It’s a wonderful time of year, with so many celebrations to be enjoyed across all cultures! Enjoying festivities and having all kinds of tempting food on offer often go hand in hand, so here are some top tips about how you can have a healthier, yet still enjoyable festive season.
It is said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and this is so true! Even if you know that you will be indulging later, consuming something small and light will avoid a drop in blood sugar levels and the risk of overeating through hunger.
Plan meals in advance if you can
If you’re hosting, this is the perfect opportunity to wow your guests with nutritious yet delicious dishes. By knowing exactly what is in the food you’re eating, you can make sure you don’t go beyond your average daily needs. Offer to bring a dish if you’re going to a gathering elsewhere; this way, you can ensure that you have at least one healthy item to enjoy along with some other less healthy treats on the side.
The same is to be said for snacks – prepare healthy treats with minimal ingredients to enjoy at home, rather than relying solely on processed goods. Things like roast chestnuts are a great, satisfying and nutritious option that always remind me of the festive season! They are also highly beneficial for the digestive system, which is just what you need at this time of year. You can find more recipes for the festive season over at Chasing Zest.
Think about HOW the food is cooked
Whether you’re eating out, going to a friend’s gathering or are preparing food at home, think about HOW food is cooked as well as WHAT the actual ingredients are. Is it fried? Baked? Steamed? Roasted? Barbecued? Try to limit foods that have been fried or are accompanied by rich sauces and instead opt for the steamed and roasted options. If in doubt, ask your host or the restaurant…most people love to talk about how they created a dish, and this gives you the opportunity to sample either a lot or a little.
Be mindful of your portion size & ensure your plate is balanced
This can be difficult, particularly at buffet style events. Try to eat from smaller plates, take breaks between dishes so that your body has the chance to tell you if you’re full, and fill the majority of your plate with vegetable-based dishes. By loading your plate with veggies, you’re less likely to fill your plate with more undesirable food choices.
Make sure you have a balanced plate, meaning that you have vegetables, and unrefined carbohydrates (such as sweet potato), as well as your protein source. If you’re a meat eater, this will most likely be Turkey or another source of animal protein, whereas if you’re a vegetarian or vegan, it may be tofu or a bean salad/stew. Finally, ensure you have healthy fats in the form of nuts and seeds. Plenty of liquid (of the non-alcoholic kind!) is required to stay hydrated – see the following tip.
Take care with your beverages
Remember that drinks have calories too! In fact, the sugar content of some of the fizzy drinks that you might enjoy alongside your meal may actually contain more calories than the actual food itself. These are ‘empty calories’ as they have no nutritional value. Limit such beverages and try to stick to water livened up with a slice of lemon if necessary. Herbal teas with no added sugar are also a great alternative.
Although it’s the holiday season, there’s absolutely no reason to spend all day lounging around (which also means you’re likely to eat more). Get out, go for a walk, plan fun activities with your family and friends, maybe even try something new. The holidays are there to be enjoyed, and although food is a big part of this, you can still balance out being slightly more indulgent if you make sure you move every day.
Remember, it’s ok to indulge!
It is the festive season after all, and as long as you generally enjoy a healthy diet, have no serious health issues and get enough gentle exercise each day, there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy a little of what you fancy. The danger is if you let the odd meal here and there become a bad habit, which is something that is (sadly) very easy to do. If you are worried about being tempted, save these indulgences for when you’re out of the house, and ensure your own fridge, freezer and cupboards are full of more nutritious options.