Christmas, New Year, followed closely by Lunar New Year. The festive period brings with it celebrations (and a hint of drama) with loved ones and, of course, indulgence. Not treating yourself to all that amazing festive food would be criminal and it would be bad advice. A better suggestion would be: don’t over-indulge. So here are some tips on how to keep healthy over the festive period while still enjoying the festive treats!
Eat a Good Breakfast
You might be tempted to not to have breakfast or pop a tasty pineapple tart instead of having a nutritious meal. Skipping breakfast is guaranteed to make you over-eat during that big dinner or indulge in other sugary snack throughout the day. Get a balanced meal with good mix of proteins and healthy fats to stabilise your blood sugar levels. Great options include plain yoghurt, fruits, oatmeal or eggs. And if you need some inspiration, try these delicious no cook breakfasts and breakfast bowls.
Don’t Stop your Healthy Routines
I’m talking about both your healthy eating and exercise routines. A few slices of Christmas log cake isn’t a meal, so don’t be tempted to replace lunch with a plateful of festive treats. Your regular meals should still incorporate healthy portions of fruits, vegetables, good proteins, fats and complex carbohydrates. Equally important is making time for your normal exercise routine, even if you manage 20 to 30 minutes of it. Not only will it keep your metabolism up, but it will also reduce your cravings for sweet snacks and processed food.
Drink Up! On water that is
In our busy festive prep, it’s easy to forget about keeping yourself hydrated. Moreover, we tend to mistake thirst for hunger, reaching for a treat when what we really need is a tall glass of water. Fill up on water before a big festive meal by ensuring you have a jug of water with lemon near you all day. During the event, try to intersperse other drinks with a glass of water. These tricks keep you full longer, reducing the likelihood of over-indulgence.
Don’t Starve Yourself
Many people are guilty of “saving up” their calories for that festive meal. You starve yourself, picking on a biscuit or a tiny orange before that buffet, preparing yourself to get your calories-worth of food. The problem with this is you end up subjecting your body to sugar spikes that leave you craving foods that are high in sugar and unhealthy fat. So you end up eating way too much than you intended, possibly even raking up to 3000 calories in just one sitting! So eat normally, especially before you go for your celebratory meal. Have a light meal, such as a bowl of sugar-free cereal with Greek yoghurt and fruits, a bowl of vegetable stew or a high protein salad. If you feel satiated, you won’t be tempted to dive into the spread.
Think Before You Eat & Drink
Some tasty treats you get all year round, but there are those that only come round during the festive period (gingerbread cookies, eggnog, pineapple tarts, bak kwa…). Why waste your indulgence on foods that you can have anytime? Savour those special festive snacks you enjoy instead. In the same vein, be choosy during the feast. Appraise the spread first, from the starters to the desserts. Select those you know you must have and forget those you can live without (or pick up any other time of the year); it’ll save you the indigestion.
Calories also add up when you load up on alcohol because it is chockfull of calories and makes you less inhibited leading you to eat things you usually wouldn’t, especially fried and sugary treats. If possible, opt for non-alcoholic drinks. Otherwise, dilute your alcohol with ice or club soda, and try to avoid sugary mixers. Another useful rule is to have water or juice after each alcoholic beverage. Not only does this keep you satiated, but it also ensures you remain hydrated. And perhaps most importantly, eat something before you start drinking to cushion your stomach and decelerate alcohol absorption into your system.
Plan your Meals
It’s quite likely that you have to several sessions in a day where you will have to eat – either with colleagues or with friends. Having two lunches and two dinners is just not practical and can leave you feeling lousy at the end of the day. Before launching into a meal each place you go, plan your day in advance. Decide which locations you would like to have a proper meal at (maybe grandma’s home-cooked meal is way more worth it than your boss’s store-bought roasted turkey), and don’t be afraid to turn down invites or say no to force-feeding relatives. And as tempting as it might be, don’t go back for seconds. If you are hard-pressed to eat at each place, consider having a salad at one and a main at the next, though it wouldn’t be recommended.
Even when you do sit at a feast at one place, give the table a once over and ensure you have a nice portion of proteins, healthy fats and complex carbs if possible. Choose lighter options, and try to steer clear of the choices drenched in cream, butter, oil or refined ingredients (but don’t become obsessive about it). Think also about having a lunch or dinner at your place where you’re in more control of what you serve. This gives you the opportunity to incorporate healthier food options made using more nutritious ingredients.
The festive period tends to bring with it indigestion, bloating, constipation and a whole host of other stomach problems. You can choose to pop antacid like candies but a better bet would be for you to invest in a good probiotic, which is filled with good bacteria for your gut for healthy gut function. And we don’t mean “yoghurt drinks” loaded with sugar and preservatives. Find out more about how you can take care of your gut.
Whether you choose to buy them or not, you can easily incorporate foods rich in probiotics throughout the day and in between feasts. Examples of such foods include yoghurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir (what is kefir?), cheese and kombucha, which is a variety of fermented tea that is produced using a “Symbiotic Colony Of Bacteria and Yeast” (SCOBY). If you love your gut and want to invest in taking care of it, check out our Kombucha chronicles to get yourself specially crafted kombucha delivered to your doorstep.
You have enjoyed your night of feasting and still feeling the slight effects of a food hangover. Tempted to skip breakfast or perhaps you’re planning to starve the whole day? Think again. Even if you have gone a little overboard with food, have balanced meals throughout the day. Possibly the best breakfast you can have is eggs, especially an omelette loaded with veggies. Eggs are great as they provide choline which supports liver function. Complete your meal with a bowl of fruit or a smoothie. Opt for those packed with vitamins B and C, and antioxidants. The rest of your meals should be similarly nutritious.
Most importantly, it doesn’t matter if you have over-indulged. The festive season is hardly the time to worry about your weight. Aim to maintain your current weight over the festivities without putting on any. Immerse yourself fully in the celebrations, because spending quality time with loved ones is equally as important to your wellbeing as taking care of your health. Just remember, moderation is key.
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