Christmas is fast approaching and the party and holiday season is upon us.
For many, this means a period of excessive eating and drinking with 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. While it may not sound like much, research indicates that this weight is rarely lost over the coming year, so it can quickly add up over time.
With Christmas only a few weeks away and party season upon us, 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 high in fibre and protein before going to a party can help reduce hunger and increase satiety without being heavy on 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 with 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 better options than sweets, chips, bread, potato bakes, pasta salads, crackers & dips.
Create a Calorie Deficit
If you know you will have a bit of a blowout on Christmas day or a Christmas party, create a calorie deficit throughout the rest of the day or week.
Christmas or end-of-year parties are often associated with alcohol, desserts, and other calorie-dense foods. If you have one of these events planned, you can reduce the size of meals or have a fasting period before the event. If you’re having a big dinner, eat a lighter lunch. If there’s a big lunch, plan a light breakfast and dinner. Try to keep the overeating to the special meals; there may be only one or two.
You can use the same strategy on a weekly basis. By eating less or fasting on the days before or after a big event, you can reduce the impact that a day of feasting can have on your diet and waistline.
You will likely 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 help you deal with the added stress that sometimes comes this time of year. You may also be less likely to overeat knowing that you worked so hard at the gym that morning.
It doesn’t necessarily have to be a structured exercise session. Go for a ride or a walk while your kids are on that new bike Santa brought them. Get involved in a backyard cricket game. Go for a swim or play with your children 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 benefits healthy metabolism and body composition.
Drink Plenty of Water
Because it is summer in Australia over Christmas, it is essential 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, prevent overeating, and help minimise the effects of a hangover if drinking alcohol.
Limit Your Alcohol
Parties and alcohol often go hand in hand this time of year. However, if you are trying to be health conscious, limiting your alcohol consumption is an excellent 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, 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. 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 glass of water. This will help to keep you hydrated and may also lessen the after-effects of a heavy drinking session.
Also, remember that not all alcohols are created equal. White spirits such as vodka and gin are generally less calorie dense than darker spirits, beer, and wine. If you want 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, it’s not that good, but you 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, don 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 to avoid falling off the wagon completely. If you do, the new year is just around the corner. Perfect time to build a new one.