Expert Karen Geary has your essential guide to enjoying the party while staying healthy and happy during the holiday season
Christmas brings joy, laughter and an abundance of delectable treats that tempt even the most dedicated health enthusiast. It’s a time when staying healthy and avoiding weight gain might seem like an insurmountable challenge. But with a mindful approach and a few simple strategies, it’s entirely possible to revel in the festivities without compromising your well-being.
The cornerstone of a healthy holiday season is finding balance. Enjoy the traditional holiday dishes and treats, but do so in moderation.
Allow yourself to indulge sensibly without over-indulging:
Portion control is key – three palmfuls of protein a day and one to two palmfuls of carbs. Fats are trickier. I normally say a matchbox size of cheese … but it’s Christmas! If you are a cheese addict, reduce the carbs to compensate.
Limit the snacks. I know, easier said than done with all the Quality Street hanging around, but we all know once you start, one becomes six and then all good intentions go out of the window.
Try to give your system four to five hours break between meals. I eat my Quality Street at the end of the meal with coffee – that way I can enjoy without eating too many.
Avoid the beige food at the buffet. Go for the crudités, maybe the smoked salmon, the salads and fruit … savoury over sweet!
Choose nutrient-dense foods
Christmas dinner is one of the healthiest meals we have – all that veg and lean protein! Load up your plate with colourful vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains.
These foods are not only nutritious but also keep you full, reducing the temptation to overeat less healthy options.
Mindful eating practices
Practice mindful eating: slow yourself down, savour each bite and try to listen to your body’s hunger cues.
Stop eating before you are full.
Mindfulness allows you to appreciate the food you’re consuming and helps you recognise when you’re full, preventing mindless overeating.
Maintaining an exercise routine over Christmas might seem challenging, but you really will feel better. Find ways to incorporate some physical activity into your festive schedule. Take family walks, join holiday-themed exercise classes, or simply dance to your favourite tunes.
Exercise not only burns calories but also boosts your mood and energy levels.
Before heading to a get-together, consider eating a small, nutritious meal or snack. Arriving hungry will inevitably lead to overeating. Additionally, contribute a healthy dish to the event, to ensure there’s something nutritious available.
Hydration is key
Amid the festive cheer, don’t forget to hydrate. Opt for water or herbal teas to stay hydrated and curb unnecessary snacking. Sometimes our bodies really do confuse thirst with hunger, leading to unnecessary calorie consumption.
Space out your alcoholic drinks with a glass of water in between each one.
Set realistic goals
Rather than aiming for weight loss during the holidays, focus on weight maintenance. Set realistic goals to stay on track. Celebrate small victories and remember that the holiday season is a time for enjoyment, not extreme dietary restrictions!
Share your health goals with your family and friends. Having a support system can help you stay accountable and motivated. Consider involving loved ones in physical activities or cooking healthier versions of traditional dishes together. More people than ever are health-conscious and are likely to welcome your initiatives.
Amid the hustle and bustle, prioritise some self-care. If you are the host, make sure everyone has a job to do; one tip I have picked up is to write all the tasks on small pieces of paper and let everyone draw one out of a hat – it might be ‘keep drinks topped up’, ‘washing up’ or ‘setting the table’, for example. People are always happy to help.
Try to get 15 minutes each day just for you. Adequate sleep is also crucial for overall health, so get some rest each night.
Christmas is a time for celebration, not a time for guilt or deprivation.
Enjoy it your way by making conscious choices that you know will nourish your body and mind.
I hope you have a very merry Christmas – and thank you for reading me this year!