The festive season is a time for celebrations and festivities, and most of those happen around foods and drinks. This proves that food has a social value that cannot be denied. However, there is a lot of guilt that soon follows most people before, during and after this season. We start creating “new year’s” resolutions that involve plans to lose weight, eat healthier or join a gym in the New Year as means to suppress that guilt. This is not entirely wrong but life has more to offer than worrying that eating a piece of cake will cause weight gain. Good news is that, eating one food item termed “unhealthy” is not the reason for weight gain. It is more about the overall lifestyle, it is foods we eat and drink or don’t that contribute to weight gain and eventually obesity.
To put your mind at ease, here are some festive season tips:
- Prioritize food you eat.
Don’t eat everything and anything during this time at events and parties. Be choosy and rather eat more of the foods you love and enjoy. If you know that there is one person who’s cooking you really love, save room for their food. When visiting family and friends house by house, opt to alternate what you eat. For example, a drink here, a meal there and maybe dessert there.
- Pause for 10 minutes before taking seconds.
It takes a few minutes for your stomach’s “I’m getting full” signal to get to your brain. After finishing your first helping, take a 10-minute break. Make conversation. Drink some water. You might actually realize you are full or only want a small portion of seconds. Start with vegetables for seconds before other food groups.
- Step away from the snack table.
At a party, don’t stand next to the food table. That makes it harder to mindlessly reach for food as you talk. If you know you are prone to recreational eating, pop a mint or a stick of gum so you won’t keep reaching for the crisps.
- Eat before heading out.
Before setting out for a party, eat something so you don’t arrive very hungry. Excellent pre-party snacks combine complex carbohydrates with protein and unsaturated fat, like apple slices with peanut butter or a slice of turkey and cheese with high fibre or whole-wheat crackers.
- Rethink your drink.
Alcoholic drinks are packed with calories so choose wisely. If you drink alcohol, have a glass of water or juice-flavored seltzer in between drinks. This helps reduce the total amount of alcohol you drink at the end of the day.
- Don’t shop hungry.
Eat before you go shopping, it helps so that you do not indulge on unhealthy last minute snacks at the shops.
- Cook from (and for) the heart.
To show family and friends that you really care about them, be creative with recipes that use less butter, cream, lard, vegetable shortening, and other ingredients rich in saturated fats.
- Eat before drinking alcohol.
Alcohol increases your appetite and diminishes your ability to control what you eat. It helps if you have eaten something before heading out on a big night.
- Put on your dancing (or walking) shoes.
Dancing is a great way to keep active during festive season. If you are at a family gathering, suggest family walks or play time as means to bond.
- Make room for veggies.
At meals and parties, don’t ignore fruits and vegetables. They make great snacks and even better side or main dishes — unless they’re slathered with creamy sauces or butter. Vegetables & fruits are packed with fibre among other nutrients which makes them great for reducing bloating- ness and constipation.
- Be buffet savvy.
At a buffet, wander ’round the food table before putting anything on your plate. By checking out all of your options, you might be less inclined to pile on items one after another.
- Road Trip wisely:
Eat a meal before setting off on the road, this helps that you do not grab last minute “unhealthy” eats on the road. It also helps to pack your own snacks (variety of healthy snacks e.g. pretzels, popcorn, fruits, lean biltong, nuts etc.
- Enjoy your time with family.
Although food is an integral part of the holidays, put the focus on family and friends, laughter and cheer. If balance and moderation are your usual guides, it’s okay to indulge or overeat once in a while.
Yours in health