Don’t get me wrong…I love Christmas as much as the next person. The endless eating, presents, movie marathons and the Christmas parties and drinks! However, I’m also aware of that gloomy feeling come January when you feel far from healthy and spry!
It’s not surprising to know that the average person puts on 6lb of weight over the Christmas period, and roughly 6000 calories are consumed on Christmas day alone (this is 3 times the recommended daily consumption for women, and 2.4 times the amount for men)!
First things first, my food philosophy is one of balance and still being able to enjoy what you want to…. for me it’s about everything in moderation. Christmas should very much be a time for celebration and relaxation.
So, I thought it would be good to share my top tips for beating the Christmas bulge AND still being able to enjoy the festive period!
- Eat breakfast – Start your day the right way – it sounds pretty simple however if we start as we mean to go on we are much more likely to continue good habits throughout the day. It has been shown that people who eat breakfast regularly have a more balanced weight than those who do not. Make sure your choice of breakfast is a protein rich one which will satiate you and keep you fuller for longer. Foods like eggs, porridge and greek yoghurt are all good examples.
- Maintain your blood sugar balance – what does this mean? Eating what we call low glycaemic load (GL) foods (which are complex, unrefined carbohydrates such as wholegrain bread, brown rice and pasta) take longer to break down once consumed compared to simple, refined carbohydrates such as white bread, white pasta etc. and they release sugars more slowly into your bloodstream. This means that you don’t get a sugar spike and energy release is more stable throughout the day. Also, adding protein and a small amount of good fat to each meal will also help with appetite control.
- Be mindful of your sugar intake – often foods have a traffic light diagram on the bottom right hand corner of the label – you may be surprised at some of the foods that are in the red categories, and these are the ones that should be avoided or consumed at a minimum.
- Choose wisely when it comes to alcohol – its highly likely that your alcohol intake will increase over Christmas. This in itself will contribute significantly to your calorie intake as alcohol provides you with 7 calories per gram, second only to fat which gives us 9 calories per gram. The key here is to stick to clear spirits or drinks that aren’t full of added sugar. Spirits like vodka, gin etc. (with sparkling or soda water) are a better choice over wine, beer and cocktails.
- Eat before any Christmas parties – this will give you more control over the food you eat at parties. Canapes alone can contain 100 calories each and don’t tend to be hugely filling. Eating fibre rich foods will ensure you stay fuller for longer and help to suppress any sugar cravings.
- Practice mindful eating – again this sounds pretty simple however in reality we can sit in front of the TV and eat for hours without really feeling full. Being fully aware of what you’re eating with no distractions (sitting at a dining table and not in front of the TV, properly chewing each bite etc.) can help your body to tell you when its full and when you should stop eating.
- Be mindful of portion size – eating off smaller plates can be a huge help in not overeating throughout the Christmas period. Top up your plate full of fibre rich vegetables and lean protein (turkey being a great example) and eat these first, leaving less room for more dense and calorific foods.
- Make sleep a priority – lack of sleep can increase our cortisol and adrenaline levels, which can in turn increase our appetite. Some studies show that sleep deprivation can cause people to overeat on the following day, choosing high sugar and high salt foods over fruits and vegetables. Use this time to reduce any sleep debt you may have by getting a good night’s kip (min 7-8 hours per night).
Lastly, I hope some of the above will be useful and that you have a great festive period with your loved ones!