Christmas excess? Try to Beat the Bloat...
On How to Enjoy the Festive Season and Maintain your Health...
The festive season has officially begun and bringing with it social events, late nights, and overindulging.
For many, this time of year can feel like a never ending meal.
Christmas is always a joyful positive occasion, however for some it can be stressful when there are so many social events going on.
With a little knowledge, motivation and planning, you can stay healthier
during the festive season, bringing you a positive start to the new year!
Tips to avoid weight gain over Christmas:
Avoid going to functions and parties on an empty stomach.
Eating a light nutritious snack prior to partying can prevent consumption of high calorie party foods. This also helps to avoid overeating. Some healthy food choices might include a slice of whole grain toast with avocado or some yoghurt with a handful of fresh berries.
Be mindful and watch your portion sizes.
It’s not only about the quality. Quantity matters also. If you struggle with understanding portion control or have weak will power when it comes to food, try using a smaller plate. This guarantees a smaller portion and assists in keeping the calorie count down.
Fill up on foods that are nutritious and lower in calories such as vegetables.
Choose foods that keep you feeling fuller for longer and that don’t cause spikes in blood sugar levels. These are foods with a low Glycaemic Index. They are broken down by the body to release sugar slowly to make us feel fuller and help maintain good energy levels. These foods include whole-grains and legumes.
Have realistic goals over the Christmas period. Aim to maintain your current weight. Christmas time should be about spending time with family and friends. Food is an enjoyable part of Christmas. Just remember to be mindful of what you’re putting into your body. Aim for healthier food choices and limit foods high in sugars, saturated fats and salt.
Healthy Party Food Choices:
Raw Vegetables with dips such as salsa, avocado, hummus, tatziki
Fruits and fruit salads
Protein foods like grilled chicken, salmon or fish skewers
Turkey is a lean protein food. Avoid eating the skins which are high in fat
Pita and wholemeal breads with dips
Nuts (Almonds, Cashews, Walnuts, Brazil nuts). Nuts provide an excellent source of healthy fats for our diet. Just remember to eat only a small handful at a time, as they are high in calories and will contribute to weight gain if eaten in large amounts.
Party Foods to Limit:
Deep fried foods and pastries (sausage rolls, pies)
Cakes and desserts
Candy canes and high sugar confectionaries
Hydration & Tips to Avoid Excess Alcohol Consumption: Christmas time is a social time and alcohol can add enjoyment to the occasion. It’s important to keep in mind that overconsumption of alcohol can lead to weight gain, fluid retention and hangovers (!). The diuretic effects can also lead to dehydration. Make sure you are drinking adequate amounts of water during the day of an event where drinking may be involved. Herbal teas, coconut water and mineral waters (carbonated and still) are excellent sources of fluids to stay hydrated. Aim for 6-8 glasses of hydrating fluids a day. The National Australian Guidelines recommends that “for healthy men and women, drinking no more than two standard drinks on any day reduces your risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury over a lifetime. Drinking no more than four standard drinks on a single occasion reduces the risk of alcohol-related injury arising from that occasion.”
Every country has it’s own similar guidelines (2). Tips to avoid weight gain & prevent excess consumption:
Watch and have understanding of your serving size. Some establishments may serve beverages in larger glasses, or in large quantities.
Be careful with top-ups. Finish one glass before having a top-up. This helps you keep track of how much you are drinking.
Try and have a full glass of water after an alcoholic beverage
Aim to consume the recommended amount
Try to avoid drinks with a higher calorie content for example cream based cocktails (high in fat), fruit based cocktails (high in sugars)
Mixing drinks with soda water is a good way to reduce calorie content
Set limits for yourself and adhere to them
Eat before or whilst you are drinking and drink slowly.
The following day after a party, or big event, stay hydrated and eat foods that promote detoxification.
The diuretic effects of alcohol cause the body to lose some important electrolytes like potassium and sodium.
Bananas are a rich source of potassium and can help to replenish the body’s stores.
Berries rich in antioxidants can help to repair damaged cells and play an inflammatory role in the body.
Nuts are an excellent source of magnesium. The mineral magnesium is diminished from cells during a hangover.
Eggs are a protein food rich in cysteine, an amino acid that produces the antioxidant glutathione in the body. Glutathione helps to breakdown the toxic by-products produced with excess alcohol consumption. These are just some of the many foods which may help the body to recover from excess drinking.
Remember there is no magical cure for a hangover (aside from abstinence...!). Sleep Did you know that how much sleep we have can influence our food choices and how much food we actually consume in a day. Studies have shown that sleep deprivation, has direct effects on eating behaviour. It can increase appetite, influencing the preference for high calorie, and high carbohydrate foods.
These associations may be mediated by specific hormones released by the brain. Ghrelin referred to as the “hunger hormone” increases in response to lack of sleep whilst Leptin the “appetite suppressor” hormone decreases in sleep deprivation(1.) Tips for Getting a Good night’s Sleep During the Christmas Period
Bed is for sleep. Not for screens. Try and avoid looking at your phone, ipads and devices for at least 20-30minutes before bedtime.
Create a relaxing environment in your bedroom.
Aim to get to bed at roughly the same time each night.
Avoid high fat, rich, spicy meals before bed. Give time for food to digest before going to bed
Avoid stimulants like caffeine, nicotine, alcohol before bed
Try not to “clock watch”, as this can heighten anxiety about sleeping.
Essential oils like lavender can promote relaxation
Certain foods can help to promote sleep. Bananas provide a good source of tryptophan and also magnesium, which both play a role in regulating sleep hormones such as melatonin and serotonin.
Tips for Including Exercise into your life over the Christmas period: Exercise will help to burn excess calories consumed over the silly season. There are many benefits of exercise, it’s good for keeping the waistline down and helps prevent risk factors for diseases like cardiovascular disease and type II diabetes. In addition it’s great for mental health and stress relief.
Set yourself goals
The cooler months brings excellent opportunity to get outdoors. Hong kong has many beaches (excellent for football, cricket, walking), hiking trails, outdoor group exercise classes
Include some weight training as part of your exercise regime. Muscle burns more calories than fat!
Ask for a gym membership as a Christmas present :)
If you’re travelling on vacation, one of the best ways to explore a city is to walk!
Find an exercise that suits you and fits into your lifestyle
Eating a balanced diet rich in nutrients will help keep the immune system strong over the cooler winter months.
It is essential to include all of the 5 main food groups: the Macronutrients Protein, Carbohydrates (try and stick to wholegrain varieties, legumes), healthy unsaturated fats (nuts, oily fish, avocado) and the Micronutrients which are the Vitamins and Minerals should be included in the diet. These are primarily sourced through vegetables and fruit.
Consuming a balanced diet, in conjunction with getting adequate hydration, sleep and exercise will not only help you to feel your best, but it will help you look your best.
Remember that Christmas is a social time and food can play a wonderful role in bringing people together.
Being mindful of the foods we eat and the different role they play in our body can help to beat the Christmas bloat!
1. Australian Department of Government and Health. “Alcohol”. http://www.alcohol.gov.au/
2. Bhanot JL, Chhina GS, Singh B, Sachdeva U, Kumar VM. REM sleep deprivation and food intake. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol. 1989;33:139-145