Article by William Best, Dietitian at Vital Health Kingaroy
Many of us have been trying to make conscious food choices throughout 2021. After some lockdown blues and comforting snack choices when feeling isolated, we may be having a few reservations about the abundance of ‘sometimes foods’ at the multiple parties and gatherings during the holiday season. While eating healthy is a big part of our overall health and wellbeing, the ability to enjoy food also plays an important role in our health. The end of year celebrations are a time of fun, joy, and good food! It is not a time for excessive restriction or self-punishment. Don’t let the fear of food ruin an enjoyable evening and time with family and friends. I know, I know… this is easier said than done. So to help you with this, here are a few tips that might help us all enjoy the well-made meals, without allowing the holidays to turn into to a big, prolonged binge.
1/ Plate portions: give your gut a gift.
The roasts, the BBQ’s, the potatoes in all their forms. It’s easy for our Christmas meals to be packed with fatty meats and excess carbohydrates. There’s usually more on the table than meat and potatoes. You don’t have to give up these foods to have a healthy Christmas. Instead adapt your portions to include the good stuff as well. An easy tool to implement is plate proportions:
a. ½ your plate with low starch vegetables (mainly vegetables that aren’t potato, sweet potato, corn, or other root vegetables),
b. ¼ of your plate with protein (meats, cheese, eggs, beans)
c. the remaining ¼ with carbohydrates (bread, potato, rice, pasta).
2/Listen to your body, for your body is a blessing.
This is all about pacing yourself and checking in with your hunger levels during the festivities. Mealtimes are not a competition or a race, there’s nothing to gain from eating the most or the fastest. Listening to your body during a meal can take the following forms:
- Take a regular amount of food the first time round – there will always be an opportunity for seconds later!
- Remember to chew your food well and chat with those around you during the meal to avoid eating too quickly.
- Regularly check in with how your body is doing; is your gut actually hungry or are your eyes seeing the excess food on the table?
- Remember – you don’t have to finish the food on your plate if you’re full! This also goes for those times of the day between meals where there may be leftovers or snacks available around the house. Practice mindful eating by asking yourself: am I hungry, bored, or eating just because there is food in front of me?
3/ Hallelujah for hydration! Remember to drink water with your meal.
Remember that clear, unflavoured goodness that we so often forget to drink when we are having a good time? If you needed a reminder, here it is. Staying hydrated cures a myriad of ailments (especially those that we might feel on boxing day if we are enjoying ourselves on Christmas day!) and makes it easier to know when we’re feeling full. No doubt the beer, wine, spirits, and soft drinks will be flowing on Christmas day, along with hot chocolate and eggnog and other sweet drinks. While these are all fluids, their water content will vary, and some will even dehydrate you further! We tend to eat plenty of salty, sugary, or savoury foods that make us thirsty which then leads to eating more or drinking more calorie rich drinks.
Try drinking one cup of water for every meal and one cup between meals. When you have water with a meal you will feel satisfied more quickly and recognise when it’s time to put the knife and fork down.
4/ Box it up – food for days!
Sometimes when we see a plate or a table full of food, we feel like we need to finish the whole lot! Thankfully we live in a time when we have refrigerators, freezers, ovens and microwaves to help with keeping food safe and edible for longer. If you’re hosting a meal, plan to buy some extra food containers that you can pack leftovers into. If it’s a good meal, wouldn’t we want to have it again? You can pack it up for yourself, or send your guests home with small boxes of leftovers for everyone to enjoy! Depending on how much leftovers you have, you have could be eating a Christmas dinner for a whole week. Yum!
From all of us here at Vital Health – we wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy Holiday to all!
William Best, Dietitian at Vital Health Kingaroy