The Christmas survival guide: 12 tips to keep you feeling your best

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Many Australians will admit to letting the belt buckle hole stretch further during the festive season as they celebrate the end of another year with loved ones. During Christmas and New Year, food and alcohol are in abundance and with so much temptation it can be hard to maintain that summer bod you’ve worked hard for. This blog provides 12 hot tips to help you get through this food and booze frenzy!

1. Fuel up with a wholesome breakfast

As chaotic as Christmas morning can be; skipping breakfast is something that needs to be avoided. Breakfast is considered the most important meal of the day as it helps to ‘break’ the overnight ‘fast’. Incorporating fibre into your breakfast will help you to feel fuller for longer and stop that mid-morning slump where you will often find yourself reaching for a high-calorie snack. Some examples of a high-fiber breakfast include; rolled oats, 1-2 slices of wholegrain toast or 1 medium apple or banana paired with your usual breakfast food.

2. Avoid going hungry to parties

Whether it be a work Christmas party, an end of year celebration or the big Christmas day lunch, try and avoid leaving home on an empty stomach. Turning up to a party hungry means you’re more likely to over-indulge on energy dense party foods. Before leaving home try and make yourself a quick nutritious snack like a fruit smoothie or carrot sticks with a vegetable-based dip so that you’re not running for the buffet when you arrive at your social event.

3. Take a plate

Whether it be a work Christmas-do, a get together with your closest friends or Christmas day it’s a good idea to prepare a healthy dish to take with you, just so you can be sure that there will be something healthy to have. Some ideas might be a large bowl of your finest roasted vegetable salad or fruit skewers with a greek yoghurt dip.

4. Utilise mindful eating

Mindful eating helps to establish a mind-body connection that tells us when we’re hungry and when we’re full. It can also help us to make healthier food choices. You can do this by asking yourself what you are hungry for e.g. are you eyeing off that last piece of pavlova because its available or because you’re hungry for it. Slowing down while eating and enjoying the taste and texture of a food allows more time for fullness signals to travel from the stomach to the brain as it can take up to 20 minutes for this to occur. People who eat quickly will often eat and eat until they are stuffed which is often more than what their body needed.

5. Keep grazing under control

It’s quite easy to get carried away with a brimming platter board when you’re chatting with your favourite aunt that you haven’t seen all year. If you’re not sure how to control yourself try and stick to fresh fruit and vegetables as they’re full of nutrients and relatively low in energy. If you just can’t go past the cheese, try to cut thinner slices as cheese is relatively high in kilojoules – this will prevent you from going overboard and ruining your appetite for Christmas lunch or dinner. Better yet, stay away from the food table when you’re chatting with someone, you’re less likely to eat mindlessly.

6. Keep track of your alcohol

Alcohol is more often than not an ‘essential’ for many Australian households during the festive season but having one too many champas can certainly lead to a nasty hangover in the morning and some unwanted weight gain. One standard serve of champagne is ~100mL (270kJ) which can add up quickly throughout the course of the day. The NHMRC Alcohol Guidelines advise consuming no more than 4 standard drinks on a single occasion to reduce the risk of alcohol-related injury arising from that occasion. If you choose to drink:
• Watch your serving size! Many champagne or wine glasses are up to three times the serving size. A good way to know what a serving size looks like is to pour 100mL into a wine glass to see what it looks and feels like. Alternatively, all bottles should contain the number of standard drinks on the labelling. So, if the bottle is 750mL and you know that one standard drink is ~100mL you should be able to pour around 7 glasses from one bottle.
• Try and avoid top ups as you can easily lose track of how much you’ve consumed.
• Alternate between drinking alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. For a lot of people the sensation of holding a wine glass is what makes them drink. So instead of asking for another top up, fill your wine or beer glass with some water or soda water with a splash of lime juice to mimic the feeling of drinking alcohol.

7. Keep your mind busy

If you’re bored at a party you’ll likely find yourself hovering over the food platters and eating more than you’d prefer to admit. Start up a conversation with someone or take part in some backyard cricket to keep yourself busy and involved.

8. Practice portion control

If you tend overindulge with buffets, half fill your plate or use a smaller plate and wait 20 minutes before going back for seconds as it takes a while for your brain to register that your stomach is full. When it comes to indulgent high-calorie desserts opt for a smaller serving size which is large enough to get a taste and enjoy the moment. Avoid overdoing it so that you’re not feeling stuffed afterwards.

9. Focus on vegetables and lean protein

Most households utilise buffet style meal planning for Christmas lunch or dinner where guests portion out their own meals. So instead of dishing up large helpings of carbohydrate loaded pasta and rice based dishes, try and go for foods such as turkey or ham and accompany them with some vegetables or salad.

10. Drink plenty of water

During periods of heavy drinking during Christmas and New Year, it’s easy to become dehydrated as alcohol decreases the production of anti-diuretic hormone (which is used by the body to reabsorb water). A good way of keeping yourself hydrated to is to drink 1 glass of water for every glass of alcohol (this will also dampen your hangover the next morning). Drinking water regularly can also help you to feel full. By drinking 1 glass before a meal you’re likely to eat less. And with 0 kilojoules per serve you can’t go wrong!

11. Indulgence is okay!

To ‘eat in moderation’ is a term used by Dietitians on a regular basis. Eating in moderation means to eat healthy nutritious foods most of the time and to be able to indulge in pleasurable foods without any guilt on special occasions. Staying healthy over Christmas doesn’t have to mean that everything slightly unhealthy is off-limits. It’s important to treat yourself from time to time and Christmas is a perfect opportunity. So if you’ve been waiting all year to sink your teeth into your mums Christmas cake go ahead, #treatyoself. And when it comes to choosing that guilt-free treat maybe opt for something special and unique to the season like some gingerbread men or a pavlova and savour the moment!

12. Keep your goals in mind

If you’ve been working hard for that summer bod all year or even in the last few weeks leading up to Christmas, try and keep your body goals in check! It can be easy to fall into the mind trap that leaves you treating yourself left, right and centre just because it’s the silly season. Think about how far you’ve come and the motivation that got you there and stay within your boundaries. Over-indulgence can place you 10 steps back in your fitness journey that will have you dealing with the consequences for weeks to come.

Sophie Szczudlo

Sophie is a recent graduate from Griffith University with a Bachelor of Nutrition and Dietetics. Throughout her degree and during professional placement, she learnt and demonstrated several skills throughout clinical, community and food service settings. She also had the opportunity to work in a paediatric hospital as part of her clinical placement. Sophie is passionate about providing evidence-based personalised nutrition advice to her future clients to help achieve their goals and work towards maintaining a balanced and healthy way of life.

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