Expert tips for eating healthy and staying well during the season of indulgences. By Nicola Monteath.
The festive season can be an exciting, but tricky time for most of us – who can resist another one of the seasonal gingerbread cookie, pie or canapé? To ensure you survive the party season without putting on one too many pounds, follow our list of dos (Be nice) and don’ts (Don’t be naughty) from nutrition experts Alison Ramsay, Nutritionist at Smart Fitness training centre, and Stephanie Pech, Nutrition and Metabolic Balance Coach at Metabolic Balance nutrition programme.
Do eat before the party
It might sound strange to some, but if you head to a party or event on an empty stomach, you are most likely going to snack on canapés – most of which are high in fat. Try to eat a small nutritious snack such as fruits, a handful of nuts or crudités with a low-fat dip before heading out.
Do choose wisely
Avoid chips with dips, sausage rolls, mince pies and deep fried foods. Instead, look for unsalted nuts, olives, pretzels (watch the portion size) and vegetables with low-fat dips – so you can still eat, without being a party pooper.
Do eat turkey and oily fish
A whole roast turkey is the best part of the festive season! If you’re heading to a sit-down dinner, or even at the buffet, choose this healthy lean meat instead of beef or duck – go easy on the trimmings and gravy though. Oily fish such as salmon is also a good choice, compared to other fish that are not as high in nutritive value.
Do hit the gym
It can be hard to resist cheating on your diet at this time of the year, with the invites pouring in. If you do, try to make up for it with an extra session at the gym. Getting a gym buddy along might also motivate you, especially if the two of you are heading to the same gatherings and bingeing over the festive season together.
Do keep a food journal
By writing down everything that you eat or drink during the party season, you will be able to monitor all your dietary habits consistently, and manage your weight at the same time as well.
DON’T BE NAUGHTY
Don't tuck into the bread basket
At the start of your meal, try to avoid bread at all costs, and save room for healthier options such as salads, soups and oysters.
Don't choose a big plate
The bigger the plate, the more food you are likely to pile up on it. So choose a small plate and help yourself to smaller portions. When you are done with the first plate, wait for 15 to 30 mins to let the body register what you ate and digest properly. Only decide if you want to help yourself to seconds after those 30 minutes.
Don't go for beige
Try not to pick pastries, fried Asian snacks and crisps, as beige-coloured foods such as these are high in fat and low in nutrients. Look at it this way – if you know the dish will make a white paper takeaway bag see through, avoid it.
Don't drink too much
You might think you’re eating healthy by opting for salads or lean meats, but you could be unconsciously adding calories with your favourite cocktail or glass of wine. Alcoholic drinks are high in calories and will leave you feeling parched over the course of the night. Pair drinks with fresh natural juice instead of sodas, syrups, creamy liqueurs, fresh cream, egg yolk and coconut milk. Keep hydrated throughout by drinking a glass of water after every drink, and when you’re drinking wine, add ice cubes so it gets slightly diluted and also stays cool for longer.