Christmas is a wonderful time of year. It’s a time of fun, joy and celebration! Yet the Christmas season and holidays can be a time of over-indulgence as we are bombarded with a barrage of delicious, high-calorie foods and drinks that can be hard to resist.
It’s not Christmas day that’s the issue – the problem is the Christmas season with its multiple functions and parties – and over-indulgence in December can lead to despair in January and February as we battle an expanded waistline, high blood cholesterol levels or even a diagnosis of diabetes.
So here are my top 12 tips for a healthy and happy Christmas and holiday season:
Set realistic goals
Perhaps your goal should be weight maintenance rather than weight loss over the Christmas season. By trying to lose weight over the Christmas period you may put unnecessary pressure on yourself and take away all the joy of Christmas.
Allow yourself to eat some of your favourite foods over the Christmas season without guilt
This does not mean that you should overeat or ‘overdrink’ at every function, party or get-together! Enjoy a few favourite high-calorie foods at a couple of functions/parties. It may be Christmas cake, Pavlova or any luscious dessert.
Always have a healthy snack before you go to functions or parties
Hunger pangs can sabotage the best of intentions so it’s best not to go overly hungry to functions/parties – and this principle applies all year round. If you go starving to a function/party it is very likely that you will end up over-eating! So, have a small but substantial snack such as a banana/apple or a small tub of yoghurt before you get there.
Watch the alcohol
Alcohol is stacked with calories/kilojoules. With almost twice the calories/kilojoules of carb or protein, excess alcohol can promote weight gain and also raise your blood pressure and elevate your triglycerides. In addition, the high-fat canapés that often accompany the drinks are loaded with calories too. If you do drink, alternate your alcoholic drink with water, sparkling mineral water, soda water or a diet soft drink.
Enjoy more fish and seafood
It’s summer in Australia and New Zealand, so why not have an Aussie/Kiwi Christmas with beautiful prawns (shrimp), oysters and salmon rather than ham and pork with crackling? Our friends in the wintry northern hemisphere can enjoy their traditional turkey, which is fine too.
Swap high-calorie/high saturated fat foods for healthier ones
Swap the mince pies, rum balls and shortbread biscuits for luscious summer fruit like mangoes, rockmelon and cherries. Or make healthy versions of delicious cakes and desserts like Trifle, Pavlova or Ice Cream Christmas Cake.
Fill up on veggies
Fill your plate with salads or veggies – and if you feel like seconds, go back for more ‘free’ veggies rather than meat, potatoes or rice. Veggies can be baked, barbecued, stir-fried or curried, and salads can be so much more interesting if you add fruit, nuts or small amounts of cheese.
Savour your food, eat slowly and enjoy every mouthful. Put your knife and fork down in between mouthfuls. It takes about 20 minutes for the brain to register that we are full, so don’t rush your meal.
Don’t waste calories unnecessarily
Foods like chips and dips, chocolates and sweets/lollies are available all year round – so why eat them unnecessarily or mindlessly over the holidays? Even nuts while being healthy are high in calories/kilojoules, and are easy to overeat. So, don’t eat them just because they are lying around. Calories can add up very fast.
Put on your dancing shoes!
Keep active and burn those calories. Don’t wait until the New Year to start an exercise program. Stay active over the Christmas season and just do anything you enjoy – dancing, walking, swimming or playing sport.
Focus on the social aspect of parties and functions
While we do need to eat, let’s focus on the social aspect of functions rather than the food. Don’t stand near the food. Easy access to the dinner or buffet table can lead to mindless picking.
Have a feast on Christmas Day!
Enjoy your favourite foods on Christmas Day and the leftovers can be eaten on Boxing Day while watching the cricket or playing backyard cricket! While even one week of over-indulging can wreak havoc with your weight and health, just one or two days of over-indulging won’t have a huge impact on your weight or health, so enjoy!
Wishing you all a MERRY CHRISTMAS and a very HEALTHY AND HAPPY NEW YEAR!