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Is there any such thing as a healthy Christmas? Did you know the average person can consume a large 6000 calories on Christmas Day! Enough calories to last an average woman three days. This is not the end of it – there will be the Christmas parties, drinks and nibbles with friends, and all those left overs. It is a difficult time to stick to our usual healthy eating habits and exercise regimens. We need to enjoy ourselves but also not make it too difficult for ourselves in the New Year with a big weight gain and lethargic bodies to deal with.
If you’re going to a party straight after work, don’t skip lunch for fear of overdoing your daily calorie intake, you will be so hungry and probably make bad food decisions. By eating a light lunch and then shortly before you go have a snack such as a yogurt or a couple of pieces of fresh fruit and a handful of nuts, this should take the edge off your hunger. Faced with a buffet, resist the temptation to start filling your plate at one end of the table and continuing to add to it until you reach the other. Portion control at a buffet can be difficult for even the most determined healthy eater, so before you pick up a plate, pause to look at all that’s on offer, decide on perhaps three things you’re going to enjoy most and then help yourself to just these. Once you’ve selected your food from the buffet, step away. When food is within easy reach we’re prone to graze mindlessly, and try to avoid too many crisps and salted nuts, they’re loaded in calories and salty too which will make you drink more.
Many festive favourites are loaded with calories, fat and sugar (mince pies, Christmas cake, Christmas pudding, big tins of chocolates), but there are plenty of healthier seasonal options to enjoy, Brussel sprouts, dried dates, chestnuts, cranberries, salmon, satsumas, almonds, Brazil nuts, pomegranates and fresh figs are all more healthy seasonal treats. So try to go easy on the fat laden, sugary treats and nibble on the healthy ones. Avoid overloading on starchy carbs by replacing some roast potatoes with parsnips, celeriac or sweet potatoes.
Dinner with family and friends often means we spend longer sitting around the table and the longer we linger, the more likely we are to keep eating even if we’ve had enough. So clear the table when everyone has finished eating and move into another room to continue the conversation this way you won’t be tempted to overeat. Also listen to your body and give it a chance to feel hungry before you eat and it’s good to make sure you really savour the indulgent things and eat them slowly and mindfully.
So try to pace yourself, it’s so easy to cram in too much then wonder why you’re so worn out. Burning the candle at both ends also affects your waistline, as too little sleep causes leptin levels to drop and trigger hunger, while levels of ghrelin increase telling the brain we need to eat.
Try keeping some healthier snacks to hand in your bag when rushing around doing the Christmas shopping, this means you won’t succumb to those fat-laden coffee shop options when you need a mid-shop energy boost, some fresh fruit, or small bag of nuts and seeds will keep your energy levels up.
Don’t forget alcohol is packed with empty calories, and research shows alcohol not only increases our appetite but can weaken our willpower, meaning we’re even more likely to overindulge on festive nibbles. By adding ice to alcoholic drinks you will dilute them, choosing lower-alcohol drinks such as spritzers and punch will cut the calorie count.
Exercise will help you to maintain your weight during this time, so instead of sitting in front of the TV go for a walk with the family, hit the golfing range with friends, go for a swim or if it snows build a snowman, and don’t forget your personal trainer is on hand to help you get through this season of excess.
Remember everything in moderation and have a very Merry Christmas.