The festive season is in full swing and it’s tempting to throw dietary caution to the wind until the New Year, especially with all the bad news. But with the average person gaining an extra 3 – 7 pounds over Christmas, that is not going to make January feel any less dismal. Heather shares her tips on Virgin Media Weekend AM or read more below.
Chose treats wisely and enjoy them
We all have our favourite festive treats and should be able to enjoy those in moderation. But if we just go for it and have extra treats, some of which we might not even really like, most days in December, that can add up to quite a few pounds to be shed in January. What to do? Try to limit treats to 2 or 3 days a week and pass on the ones that you don’t really enjoy. And of course this is not just the sweet treats like mince pies (250+ cals) or a couple of chocolates (200+ cals), but also the party nibbles like crisps, peanuts and finger food, where 9 or 10 can add up to our calorie requirement for the day before we even have a meal.
For healthier nibbles, try popcorn, sushi, satay skewers, small portion of olives or some of our other healthier party nibbles and steer clear of too many foods in pastry, breadcrumbs or deep fried. For healthier sweet treats, try our cranberry pistachio chocolate bark or gingerbread chocolate bites.
And on the other side of the equation, try to eat healthily most of the time. Eat a good breakfast and a well- balanced lunch and dinner with plenty of veg and wholegrains. Even if you are eating out, you can still try to follow the principles of a balanced plate and watch your portion size.
Try intermittent fasting
Intermittent fasting means going for a period of time without eating and there are lots of different ways to do it, from 5:2 to 12:12 or 16:8 and any combination you can think of. The research on IF is overwhelmingly positive, especially for diabetes prevention and treatment, cardiovascular health, weight loss and IBS. The safest and easiest way to try it is simply to fast for 12 hours overnight, ideally finishing your dinner by 8pm and not eating anything until 8am the next day.
As well as the physiological benefits, it also cuts out the grazing in front of the TV that might be even more tempting now. And it’s flexible. While our digestive system works better earlier in the day, from time to time it’s fine to have a later dinner and then just push breakfast out the next day to allow the 12 hour fast. You could even try it 5 days per week.
But bear in mind that IF is not suitable for some people including during pregnancy or while breastfeeding, anyone with a history of an eating disorder, if underweight or under 18.
Watch the booze
We do drink more at this time of year, whether stuck at home or out with friends. We all know that too much is not good for us, but it’s easy to forget that it’s also a source of calories with no nutritional value. Two good reasons why it’s important to try to balance alcohol intake and there are a couple of ways to do this.
Firstly, and a great way to limit the effect of hangovers, is to have a glass of water between each alcoholic drink and another large glass of water before bed. This helps the body to flush out the by-products of alcohol that cause many hangover symptoms. This should also slow down the amount of alcohol consumed too.
Secondly, it’s good to build in at least 2 or 3 alcohol free days every week to give your liver a chance to recover. Some alcohol-free options include tonic water, sparkling water with cordial, Seedlip or other alcohol free spirits or alcohol free wine. For something different try our gut healthy and refreshing cranberry, ginger and apple kombucha mocktail.
Don’t forget exercise
Another great way to maintain healthy habits through December is to get regular exercise, even a 30 minute walk, most days. When it’s cold and miserable it’s hard to leave the house, but building in some exercise will offset some of the festive calories and help your mental health too.
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