The holidays are coming! Which for most of us means family, fun and often delicious food and drinks. Unfortunately in Australia, we tend to enjoy the silly season a little too much. Current statistics show that lean Australians tend to put on an average of 0.37kg over the Christmas break, and for overweight or obese individuals this number leaps to an average of 2.3kg. The data also shows that the majority of us don’t lose this extra weight the next year — which means a gradual annual increase of weight year-on-year.
And while we want to relax and enjoy the break, my wish is for you to be able to come out the other end feeling fresh, healthy, and without carrying this extra baggage. A cleaner, healthier start to 2020, without feeling like you need to “detox” after all that Christmas pudding. Below are my top tips to avoid overindulging this holiday season, especially at those all-you-can-eat work functions and long, long lunches.
Find out what is going to be served at the event, so you can make healthful choices, rather than grabbing the first thing that comes out on a tray. Check out the restaurant’s menu online first, or ask the event organiser what will be served.
There’s More to Parties than Food
While great food is often the cornerstone of Christmas events, don’t forget the bigger picture. This time of year is a time to connect and spend time with family, friends, and colleagues. Make this your focus, rather than just piling up that plate. Lend a helping hand to the host, move around and talk to colleagues or loved ones (rather than hovering around the food table), play games, dance!
If you can contribute to the food at a party, make it count. While your grandmother’s secret recipe for lasagne may be a crowd-pleaser, take the opportunity to make something deliciously healthy. Aim for something full of vegetables.
Eat before the festivities
This one sounds a little strange, right? But if you are attending a cocktail-style event, where most of the food is canape-style, then having a decent meal or healthy snack ahead of time means you are less likely to fill up on all those curry puffs, mini burgers and party pies.
“Crowd it out” with Vegetables
When you are filling your plate, go for the veg first. Aim to fill at least half your plate with vegetables. Next, add a palm-sized portion of protein, then any sides after this. This means you get to enjoy all the delicious food at the table, but you fill up on nutrient-dense, lower kilojoule options.
Did you know it can take up to 20 minutes for your brain to receive messages that you are full? Before you dive in for seconds, take a break. If you are still hungry 20 minutes later, eat more.
Go Easy on the Alcohol
I’d be an unpopular Naturopath if I suggested you gave up drinking at Christmas. So I won’t. But I WILL say — keep it in moderation. Alcohol is like a short-cut to weight gain, and at the root of why many people face January with a couple of extra kilos. Why does liquor make us gain weight? Firstly, it’s often high in kilojoules. Secondly, it puts the breaks on our fat-burning ability. And thirdly, it can increase our appetite (particularly for calorie-dense foods). So if alcohol is your thing, then enjoy it, but find ways to pace yourself.
On the days where you have no social events, aim to go alcohol-free (save it for the party)
Alternate your wine with water. This allows your liver a little break between glasses, and also keeps you hydrated
Find things you enjoy drinking that are alcohol free — often the simple fact of having something in your glass is enough to get you in the party mood. My favourite party-time alcohol alternative is kombucha (and poured into the right glass, it looks just like beer!)
The best way to combat excess holiday eating and drinking? Exercise! This can be anything from a session at the gym to attending a dance class. Find what works for you. And in the warmer months getting outside and active is even easier. Arrange walking/jogging dates with friends, play tennis with the kids, walk to your next party or event. Add exercise sessions to your calendar to ensure you are making this a priority. Also, why not build a little activity into your Xmas Day festivities? A game of backyard cricket, a treasure hunt or a volleyball competition are all great ways to get the whole family moving.
Jade Bertolasi is HealthSpace Rozelle’s resident Naturopath & Nutritionist. She has a clinical focus on women’s health and hormones and works with women of all ages and stages of life. Find out more at www.heydaytea.com.au