As party season starts to get into swing, most of us put our healthy eating resolutions on hold until January. Nutritionist Heather Leeson has some tips to make it easier to stay on track this December and avoid piling on the pounds.
Why does it matter?
January is miserable enough without the added dread of having to deal with weight gain. 5-7lbs is what the average person puts on over the festive period. This is fuelled by the ‘diet starts in January’ mindset. This can make it easier to completely throw in the towel until the New Year. Making a few simple and relatively painless tweaks to your habits can make a big difference without ruining your party season.
1. Don’t overdo the Christmas cheer!
Most of us associate Christmas with parties and lots of alcohol. Certainly, the social aspect of having a few drinks with friends is great for us. However, the burden of drinking too much for a solid 4 – 6 weeks takes its toll on our liver and our waistline. Some research shows that we drink more than an extra 60 units of alcohol over the Christmas season and with that, thousands of calories. A few smarter choices can help us to avoid some of the downside without reducing the fun.
- Don’t drink on an empty stomach. The alcohol will hit your blood stream and your head much more quickly and make it harder to make sensible choices. We recommend having a snack like a piece of fruit and a few nuts or a couple of protein powerballs. An even better choice is a green smoothie, with the combination of hydration and vitamins setting you up for the night. Or if you don’t have a chance to do this, then avoid the pre-dinner drinks and don’t start on alcohol until the food arrives
- The best and most simple thing to do to slow yourself down and reduce your hangover is to have a glass of water between every alcoholic drink. If you don’t like plain water, have sparkling water with a little cordial or juice or a few drops of angostura bitters. If you are entertaining, it’s good to have some interesting alcohol free options to offer to drivers and non-drinkers anyway.
- Don’t forget a large glass of water on your way to bed. Taking a supplement with good levels of b vitamins then and in the morning can aid recovery and boost energy
2. Watch the extra Christmas calories
It is estimated that on average, each of us eats an extra 500 calories every day over the 4 – 6 weeks between now and the New Year, which adds up to a half stone weight gain for some. One mince pie alone can have between 250 and 400 calories. But a few simple tips can help you to limit the extra calories
- Avoid party nibbles, especially anything in pastry. These can quickly add up to hundreds or even thousands of calories. If you really need to eat, chose healthier options like olives or eat something before you arrive. The same applies to the bread basket. Move it off the table or at least out of reach to avoid filling up on bread before your proper meal arrives.
- Share dessert. By the time we have munched our way through at least a couple of courses, we are usually stuffed and only eating dessert because it has been put in front of us. Enjoy a few spoons, it’s always the first ones that taste the best anyway and then leave the rest. Better in the kitchen bin than on your hips!
- If you have lots of events this season and are worried about weight gain, a short-term option that can help is to follow the 5:2 diet for the Christmas period. Choose 2 days each week where you are going to keep your calories to less than 500 or 600. This can give you some more room to indulge on other days. An example of a daily menu:
|Breakfast||Natural low fat yoghurt with some berries|
|Lunch||Tomato and lentil soup with 1 ryvita|
|Dinner||Omelette with mixed salad|
This is not suitable for diabetics or people with underlying health issues and we don’t recommend it long term. However, it can help to keep things on track over Christmas. Also, make sure you have at least a couple of alcohol-free days each week.
3. Get moving!
Many of us abandon our fitness activities from now until the New Year. However, if you are a gym-goer or plan to start a fitness programme next year, make the most of quieter gyms now. Commit to exercising 3 – 4 times per week. Even a 20 or 30 minute walk during your lunch hour or on your way to work is beneficial.
If you can, do your exercise in the morning or at lunch time on the days that you are going out. This will give you a little more room to indulge on those days. However, bear in mind you would need to jog for 45 minutes to burn off a single mince pie. You are also unlikely to be motivated to exercise if you are recovering from a big night out, so get in ahead of time.
Getting ahead on your fitness commitments leaves you under less pressure to make drastic New Year’s resolutions!
Keep an eye out for our seasonal recipes coming soon, including healthier party nibbles, cranberry and cinnamon mocktails and healthier chocolate orange mousse.