0.8-1.5kg over the holiday period. This may not sound like much, but research indicates that this weight is rarely lost over the coming year so it can quickly add up over time.
With Christmas less than a week away here are some tips to help minimise the damage from the excess of the festive season.
Avoid Going Hungry to Parties
Eating a meal or snack that is high in fibre and protein before going to a party can help to reduce hunger and increase satiety, without being heavy on the calories. The less hungry you are, the less likely you are to snack on high-calorie party food.
If eating beforehand is not an option, try to start off with some healthier options before indulging in the Christmas pudding or pavlova. Foods such as fresh fruit, nuts, olives, quality cheeses, salads, lean meat, fish, seafood & eggs are all good options over the sweets, chips, breads, potato bakes, pasta salads, crackers & dips.
Create a Calorie Deficit
If you know you are going to have a bit of a blowout on Christmas day you can create a calorie deficit throughout the rest of the week. By eating less than normal or fasting on the days before, after or both, you can reduce the impact that a day of feasting can have on your diet and waistline.
This can also be done on a daily basis. If you have a planned Christmas dinner where dessert, alcohol and other calorie dense foods will be enjoyed, you can reduce the size of meals or have a fasting period before the event. If you’re going to have a big dinner, eat a lighter lunch. If it’s a big lunch, plan for a light breakfast and dinner. Try to keep the overeating to the special meals, there may be only one or two.
It is highly likely that you will consume more calories around the holidays due to the parties, large meals, and gifts of chocolate, sweets, and alcohol. Therefore continuing to exercise is just as important throughout the holidays as at any other time of year. A high-intensity exercise session can burn off those extra calories, speed up your metabolism and also help you deal with the added stress that sometimes comes with the season. In addition, you may be less likely to overeat knowing that you worked so hard at the gym that morning.
It doesn’t necessarily have to be structured exercise either. It can be as simple as going for a ride or a walk while your kids are on that new bike that Santa brought them, getting involved in a game of backyard cricket or going for a swim or a play with your children while at the beach or pool. Kids love when adults join in and play with them, make the most of the extra leisure time that usually comes at this time of year. Getting outdoors can also give you a healthy dose of Vitamin D which is beneficial for healthy metabolism and body composition.
Drink Plenty of Water
Because it is summer in Australia over the Christmas period it is important to keep yourself hydrated. Drinking enough water will keep you looking, feeling and performing better throughout the holiday season. Staying well hydrated can help boost your metabolism and make it easier for your body to burn unwanted fat. It can also help to fill you up preventing you from overeating and can help to minimise effects of a hangover if drinking alcohol.
Limit Your Alcohol
Parties and alcohol often go hand in hand this time of year, but if you are trying to be health conscious, limiting your alcohol consumption is a good place to start. When drinking, it’s not only the extra calories in the alcohol you need to be worried about but also the food you eat whilst drinking. Your body can’t store calories from alcohol as it does from food so these need to be processed first, essentially pausing the metabolism of your calorie intake from whatever you’ve eaten. Also, it’s generally not the celery sticks and hummus you’re reaching for when having a drink either. Often it’s the bowl of chips or the late night souvlaki you’re having when drinking.
If you are having a drink, try alternating alcoholic drinks with a drink of water. This will help to keep you hydrated and may also lessen the after-effects of a heavy drinking session. Not all alcohols are created equal either. White spirits such as vodka and gin are generally less calorie dense than darker spirits, beer, and wine. If you are looking to minimise the caloric impact of your drinks vodka or gin with soda is a good option.
Have a Plan
If you are the type of person that has to eat whatever is on their plate try using a smaller plate instead of a full size one. Fill your plate once and don’t go back for seconds.
If you don’t love it, don’t eat it. How often do you take a bite of food and it’s not that good but eat it anyway? What wasted calories!
Try not to keep treats or “problem foods” in your environment if you have trouble controlling your intake, or at least, hide them. You can always regift that box of chocolates if you think they will undo your healthy eating.
While it can be good to indulge and have a good time this time of year, it’s best not to completely throw your health out the window. Remember that Christmas parties and family dinners are not all about food and drink, they are about the people you love and want to celebrate with. If you already have a healthy eating or exercise regimen try not to change it too much just because it’s the holidays. Think of your accomplishments throughout the year, is it worth undoing those for a week of indulgence? Maybe. That’s up to you to decide.
Try not to “fall off the wagon” completely. If you do, the new year is just around the corner. Perfect time to build a new one.