Tips for Eating Mindfully at Christmas

The holiday season spreads beyond the often calorie filled quintessential Christmas meal; it involves office parties, dinners with friends and family, and a New Year’s celebration or two. It is a time when a little over indulgence can occur; guilt free but over indulgence, large portion sizes and rich or sugar laden food options in abundance can be detrimental to a healthy eating and exercise program. 

To avoid being one of the many who consume over 3x the daily recommended amount of calories whilst still enjoying the festive season without feeling deprived the following suggestions may help to keep on track or inspire a new, nutritious take on Christmas and celebratory food options.

Be Mindful of Liquids Calories

Alcoholic beverages, soft drinks and other variations designed to quench thirst can all add to calories consumed with some even having as much calories as a meal. Some beverage options are also poor choices for hydration on hot summer days. Whilst water is still the best option to drink, opting for a glass of water in-between sweet beverages or alcoholic drinks can half the calories consumed that have little nutritional value. Alternatively, add some fresh sliced fruits or cucumber to  a large pitcher of water to add extra flavour.

Maintain Eating Routines

Skipping meals in preparation for an event or upcoming meal can be tempting but often results in overeating especially when pastries, crackers and other nibbles are on offer before the mains are being served. Maintain regular eating habits also provides energy for exercise and can ward off any lethargic feelings that can be associated with long periods without food and large amounts of consumption. 

Opt to Socialise instead of Graze

In some instances such as Christmas functions socialising is done over or near food offerings making it easy to consume calories without even being aware of the quantity or quality. This absent minded consumption can be avoided by moving away from the platters of food and mingling with people. Socialising is also a way to take extra time between bites as conversations flow allowing messages of fullness to be communicated to the brain minimising over eating. When it comes to the multitude of finger foods generally on offer chose what you would love to try the most, enjoy that, then decide whether or not you actually ‘need’ to eat anything else – if not then politely decline further offers as a little of everything can mean a lot of calories.

Make Some Modifications

Often the ‘Traditional Kiwi Christmas Feast’ includes a mix of chips and dip, barbequed meats, roasted meats and vegetables, coleslaw, salads and tomato sauce followed by Pavlova, ice cream and jelly. Slight changes to reduce calories but still maintain the celebratory feel of the food include swapping chips for vegetable sticks and salsa or hummus or popcorn, adding diced vegetables and meats to create colourful kebabs for the barbeque, serve raw fresh fruit platters and instead of serving a large variety of choices stick to a smaller section of well-prepared options.

It is important to remember that losing weight may be difficult at this time of year but taking steps to maintain or minimise potential weight gain can be very helpful.

And to ensure those little treats don’t have such a large impact on the waistline

Keep Active

Enjoy the warmer weather and reap the benefits of physical activity by organizing some backyard sport such as cricket, soccer or rugby. With both adults and children involved it is also a chance for quality family time whilst burning off calories. Add in some beach walks or other light exercise as an alternative to the gym, especially if regular classes are not scheduled due to the break.

Sources: Heart Foundation NZ

                  Diabetes NZ

                  Healthy Food NZ

                  Nutrition Foundation NZ