Wed | Jan 27, 2021

Staying healthy this Christmas season

Published:Wednesday | December 2, 2020 | 12:10 AM

Certain times of the year are more difficult than others to stick to healthy eating, and this festive season is no exception!

While the coronavirus pandemic has forced us to retreat to our homes, given the ban on parties and large gatherings, it is still easy to get caught up with the festivities and traditions mostly centred on an abundance of delicious treats, snacks, and meals.

However, the feasts and festivities can tax the arteries and strain the waistline. By eating just 200 extra calories a day, you could pack on two to three pounds over a five- to six-week period. That doesn’t sound like much, except that few people shed that extra weight in the following months and years.

While we cannot always escape the temptations and keep ourselves from being surrounded by unhealthy choices, there are things we can do this holiday season to eat healthily.

Here are some tips, tricks, and fun ideas to help you stick to healthy eating, even during the Christmas season.

• You do not need to deprive yourself, eat only boring foods, or take your treats with a side order of guilt. Instead, by practising a bit of defensive eating and cooking, you can come through the holidays without making going on a diet one of your New Year’s resolutions.

• Budget wisely. Do not eat everything. Be choosy and spend calories judiciously on the foods you love.

• Take 10 before taking seconds. After finishing your first helping, take a 10-minute break. Make conversation. Drink some water. Then recheck your appetite. You might realise you are full or want only a small portion of seconds.

• Distance helps the heart stay healthy. At a party, do not stand next to the food table. That makes it harder to mindlessly reach for food as you talk. If you know you are prone to recreational eating, pop a mint or a stick of gum so you won’t keep reaching for the chips.

• Do not go out with an empty stomach. Before setting out for a party, eat something so you don’t arrive famished. Excellent pre-party snacks combine complex carbohydrates with protein and unsaturated fat, like apple slices with peanut butter or a slice of turkey and cheese on wholewheat pita bread.

• Drink to your health. If you drink alcohol, have a glass of water or juice-flavoured seltzer in-between drinks. Avoid alcohol on an empty stomach. Alcohol increases your appetite and diminishes your ability to control what you eat.

• Put on your dancing (or walking) shoes. Dancing is a great way to work off some holiday calories. If you are at a family gathering, suggest a walk before the feast, or even between dinner and dessert.

• Make room for veggies. At meals and parties, don’t ignore fruits and vegetables. They make great snacks and even better side or main dishes – unless they’re slathered with creamy sauces or butter.

• Be buffet-savvy. At a buffet, wander around the food table before putting anything on your plate. By checking out all of your options, you might be less inclined to pile on items one after another.

• Do not shop when hungry. Eat before you go shopping.

• Cook from (and for) the heart. To show family and friends that you really care about them, be creative with recipes that use less butter, cream, lard, vegetable shortening, and other ingredients rich in saturated fats. Prepare chicken or fish instead of red meat.

• Exercise. Keeping on track with your normal exercise routine is especially difficult with the extra business around the holidays. But making it a priority to exercise regularly this time of year not only helps you stay on track, but also helps decrease your appetite for junk food!

• Drink plenty of water. Make sure, as you go throughout your day, you are sufficiently hydrated. Even slight dehydration can trick us into thinking we are hungry, and, therefore, we are more likely to overeat and give in to those treats!

Pay attention to what really matters. Although food is an integral part of the holidays, put the focus on family and friends, laughter and cheer.