The summer holiday is the easiest time of year to break all your healthy habits, and gain unwanted weight.
We had a chat with nutritionist and dietitian Cindy Williams, to gather some advice on how to avoid overindulging in the Christmas party season.
1 – Don’t Go to Parties Feeling Hungry
Her top tip was to eat something with a bit of protein in it before you head to the work or sport club Christmas party. Don’t go feeling hungry.
“Often Christmas parties are after work and you’ve starved all day perhaps, to allow yourself room for the party. But we’re starving, we don’t have much self control,” she said. “That strategy works against you.”
She suggests a snack like yoghurt, or a sushi roll with some meat in it, to help stave off the hunger pangs until party time.
2 – Choose Your Drinks Wisely
If you’re drinking alcohol, alternate the beers and bubblies with non-alcoholic, low-calorie drinks. Loosing too much of your inhibition isn’t helpful if you’re trying to make good food choices.
“Alcohol loosens you up, relaxes you a little bit, and if you’re at a Christmas party and trying to not eat too much, it can loosen your resolve,” Cindy said.
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Sparkling mineral water is a good choice because it is not only calorie-free, but the bubbles of carbon dioxide also help your stomach to feel full. And because it’s a sparkling, it still feels like a party-drink rather than a plain water.
3 – Move Away from the Food Table
Avoid the trap of falling deep into conversation right next to the food table.
“You can often be chatting with a drink in one hand, and the other hand, without you even realising, going back and forward to the nut bowl or the chip bowl,” Cindy said. “Get a little bit of food and step away from the food table so you’re not unconsciously grabbing food.”
4 – Focus on Other People
This may seem like an obvious point, but if you’re deep in conversation, you’re not thinking about your stomach. Make your goal to focus on others at the party, rather than food.
“If you’re not starving hungry, you’re not focussed on getting something to eat,” says Cindy. “You can become so immersed in your chatting and talking, that you don’t want to eat so much. Plan to engage with other people, not to try out all the food.”
5 – Major on Bright Colours (Natural Ones!)
Yes, cheezels and lollies are colourful, but this tip refers to fruit and vegetable-rich foods.
Salads and fruit skewers are ideal, being high in nutrition, filling, and low in fat. Minimise the brown foods (deep fried foods, chips and pastries).
6 – Plan Christmas Day Well
When planning the family Christmas, Cindy says it’s best to fill up tummies with something healthy in the morning, so that people aren’t grazing on fatty nibbles until lunch time.
For lunch itself, offer healthy, appealing salads so that it’s not all about roasted, baked, fat-rich foods. Salads done well, look colourful and festive, and are both healthy and filling.
“I do a light breakfast or oatmeal pancakes, and then we usually do a late lunch with quite a range of different salads, a ham, poached salmon,” Cindy said.
Two Great Christmas Salad Recipes
Festive Green Salad
A simple green salad, but with festive extras thrown in.
Prepare a garden salad as you normally would, with ingredients like lettuce, rocket, baby spinach, cucumber, capsicum. Then add extra tasty bits such as pomegranate seeds, sliced pear, snow peas, asparagus and herbs.
Quinoa salads aren’t just light and tasty, but also filling, due to the protein content of the quinoa.
Boil your quinoa just like you boil pasta, and drain. Once cooled, squeeze fresh orange juice into the quinoa, add chopped mint and currants for sweetness and flavour, and toasted chopped almonds for texture and crunch.
Roast Veggie Salad
A summer party classic, roast veggie salad is colourful, nutritious and delicious.
Toss ingredients such as capsicum, chopped pumpkin, halves of red onion, baby carrots and small beetroots in oil, then roast in the oven at 200 C for about 30 minutes. In the last five minutes before bringing them out of the oven, toss some balsamic vinegar or red wine vinegar over the veggies, and in the final two or three minutes, add some spinach leaves into the mix, allowing them to wilt. Lastly, tip all the roasted ingredients into a salad bowl and crumble feta cheese over the top.
Cindy Williams is a nutritionist and dietitian whose life passions are summed up in the three words “Eat, Pray, Write” and who blogs at nutritionchic.com.