7 Tips For Healthier Eating During The Holiday Season
December celebrations are just around the corner, and with them plenty of rich festive meals that can make it difficult to stay on track with healthy eating.
But, with a few simple tricks it can be done, and fairly painlessly at that!
Here are 7 tips that will help you avoid too many unhealthy food choices during the holidays and support your well-being as we enter the New Year too.
(1) Don’t save yourself for the big meal
Not eating the whole day because you have a big family dinner coming up and want to save the calories for those mouth-watering deserts is a common habit during December holidays.
But, it is also counter-productive.
If we tend to save ourselves for the big meal we are not only more likely to overeat at that meal, but we also end up making less healthy food choices, e.g. filling our plates with more desserts than we would normally do. Not eating regularly and then overindulging at that big meal can also destabilise your blood sugar, which then leads to mood and energy swings, excessive hunger as well as further sugar cravings and more unhealthy eating.
So rather than “saving the calories” for the big dinner, eat 5-6 balanced meals during the day, every day, during the holiday period. This will help you stabilise your blood sugar, tackle those sugar cravings and reduce the need to overindulge at those special meals.
(2) Choose AND EAT healthy foods first
When filling up a plate, start with healthy, nutritious foods and make sure that half of your plate contains foods such as salads, vegetables and soups. When you sit down to eat, have these foods first, before indulging in other dishes.
(3) EAT enough protein at every meal
Including enough protein in every meal will help you stay full for longer, stabilise your blood sugar level and also reduce sugar cravings so that you can more easily manage your sweet tooth during the holidays.
Having enough protein is also important for healthy weight management so if you are worried about piling on the weight during the holidays, make sure that one third of your plate always consists of good protein sources like lean meat, fish, eggs or dairy, or plant alternatives such as beans, lentils, chickpeas, quinoa, buckwheat or (in smaller amounts) nuts.
(4) Always have a healthy snack ready
One of the main reasons we overindulge during the holidays is that we are surrounded with pastries, puddings and sweets at every step of the way, while healthier choices are often more limited or out of sight. And when the hunger and temptation strike - it’s the rich and sweet stuff that ends up on our plate.
So to avoid this holiday trap, come prepared.
Spend five minutes every morning or the previous evening cutting up some raw vegetables such as cucumber, carrots, peppers and tomatoes, and keep them ready in the fridge (or in a small container in your bag when on the go) together with some nuts and dips (e.g. humus, guacamole). This way you have some healthy options ready when you get the munchies and you don’t need to always reach out for the unhealthy foods that are high in sugar and unhealthy fats.
(5) Use smaller plates
This might sound odd, but the size of the plate you are using can make a big difference to how much you eat at any given meal.
The research shows that when we eat from a small plate we eat less, especially if we serve ourselves, so using smaller plates helps with portion control and ensuring that you don’t overeat.
(6) For each glass of alcoholic drink, HAVE A glass of water
Alcohol not only has a lot of calories, but it also increases fluid loss from our body, contributing to dehydration and ‘fake hunger’.
The reason why we might eat more when we are dehydrated is that our body can confuse thirst for hunger, making us crave food even though what we actually need is more fluid.
Drinking a glass of water with each glass of alcohol will therefore not only allow us to keep the calorie count under control, but will also help us prevent dehydration and better manage our appetite.
(7) Sleep at least 7-8 hours a night
When we sleep less than 7 hours a night, our body changes the way it releases the hormones that control our appetite, making us more hungry than we would otherwise be, and reducing our satiety after a meal.
Research shows that a lack of sleep also worsens cravings for processed and sugary foods, so sleeping enough during the holidays will help reduce the desire for all those sweets and make sure that we can stay on track with healthy eating during the festive season too.