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'Tis the season...

Staying healthy over the Christmas period,
by Deepa Mistry

18 December 2018

Christmas is a fun filled festive day enjoyed with family and friends. We often associate Christmas with lots of great food and alcohol as we celebrate this joyous occasion as a nation. The temptation for our healthy habits to slide is both alive and alluring. So, here are some hints and tips for staying healthy during the festive period.

1. How to stay healthy over Christmas

Breakfast:
Start your day right with a healthy and nutritious breakfast to fill you up so you are less likely to snack on unhealthy food during the morning.
Festive breakfast ideas include:

  • Cinnamon porridge
  • Banana, pecan and coconut overnight oats
  • Poached eggs with smoked salmon and spinach on wholemeal toast
  • Breakfast smoothie

Stay hydrated

As the weather gets colder it gets harder to want to hydrate yourself. During the winter it is hard to tell when your body is dehydrated. Mild headaches, fatigue, exhaustion and dizziness may be symptoms of dehydration. It is important to stay hydrated throughout the festive period and to drink 1.5-2 litres of water a day (6-8 glasses). Remember, sometimes our bodies can misinterpret thirst for hunger.

Hint: To increase your water intake you can set daily mini goals,. E.g. drink hot water, carry a water bottle with you, infuse it with limes, lemons, berries, cucumber or cold tea infusions found in the supermarket.

Sensible snacking:

Christmas is a time of year where everyone likes to snack and nibble whilst spending quality time with loved ones. It is important not to mindlessly snack on treats such as mince pies, chocolates and other sweet foods as they are so easily available during this festive period- spend a moment to think if you really want it or are just eating it because it is there.

Healthy festive snack ideas include:

  • Fruit kebabs
  • Prosciutto rolls filled with rocket/asparagus/cucumber or pepper sticks
  • Courgette or butternut squash roasted fries with a lovely spicy yogurt dipping sauce
  • Pesto roll ups- using grilled courgette or aubergine slices as a ‘roll’, fill with chicken/turkey meat and pesto and secure with a cocktail stick
  • Grilled halloumi cheese

Christmas dinner tips:

Christmas dinner is a festive feast that we look forward to all year round. During Christmas dinner, eat a normal-sized meal, and take your time to eat it. After a 20-minute break check in with your hunger cues, see if you are still hungry. If you are, then help yourself to more.

A great Christmas dinner could include:

  • 2-3 slices of Roast turkey/chicken/beef/lamb
  • Roast potatoes (A palm size portion)
  • Plenty of vegetables including roasted carrots, parsnips, brussels sprouts and any other steamed vegetables you may eat for Christmas dinner
  • A small portion of stuffing and pigs in blankets- try an alternative of a vegetarian stuffing instead of a pork stuffing
  • A small Yorkshire pudding
  • A serving of gravy

Hint: Christmas pudding, fruitcake and mince pies are all very high in added sugar and calories. If you fancy some at the end of the meal, have a small portion and take your time to savour it, to really enjoy it and make it last.

christmas dinner

2. Social Events

As we are approaching the festive season there may be several social occasions such as office drinks, Christmas parties/events and social gatherings with family and friends. These events are good opportunities to build new habits in a social setting by avoiding overeating, lowering your sugar intake in beverages and controlling your alcohol consumption.

Here are some helpful tips for when you’re planning an evening out:

  • It is useful to read the menu before you get to the restaurant and make healthy meal choices before you arrive to avoid impulsive decisions. As you are more likely to make unhealthy meal choices when you are hungry or distracted by the sight and smell of food.
    Hint:Look out for healthy cooking methods such as steamed, grilled, roasted or poached.
  • If you are very hungry when you arrive at the restaurant, you may end up eating too much or snacking on nibbles before your main meal. One way to avoid this is by having a healthy snack before you arrive such as rice cakes and peanut butter, yogurt and berries or hummus and carrot/cucumber sticks.
  • Try eating your meal mindfully and take time to savour the flavours of your meal. Chew your food thoroughly and eat slowly as this can help you eat less and make you feel full more quickly. Remember to check in with your hunger cues. It is important to be wary of restaurants’ portion sizes and aim to feel satisfied but light after your meal.
    Hint:You can split a healthy starter with a friend and take leftovers home in a doggy bag for lunch the next day. Try to skip dessert and enjoy a lovely herbal tea/coffee instead.

Less sugary non-alcoholic drinks to choose from:

  • Still/sparkling water/soda water/slimline tonic water infused with fresh limes, lemons, cucumber and berries.
  • Cold herbal teas are refreshing and mostly caffeine free which is always a double bonus.
  • Sparkling water with no added sugar squash.

Less sugary alcoholic drinks to choose from:

  • Smaller glasses of wine/single spirits
  • Spirits including gin, rum, vodka, whisky, Bacardi, Cointreau and tequila
  • Mixers including slimline tonic water, soda water, sparkling water with fresh lemons, limes, cucumber
  • Dry wines rather than sweet wines
  • Cocktails including Mojito (without the added sugar), Skinny Margarita, Bloody Mary, Green Apple Martini, Wine Spritzer (with soda water)

  • Hint: A reminder that the public health guidelines on alcohol suggest limiting your consumption to 14 units per week*.

3. How to stay fit over the festive period

As the Christmas holidays are approaching, we have highlighted some handy tips to help you stay active over a stereotypically relaxing period. Why not use opportunities such as less time at work, more time with loved ones and crisp winter air to keep fit this Christmas! Here are some ideas to keep active during the holidays:

  • Find out which walking trails are near you to enjoy winter walks with your friends and family
  • Spend time with the children in your family and friend’s groups. Children love to be active- take them to the park, take part in a dance off on the Dance Mat, or have a game of football outside!
  • Try a winter sport- it’s a great way to create memories with your loved ones by attempting ice skating or indoor/outdoor skiing
  • Complete everyday tasks such as getting the bus/train/tube a stop early, taking the stairs instead of the lift and parking your car further away from your destination
  • If you receive any fitness gifts at Christmas, why not start now!

Hint: Try to do 30 minutes of exercise a day during the festive period even if it is just going out for a brisk walk. Remember to check with your Healthcare Professional before undertaking exercise.

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*https://www.drinkaware.co.uk/alcohol-facts/alcoholic-drinks-units/latest...

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