The festive season is well and truly upon us with an abundance of social activities filling up our schedules. From work Christmas parties and family gatherings, to eating out a lot more simply because we now have the freedom to do so, this is often not our healthiest time of year. Whilst it’s completely fine to enjoy meals out and have a few more indulgent food and drinks at this time of year, this may not align with the current goals for some of us, and others might simply not want to overdo it this year. If you’re looking to enjoy the food and drinks you love, but still remain conscious of better choices, here are 5 tips for a healthier festive season.
1. Enjoy a satisfying snack before going out
If you’re anything like us, rocking up to a Christmas party starving with decadent grazing boards at your fingertips is not an ideal combo. If you attend an event ravenous, chances are you will overeat and end up uncomfortably full, or filling up on more energy-dense foods, like cheese, chips and cured meats. A great way to manage this is by including a snack high in protein and fibre before you go out. This way you’ll arrive hungry enough to enjoy some delicious food, but not completely hangry. Some good options to try are a high-protein yoghurt with fruit, veggie sticks with hummus or cottage cheese, vitaweets with tuna or boiled egg, or a fruit smoothie.
2. Don’t graze, plate up
Cheese boards and grazing boards are wonderful things to enjoy with loved ones, but it’s very easy to mindlessly munch your way through them (often leaving you feeling stuffed before getting to the proper meal). One key way to minimise this mindless snacking is by plating up your portion of food and walking away to enjoy it whilst chatting, rather than standing around the food constantly picking. If available, include some nutrient-rich options on your plate, such as wholegrain crackers, veggie sticks, hummus, tzatziki and olives; at the same time enjoy some of the other favourites like cheese and quince paste.
3. Drink plenty of water
It’s almost a given in Australia that alcohol intake will increase around the festive season. If you choose to drink, aim to alternate each alcoholic beverage with a big glass of water. This will help to minimise dehydration and also prevent you from mistaking thirst for hunger (your head will also probably thank you the next day). If you want to reduce alcohol intake, try including infused mineral water or soda water with some fresh fruit and mint as a refreshing drink option.
4. Portion size is key
By all means enjoy the delicious foods at Christmas that you may not have on a regular basis – it is a time for celebration after all. Managing portions is a great way to do this without compromising health goals or feeling unwell (Christmas lunch food coma anyone?). Use the magic formula of aiming for half a plate of vegetables (such as roast veggies or salad), a quarter plate protein (such as ham, turkey, egg, tofu, legumes, chicken, beef or lamb), a quarter plate carbohydrate (such as potato, corn, bread, rice, pasta, couscous), a serve of healthy fats (such as nuts, avocado, extra-virgin olive oil and seeds) and a bit of flavour (such as condiments, cheese, or stuffing).
5. Avoid an all-or-nothing mindset
It is very common at this time of year to have an all-or-nothing mindset. Think of the typical “I have all these social events AND Christmas AND New Year’s, so I’ll wait until January to start working on my health goals”. This mindset typically leads individuals to significantly overindulge because they have it in their heads that once January hits they need to restrict and can’t enjoy any of these foods again for a while. This is the mindset we want to avoid, any time of the year. You can absolutely enjoy your favourite foods at Christmas without overdoing it and STILL maintain some healthy habits that make you feel good. Continue to implement strategies such as exercise, getting enough sleep, drinking plenty of water and including plenty of plant foods. Allow some flexibility in your food and drink choices over the festive season, but don’t write off all your other healthy habits. There will always be an upcoming social event or occasion that means you’ll be including more indulgent foods. Finding ways to incorporate these occasions where we can enjoy food without compromising health is a key part of leading a healthy and balanced lifestyle.
We’re talking all things healthy festive deliciousness over on Instagram all December long, so be sure to follow us there so you don’t miss out.