Healthy Living

Eating well through Christmas

Those of you who follow my blog will know that ‘dieting’ isn’t something I encourage. I believe that short terms fixes produce short term results and short term results don’t lead to better health. For me, a healthy diet is about eating foods that are good for my physical and psychological health. Severe or permanent restriction of any food is not good for health; physical or psychological. 

Now Christmas can be a worrying time for many people who are anxious around food. There’s food everywhere.  Often, portion sizes increase and well-meaning people give food based gifts. And…alcohol! How do you continue your healthy lifestyle through this minefield?! Well, here’s my top 10 tips on how you can manage your food and Christmas.

1. Make your goals realistic
If you’re someone who likes setting goals, make sure they’re achievable. For example; are you likely to get up at 5am on Christmas day to go for a run, or lose 5kg in the Christmas fortnight? Setting goals that you’re unlikely to achieve may make you feel negative and result in you ‘giving up’. If you’re trying to lose weight, aim to maintain your weight over the Christmas period and get back into setting an achievable goal afterwards.

2. Be kind to yourself

Try not to be too hard on yourself. If you have been realistic in your goal setting this should help, but try to talk to yourself in the same way you would to a good friend. Using a supportive, encouraging, understanding tone is much better for your psychological health than disciplining yourself.

3. Stay hydrated
Start off your day with a large glass of water, and keep drinking more through the day. Being dehydrated can make you feel more hungry and increase the volume of alcohol you drink. Try alternating alcoholic drinks and water (see point 7).

4. Freeze leftovers
Sometimes it can’t be helped, cooking waaaay too much at Christmas is too harder habit to break. However, chances are if there’s stuffing balls left in the fridge they’ll be picked at between meals. Anything that can be frozen, freeze it so the temptation isn’t there.

5. Ration your chocolate or give it away
If you’re one of those people who can have chocolate in the house and not munch your way through a box in one sitting, then great, make it last. If you’re not one of those people, then how about giving some of your chocolate to a worthy cause; a charity raffle, a church coffee morning, your post or bin men?!

6. Keeping the balance
Always ensure you have a good amount of fruit and vegetables! The Christmas season often means numerous social outings, and that means food. Try to notice the amount of things like nibbles and bread you might eat before a meal. You could also try and look at the menu before you go to give you more time to consider your choice. You could opt for lighter starters like soup or melon and desserts like sorbet or meringue with fruit. You could even suggest sharing a dessert or just have a coffee. (Coffee and strong flavoured tea (like mint) can help cleanse the palate after a meal.)

7. Watch the alcohol units
For many, alcohol seems to come hand in hand with Christmas. Remember that in terms of calories per gram, alcohol is second only to fat, containing 7 calories per gram (fat contains 9 calories per gram). That means that one glass of bubbly is likely to contain around 90 calories and a bottle of 4% beer around 100 calories.
Remember that too much alcohol is not good for your overall health, so try to have occasions where you won’t drink at all (drive there so you don’t have a choice)! And always try to lessen your intake; alternate between alcohol and soft drinks, ask for extra ice or dilute wine or spirits with diet mixers.

8. Make some healthy snacks
People tend to snack more through the Christmas period, this is normal. Consider what you are snacking on, why are you snacking? Is it true hunger or emotional hunger? Work on being more aware of your habits and how they might differ from your normal. It may be worth looking at the timing of meals through the day too; are you snacking because you’re hungry (or thirsty)?

9. Get in some exercise
Spending time with loved ones is an important part of Christmas. Make time for walks and family activities and you’ll be enjoying their company as well as staying active. Get up from the sofa and enjoy the crisp winter mornings!

10. Choose indulgences wisely
Take some time to consider your options, for example, you could have dessert and canapes, just canapes, or just half a dessert. Make a conscious decision before you go about what you’re going to choose and then think about why. Is it because you have another party tomorrow? Is it because you’ll want some mulled wine later? Thinking about this ahead of time can help you in the moment.

It is hard saying no to everything everyone offers you, but staying in control of what you want to say ‘yes’ to is a crucial part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. It’s not about always saying “no”, but being more aware of how often you say “yes.”. For some people, it helps to practice different ways you can say no, for example; “yes it does look delicious, I’ll be sure to have one later” or “thanks, that was lovely but I can’t manage any more” or simply “no, thank you”.

Try to change “I can’t” to “I don’t”. Saying this means you’re in control and much more likely to stay on track during the Christmas holidays.

Remember, you can’t do ‘wrong’!

Have a Happy Christmas!