The Christmas and New Year break is just around the corner, and for a lot of us, we start wondering how we're going to manage our nutritional intake over the break. Often, we write this time of year off before it's even here, and think about that all-too-common New Years Resolution - "Oh, I'll focus on exercise and nutrition in the New Year". Sound familiar???
First of all, let me assure you that it isn't bad, in any way, to enjoy Christmas time with your family and friends! It is okay, to enjoy that bit of chocolate, that glass of wine, or that delicious Christmas pudding. What we should be mindful of, though, is how much we have, how often we do this, and how long this lasts for! Rather than letting Christmas get out of hand, and "waiting til the New Year", I've listed a few of my best suggestions for enjoying Christmas sensibly:
Try to maintain some sort of routine around your eating. If you usually eat 3 times a day, or 6 times a day, try to maintain this (without one meal/snack rolling into the other!!). This will encourage you to eat fairly usual portions at meals, and will avoid you getting too hungry, to the point where you over-eat! Aim to still include a few serves of fruit per day, and plenty vegetables or salad with your meals.
Try to avoid going anywhere too hungry! While it can be tempting to "save your appetite" for that big Christmas lunch, it is more likely that you will eat more (and eat more of the higher calorie density stuff) if you are starving!! If you are going for lunch, try to include a normal breakfast, and maybe even for some, a small mid-morning snack, to offset or reduce those hunger pains!
Portions at meals and snacks
While the contents of your meals might be a little different and freer than normal, aim to include roughly 1/4 plate carbohydrates (e.g. grains, potato), 1/4 plate protein (e.g. meat, fish), and 1/2 plate salad/vegetables with your lunches and dinners. This way, you still get plenty of the good stuff but can also happily enjoy some freedom around your food choices! When it comes to snacking, aim to eat your snack in one sitting, i.e. avoid going back for seconds and thirds of a particular snack! Take a handful of your chosen snack and enjoy it slowly and completely!!
You will probably feel full and satisfied more quickly, and will also enjoy your food more! Simple!
Alcohol and hydration
Alcohol doesn't contain a huge number of nutritional benefits (some alcohol choices are more beneficial than others), however it is quite calorie dense! Consuming alcohol and also detract from other good nutritional practices. For over 18's, you certainly don't need to avoid alcohol all together, however aim to consume it slowly, and interchange your drinks with water or sparkling water. This will not only reduce your total number of drinks, but it will also keep you more hydrated. Sugary mixers such as soft drinks and juice can add calories to your day very quickly, so if you enjoy these options, try replacing them, in some of your drinks, with sparkling water!
Finding time to move or exercise over the holidays will help to expend additional energy, particularly if you are consuming additional energy from different food choices. Going for a walk, a jog, a swim, or playing backyard cricket are all good options!!!
Overall, it is perfectly reasonable to enjoy different food choices and some drinks with your nearest and dearest during the Christmas break - after all, food is part of how we socialise, communicate and enjoy ourselves. In saying this though, it can be good to put some of these principles in place to keep you safe, healthy, and fun throughout this period!
From all of us in team nutrition at SSMC, we wish you a wonderful Christmas and New Year, full of delicious and nutritious food!