It’s Chriiiiistmaaaas! Tis the season to indulge, and why not? The British Nutrition Foundation states that, on average, we may gain a pound or two over the festive period (but for many this could be a lot more) and this weight may be difficult to shed. Is it possible to indulge healthily?
There are lots of articles about how to make healthier choices and reduce your calorie intake over the festive season. It’s true that a lot of festive food and drink comes with a hefty calorie count (don’t forget the alcohol calories) but for many people, the festive season is one where indulgence is integral to the celebrations. Articles like this from the British Nutrition Foundation, are fantastic resources on how to make healthier choices but they won’t necessarily make you popular with your family, friends or colleagues and for many, making healthier choices simply isn’t an option. When faced with tempting indulgences, many find it almost impossible to resist and numerous parties, family traditions and the abundance of accessible treats for potentially weeks before and after Christmas only exacerbate the issue.
The best way to avoid holiday season weight gain is to subtly change your behaviour around food so you naturally eat less. This is a lot easier than trying to continually resist the smorgasboard of festive treats. Of course, it’s best to go for only the healthier options but it’s Christmas and for many, with the best will in the world, this just isn’t possible. Be realistic and allow some indulgence but try these simple behaviour hacks so you can enjoy your festive season without feeling like you’re compromising (though one mince pie is definitely better than two!)
- Try to move unhealthy snacks away from the main walkways in the office. It’s easier to avoid eating snacks if you don’t have to walk past them.
- Even better if you can put them in the kitchen or coffee area.
- If you do go to get a snack, whether it’s a chocolate, biscuit or piece of cake, limit how much you take. One piece is enough.
- Keep snacks in a lidded container and keep the lid shut. The more inaccessible you make treats, the less likely people are to eat them.
- Avoid storing lots of snacks in your desk, especially if they are in large packs like biscuits or chocolates. It’s just too tempting to keep grazing. Either keep snacks into small portions, leaving the rest at home or keep some healthier snacks in your desk such as small pots of dried fruit and nuts (but don’t eat these AS WELL as chocolates!)
- It’s Christmas and you want to celebrate but if you’re finding that every day brings a new suite of snacks, chat with your colleagues to see if you can agree just one day a week on which there are snacks available to limit the damage.
- Eat a wholesome snack such as wholegrain toast and peanut butter, oatcakes with cottage cheese or yoghurt and fruit before the party so you don’t end up drinking on an empty stomach.
- Alternate alcoholic drinks and water (go for sparkling water with a squeeze of lime so it feels more exciting).
- If it’s a buffet, survey the whole buffet before picking up your plate and take just one of each offering that you fancy, including some fruit or veg based options.
- Sit down to eat and don’t sit or stand eating too close to the buffet as you’ll be more tempted to start picking.
- If it’s a sit down meal, try to eat slowly and chat in between mouthfuls so that your appetite can kick in naturally when you’ve had enough.
- Eat the less energy dense foods like soup, bread (use butter sparingly) or vegetables first – they’ll help to fill you up so you are less likely to then overeat.
- Once you’ve finished eating, get up from the table and have a wander round – have a dance, explore the venue, chat to others but try to get moving to avoid the temptation to remain around the food.
- If there’s a free bar, try to pace yourself and avoid lining up the drinks – order one at a time!
- Start with a small but healthy breakfast such as fruit and yoghurt, scrambled eggs on wholegrain toast or porridge with berries. You’ll be less inclined to snack and less starving by lunchtime so less likely to overeat. Skipping breakfast inevitably leads to ‘having chocolate for breakfast’.
- Eat off smaller plates. It might feel odd to be eating off a medium sized rather than dinner plate but you will eat less – we tend to eat more from larger portions whether it’s from a jumbo sharing bag of crisps or a large loaded dinner plate.
- Serve the food in the kitchen and eat away from all the serving plates so there is less tendency to go back for seconds.
- Chew slowly and really savour your food, the tastes, textures and aromas. Take time to eat mindfully and it will mean you eat less as your appetite has time to kick in.
- Make sure that half your plate is vegetables as the fibre content will fill you up with fewer calories than the roast potatoes and pigs in blankets!
- Clear food away as soon as everyone has finished or you’ll be tempted to continue picking.
- Once you’ve eaten, go out for a walk, play charades or get everyone to help clear up and wash and dry the dishes – it gets you moving and stops the temptation to eat.
- Wrap up leftovers securely and put them in the fridge – the more inaccessible you make them, the less likely you are to start picking.
I’d really recommend reading Brian Wansink’s book, Slim By Design, as it contains some great tips on changing your environment to make eating more healthily a lot easier than just relying on willpower.
Header photo from https://unsplash.com/@heftiba