The festive season is upon us and with it comes the challenge of maintaining your healthy lifestyle! This is generally a time of lots of eating opportunities with delicious meals, desserts and drinks and a time of decreased exercise. So how can you make better holiday food choices this year?
As you may already have discovered in your journey of a healthier lifestyle, being prepared is one of the most important aspects to make sure you stay on track. If you know what the challenges of your holidays are you will be able to come up with solutions to manage them. It is also important that you consciously decide that your healthy lifestyle is worth preserving!
Let’s explore some of the simple things we can do so that our healthy habits stay intact.
]1. One of the first things people often do when holidays arrive is lose the eating routine, specifically they stop eating breakfast! Try to stay in the habit of eating first thing in the morning. A good breakfast will always set you up well for the day. Also remember to continue to eat regularly in the day (ideally every 3-4 hours) even if you are eating slightly different foods – this will ensure that you will not overeat later in the day.
- If you have healthy snacks available at all times you are more likely to eat these when you are hungry even if unhealthy snacks may be around too. Make it a habit to take some healthy snacks with when you are dining elsewhere. But keep snack portions small! They are just meant to tie you over until the next meal. If you get into the habit of snacking between your meals you will not get too hungry for the next meal and you will be more likely to keep your portions controlled.
- Don’t go out to dinner hungry! You can cut back a little during the day if you know you are going for a higher calorie meal, but eating too little during the day will only undo your attempts at healthy eating. If you are a bit hungry before going out have a small snack so that you won’t devour the snacks before the meal.
- When serving your meals think veggies. Start by filling your plate with salad and plain vegetables (those without sauces) so that there will be less space on the plate for the higher calorie options.
- If you have a function to go to, enjoy the food that is served but remember that you do not need to eat everything that is served and you should try to ‘taste’ the high fat foods rather than fill up on them.
- Try to listen to your body signals even when at a function – it never feels good when we are completely stuffed so try to stop eating when you are ‘satisfied’ – this is not the last time you will ever eat this food again!
- When on holiday, have the occasional treat but fill up on the healthier foods that will keep you fuller for longer. Treats should be eaten in small amounts, and remember to eat them slowly, perhaps with a cup of coffee/tea, to savour the taste. Have some festive season treats occasionally, but try not to get into the habit of having them every day.
- Very important is that you don’t feel guilty when you do have something that you would normally not choose to eat. If we decide to have some dessert, and enjoy a small bit of it, guilt will only spoil the enjoyment of the dessert! Remember too that you don’t need to have something ‘special’ every time it is presented. Consciously choose the times that you are going to indulge. This is part of the planning!
- The occasional meal/day of overeating will not ‘ruin’ your weight/health goals. As long as you get back into the better habits the very next meal/day, no harm is done.
- Be aware of your alcohol intake. Aside from all the calories, drinking also makes us less inhibited around food, and it becomes far harder to remember health! An excellent holiday drink is sparkling water with a splash of cranberry and lime served in a tall glass.
- When you arrive at a function, always order water first (make it sparkling for variation) and only start with the alcohol at a later stage. Make a wise decision about WHAT you will be drinking – sometimes it is better to have a spirit with a ‘free’ cooldrink (e.g. vodka and coke light or whiskey and water) instead of wine – if bottles of wine are being ordered, your glass will be constantly topped up and you easily lose track of how much you are drinking!
- If you do want to drink wine, ‘dilute’ it with (sparkling or soda) water, ice cubes or sprite zero, and rather order your wine by the glass than ordering a bottle – make the excuse that you feel like a different wine. Similarly with beer or cider rather have a shandy.
- To help you to drink less alcohol, have an event planed for the following day – book a session with your trainer at the gym or organize a run with friends – you will WANT to drink less as doing these activities without a hangover is so much more pleasant. Or be the designated driver!
- Stay hydrated. It’s so easy to forget to drink water, but being hydrated is important as hunger is often confused with thirst. Our bodies are often in an under-hydrated state with the warmer weather, increase in salty snacks and alcohol. The best strategy is to keep your water bottle handy. Add some lemon, mint leaves or cucumber to your water if you do not enjoy the taste of water.
- Just enjoy yourself! And I don’t mean only with food. Focus your attention on your family and friend and on the fun and celebrations. Laugh a lot. This is what the festive season should be about!