Healthy eating this festive season

Holiday time is when we have left work behind, put our feet up and we are ready to relax. Often holidays go hand in hand with delicious, decadent food that is often given out in large spreads. The festive season is a time to be enjoyed with family and friends but that doesn’t mean your waists have to widen because of it. Here are 12 tips for how to eat healthier this festive season:

1. Eat something small before heading out to family and friends
Often at big gatherings it takes the host a while to get all the food prepared, so eating a light snack like a small tub of yoghurt and a fruit, a FUTURELIFE® High Protein LITE Smartbar, or a slice of bread with peanut butter on, will help. This prevents you from overeating and devouring the first thing you see.

2. Avoid the chips and put out healthier snack options
South Africans love to nibble on chips and dip before a braai or any big meal. Not only do chips generally provide empty calories with not much overall nutritional value, but they are also typically high in trans fats which have been seen as harmful for your heart. Rather snack on dried fruit and nuts, or even fresh sliced up veggies with dip, which are high in fibre, vitamins and minerals.

3. Limit your calorie intake from drinks
Holidays are a time to unwind and celebrate but do be careful to drink too many calories. Alcohol and fizzy drinks are the biggest culprits. Opt for diluted fruit juice or stick to good old water for general thirst quenching, and if alcohol will be featuring in the festivities, choose drinks that are lower in calories such as whiskey and water, or wines, and remember to choose low calorie options as alcohol mixers too. Drink a glass of water in between as well to rehydrate and keep the calories down.

4. Caution for portions
Watch how much you are dishing up. There is normally a greater variety at events such as a Christmas lunch, so if you want to try it all, dish up one mouthful of each dish not a full serving of each.

5. Use smaller plates and bowls
This tricks your eye into believing you’re getting a full plate of food, and despite the fact that there is less food, you’ll often get full off it. Try also buying plates with a side rim and dish up only in the centre circle. This will help you dish less and be satisfied too.

6. Make sure vegetables feature
At festive meals the focus is normally on the roast that mom has been slaving over in the kitchen for hours or the crispy potatoes that your uncle loves. Generally we don’t get too excited about the vegetables prepared. Remember to dish up vegetables as they are high in fibre, high in vitamins and minerals and potentially lower in calories depending on how they are cooked. Aim to get your plate to meet the ‘Plate Model’ recommendations by having half a plate of vegetables, quarter plate protein and a quarter plate starch.

7. Be careful of add-ons like gravy and dressings
Festive meals generally seem to get smothered in gravy and sauces as we get more ‘fancy’ in our meals. Gravies, sauces and dressings can often add unnecessary calories to a meal which can be avoided. The best would be to cut them out, but if this is not possible then try dishing up less or use lower fat, sugar and salt options. Making your own sauces and foods will help control what’s in them rather than ready-made sauces.

8. Eat slowly and mindfully
When you eat slowly it gives your stomach time to process what you are eating and let you know when you are full. You will feel fuller sooner during the meal if you do this, thus helping you eat less as you will stop when needed.

9. Don’t feel the need to finish all the food prepared
People tend to over-cater on events so rather than feeling forced to finish a lot of food, leave it as leftovers for the next day or bless someone in need with a meal of your leftovers.

10. Choose your splurges
At special events during the festive season there may be more treats on offer. At the start of the meal see what there is for the whole meal from beginning to end and pick one splurge. By picking one ‘splurge’, you allow yourself a treat which is more realistic than trying to eat only salad all the way through the meal.

11. Stop when you feel full
Special occasions often lead to excessive eating which then leads to being so over engorged that you have that uncomfortable bursting full feeling. Listen to your body’s cues before it gets to that point and follow all the above steps to prevent this. One should leave the table feeling satisfied but with the potential to have just one more bite.

12. Walk around, play with the kids, or swim after a big meal
The festive season is a time to socialise and spend time with your loved ones, so after the meal take a walk around the neighbourhood together, play a game of garden soccer or swim with the kids. Getting moving will help you digest your food and burn some calories too. Try wait a while before you move around to prevent a stitch and don’t make it too strenuous as it may make digestion and the physical activity uncomfortable.

The festive season is a time we all enjoy so there should be no reason to feel guilty, embarrassed or uncomfortable. By following these easy tips, you and your loved ones will have a merry and joyful festive season eating healthily.