It’s that time of the year yet again. The shiny tinsel has been appearing in gorgeous displays in shopping centres, Christmas recipes are appearing in food media and there is that frantic feeling in the air as so many people hurry to get things completed before the end of the year is here.
Being a dietitian, I have some other signals at this time of the year that Christmas is almost here. Many of my friends and family tell me that they are going on a pre-Christmas diet and ask me for advice as to how they can keep eating healthily during the festive season.
Now those that know me, will know that I love food and I advocate eating all types of food according to your appetite and what is going to satisfy your different needs. Food is such a wonderful part of our society (and even more so during this festive period), that I don’t believe in restricting oneself unnecessarily, as this will not achieve much benefit in the long term.
Having said that however, I do think there are some simple strategies that can be used to help you avoid over indulgence during this busy period, keep the stress levels at bay (unless you leave your Christmas shopping to the night before!) and help you kick off the summer season feeling your best.
1. Get moving
With longer days and warmer nights, there is no shortage of fitness activities to keep your body moving. Find something that you enjoy, as you are more likely to stick to it and get greater satisfaction.
2. One for one
With work and social Christmas parties, it can be easy to have a big increase in your regular alcohol intake. There is no reason not to take part and enjoy this time. If you drink one non-alcoholic drink for every glass of wine, beer or cocktail, you will halve your alcohol and energy intake, and probably wake up the next day with a much clearer head!
3. Wholegrain party food
Do you know that most of us are eating less than half the recommended daily intakes for whole grains, which is 48g per day for adults.! You can help your friends and family meet this target this festive season by serving wholegrain foods at your Christmas cocktail parties and BBQs. Try this great BARLEYmax pesto recipe for a refreshing take on a classic recipe. It’s super easy to make and can be mixed into pasta for a summer salad or served as a dip together with whole grain crackers.
4. Kilometre catch ups
Most of us will ask our friends to meet for a drink after work to catch up before the long summer holidays. But catching up whilst going for a brisk walk (or a dance, jog or any other exercise that takes your fancy) is a great way to kill two birds with one stone, you get to spend time with your friend and also get in some exercise. And if you’re hosting a Christmas party, try something different and get everyone moving, whether that be a morning ocean swim or a game of lawn bowls or tennis
Be like Goldilocks and eat from the smallest plate. Research has shown that the bigger the plate, the more food you are likely to serve and eat, whether you are hungry or not. And large serving utensils can also encourage you to dish up more so watch out for this.
6. Summer time = salad time
It is much easier to eat fresh salads when the weather is warmer. One of my family’s favourite summer dinner’s is a ‘make-your-own’ salad bar. We lay out a variety of different ingredients and everyone gets to choose their favourites. We often have a game to see who has added the most colours to their bowl!
It is likely that during this time there will be days of over indulgence. Don’t let one big meal or hangover derail your health goals for the rest of the season. All food is there to be enjoyed and there is certainly no better time of the year to embrace that enjoyment!
BSc (Hons), MNutrDiet, Grad, Dip Business
Intended as general advice only. Consult your health care professional to discuss any specific concerns.