Written by Cat Trentham
The festive period is a blend of joy, family gatherings, and delicious treats. While it's a celebratory time, it also poses challenges in maintaining nutrition goals. Understanding your body's needs and planning accordingly is crucial. My strategy is to stick to normal eating habits, with the exception of Christmas Day and Boxing Day. On Christmas Day I will indulge in whatever I fancy and I use Boxing Day as a transitional day, I enjoy a few treats but start to return to my regular diet pattern, setting up for a full return to my routine by the 27th.
Here’s my take on how to navigate nutrition during the Christmas period without missing out on the joy of the festivities.
Embrace Balance, Not Restriction
Be conscious of your body's hunger and fullness signals. It's fine to indulge but be mindful of going overboard. This balance is important for maintaining energy and mood. Pay special attention to these cues to enjoy without excess. Practice portion control by enjoying your favourite festive foods in moderation. This approach lets you savour the foods you love without overindulgence, striking a balance between enjoyment and health.
Try and stick to your usual eating schedule to manage your appetite and avoid overeating during the holidays. Consistency and sticking to familiar meal times will help you maintain a stable metabolism and a sense of normalcy amidst all the excitement.
Prioritise Protein and Fibre
Emphasise high-protein and high-fibre foods to stabilise blood sugar and to keep you feeling full longer. This is especially useful during the festive season with its carbohydrate and fat-rich meals.
High Fibre foods help support gut health and digestion. To incorporate more into your diet, try starting your day with breakfasts like shredded wheat or porridge with flaxseed and raspberries, and include fibre-rich foods like roasted parsnips in your Christmas lunch! If you don't currently eat many fibrous foods, be sure to introduce them gradually, so as not to stress your gut out and stay well hydrated, as high fibre foods will draw water into the gut.
Protein is key for satiety (feeling full) and muscle maintenance. Some great high-protein, low-fat snack options between meals include lean meats, shellfish, protein yoghurts or protein shakes.
Hydration is Key
Ensuring adequate hydration is essential. Frequently, what we perceive as hunger is actually thirst. By drinking plenty of water, you can more accurately gauge your hunger levels, helping to prevent overeating. Beyond appetite regulation, staying hydrated is beneficial for digestion - especially useful when consuming richer foods than normal! Additionally, adequate hydration contributes to healthier, glowing skin - a nice bonus for the festive season!
Be Selective and Mindful
At buffets or dinner spreads, take a moment to survey your options and choose the items you are genuinely excited to try. Remember, there's no obligation to sample everything available. Being selective in your choices enables you to enjoy your favourite foods while helping avoid the consumption of unnecessary calories. When you choose to indulge, do it mindfully. Eat slowly and savour the flavours, rather than eating absentmindedly. This approach enhances the enjoyment of food and helps prevent overeating.
Keep Alcohol For Celebrating
Try to reserve alcohol for times of celebration: Christmas parties, meeting friends and Christamas lunch! Try to avoid daily drinking or drinking out of habit. Be intentional with your choices, perhaps choosing lower-calorie options like light beers or wine spritzers to balance the high caloric intake from festive meals. Or prioritise quality over quantity - enjoy a well-made cocktail or favourite wine for a more satisfying experience, making you less likely to overdo it, while still embracing the festive cheer.
Keep up with your regular exercise routine during the holidays to help offset the higher calorie intake. Remember, staying active is important not only for physical health but also for mental well-being amidst the busy festive season.
Getting Back on Track
If you overindulge, don’t worry: just be kind to yourself and simply refocus the next day. A good strategy is to reset with a day of nutritious, whole foods to get back into your regular eating habits, helping to reestablish your routine and maintain a healthy balance.
The Christmas period can be enjoyed without compromising your nutrition goals. Through careful planning and mindful eating, it's possible to strike a balance between savouring festive treats and maintaining a healthy diet. Emphasise moderation rather than deprivation, and remember that the holiday season is about more than just food. Focus on the joy of being with loved ones and creating lasting memories. By adopting a mindset of moderation and mindfulness, you can fully enjoy the season while keeping your health and nutrition in check.
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