It’s the time of year many of us all look forward to – Christmas, a season of joy, celebration and reunion. Although Christmas is a time where it can be easy to overindulge in treats, it is still possible to keep a healthy balanced diet during the festive season. While festive foods and treats can add enjoyment to our diets, having too much of them can have a negative effect on our health. ACH Group dietitian – Kaitlyn Dienelt has come up with 6 easy tips on how to keep healthy eating habits so you can enjoy yourself in a balanced way this holiday season.
Keep up your vegetables and fruits intake
Incorporate vegetables and fruits whenever you can. Having the right amount of core foods with lots of vitamins and minerals will help support your healthy eating plan during the festive season. A simple rule of thumb is to make half of your plate salad or vegetables when you’re at a dining function. Opt for leafy greens and non-starchy vegetables such as broccoli, asparagus, Brussel sprouts, beans, carrots.
Eat your vegetables first to get your nutrients and fibre before opting for the roasted turkey, leg ham, and other treats. Vegetables are high-volume, low-calorie foods that help fill up your stomach. According to a study in 2004 on salad and energy intake, eating a large portion of salad before a meal helps reduce your overall calories intake. Choose steamed and lightly seasoned vegetables instead of heavily sauced or buttered vegetables to savour the natural flavours of the foods and avoid adding extra calories.
We all know the importance of mindful eating and how it helps us eat less. A study from BMJ Open found that people who eats slowly tend to lose weight over the years. It takes around 20 minutes for your brain to get the signal that you are already full. Most of us can eat too fast when we’re hungry which results in overeating. This holiday season, try eating slower than you usually do before going for seconds and savour each bite when you eat to enjoy the flavours of the foods. Mindful eating also helps you stay present, making you more aware of your eating experiences.
Remember portion control
Although Christmas is a time where we typically overindulge on the fabulous spread of meats, seafood, sides and desserts, try to remember your correct portion sizes. Aim for a quarter of the plate as protein, another quarter as carbohydrates and half as salad or vegetables. Within this, enjoy everything in moderation! Another handy tip for portion control is try not to fill up your plate but try small sample sizes of each dishes which will likely fill up your plate and prevent you from overeating. You can also use a smaller plate or a dessert-sized plate to make it appear you’re eating more than you are.
Holiday season means celebration and that often involves higher consumption of alcohol intake. With all our food and wine enjoyment, we often forget to drink water throughout the day which results in dehydration. Remember to drink water during the day in between drinks. Aim for 6-8 glasses a day, or at least 1.5L. You can include foods that are high in water to keep you hydrated such as watermelon, honeydew melon and vegetables such as celery, lettuce and zucchini. For tips of how to keep cool during hot summer days, click here.
Don’t skip meals
Although this is a popular holiday eating strategy, skipping meals often results in binge eating which may have the opposite effect on your health. Don’t skip meals and save it for a big lunch or dinner. If you’re having a big lunch, have a light evening meal or vice versa to find the balance. If you know you’ll head out for a big dinner party, have healthy breakfast or lunch during the day to make sure you’ve eaten enough and avoid going overboard later. Include nutrient-packed foods during the day to make you feel full for longer. The key of healthy eating is having a balanced diet.
Remember food safety
Gathering over food during the festive season is a fun time of the year. But preparing food for a lot of people can be risky and the risk of food poisoning is highest during Christmas season, especially on warmer days.
Here’s a simple rule of thumb: within the first 2 hours’ after preparation, food can be eaten or put in the fridge, after 2 hours outside the fridge it should be used straight away and by 4 hours’ food should be discarded. Remember to check food temperature danger zone to see how you can reserve your foods throughout the day. Make sure to plan ahead and check your fridge space to make enough room in the fridge. If you want to keep leftovers, make sure to maintain food safety standards and seal foods properly in clean, airtight containers.
Healthy eating can make you feel a bit more anxious but try not to overthink. If you happen to overeat this holiday season, don’t feel guilty. After all, Christmas is a time for celebration and pleasure. Remember to enjoy yourself – Christmas only comes once a year and being healthy is a lifestyle that includes celebrating special occasions.
ACH Group offers a wide range of allied health services including dietetics, podiatry, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, exercise physiology and personal training to help you stay healthy as you age. We specialise in health and wellbeing for ageing bodies and our qualified health specialists will work with you on a personalised plan to help you achieve your health goals. Contact us on 1300 22 44 77 and speak to our friendly team and find out how we can help.