With so many parties, family gatherings and dinners at this time of year, it’s not unusual for most of us to greet the new year a few kilos heavier than we’d prefer. If you, like Time Out, are determined to break the habit of a lifetime, it doesn’t mean missing out on socialising – all you need to do is make the right choices.
‘One greedy day is not going to be a problem,’ explains Kathleen Farren, a nutritionist at Dubai’s Awazen Spa who runs a Zest4life healthy-eating programme. ‘However some people let their eating habits slip for the whole of December to celebrate Christmas, and that’s when damage can be done.’ Farren is adamant you can still enjoy Christmas without depriving yourself, merely by thinking twice about the treats you would normally reach for out of habit. In order to maintain your weight over the next few weeks, here are her essential tips.
• Have breakfast and snack regularly on healthy fruit and nuts. Eat every three hours so you won’t be too hungry at the festive lunch.
• Don’t go to a party hungry. If you do, you’ll be fighting your body’s urges for sugar.
• Sip liquids slowly while eating, as they dilute digestive enzymes that we need for healthy digestion. This will help prevent bloating.
• Use the plate model: fill half your plate with vegetables, a quarter with protein (such as turkey) and a quarter with carbohydrates (such as potatoes).
• Drink plenty of water and make sensible beverage choices. Don’t mix your drinks and avoid creamy short drinks and red grape.
Essential swaps to make over the festive season
For many people, it’s traditional to have a big fry-up on Christmas morning, but opt for a healthier version: eggs, mushrooms, tomato and smoked salmon. Don’t skip breakfast – this will merely slow down your metabolism and make it harder for your body to cope with a binge later in the day. If you’d normally opt for croissants, swap in a bowl of muesli or cinnamon porridge.
There are often bowls of snacks scattered around at parties for guests to nibble on, but instead of filling them with cheese straws, Twiglets, sausage rolls, salted nuts and sweets, choose unsalted nuts, vegetable crudités and dips (salsa or moutabbal) and offer people canapés of smoked salmon or mackerel pâté on oatcakes. If you’re feeling kitchen confident, you could also try making your own mince pies using wholemeal flour, instead of shop-bought shortcrust options.
At Christmas dinner, eat turkey without the skin, and opt for mashed sweet potatoes instead of those roasted in fat. Don’t consume too much dried fruit, and don’t go wild on the gravy – especially when it’s made with turkey juices.
If the idea of swapping Christmas pudding for a bowl of fresh berries and ice cream sounds utterly unforgivable, keep your portions small, and try to up your exercise levels. One of the most obvious ways to avoid weight gain is to maintain your exercise routine throughout the period. Go for a walk after a big meal to use some of the energy you’ve just consumed and aid digestion. When you return, you may find yourself less inclined to eat another plate of food.
What to eat at a canapés party
Stick to olives, which are high in good fats, and vegetable crudités – hummus and guacamole are both acceptable dips as they contain good fats, while hummus has protein, which will help to stablise blood sugar (leaving you feeling less hungry). A small portion of cheese is also okay. If you’re going to eat nuts, ask your host if they have unsalted options.
What to drink
Keep your water intake up each day, whether you’re consuming still or sparkling. If you’re drinking something stronger, stick to bubbles, dry grape, short drinks and sugar-free soft drinks, all of which are less calorific than hoppy beverages or sugary mixed drinks.
Zest4life’s next 10-week weight-loss programme starts on January 8, 2012. For info, vist www.zestforlife.eu or call Kathleen on 050 227 3153.
Three to avoid
Cakes and sweets
Unsurprisingly, these are both high in sugar and saturated fat, and contain virtually nothing of any nutritional value.
High in sugar and loaded with calories, alcohol is bad for the liver when consumed in excess. It also lowers energy and acts as a depressant. It will stop you from keeping up your exercise routine.
These refined snacks are dripping in saturated fats. They won’t leave you feeling full, so they’re simply empty calories.