The festive season has officially begun and bringing with it social events, late nights, and overindulging. For many, this time of year can feel quite stressful when there are so many social events going on, but with a little knowledge, motivation, and planning, you can stay happy and healthy during the party season and enjoy a positive start to the new year. Nutritionist Jaana Harris from The Round Clinic is here to tell us how to do exactly that.
Beat The Bloat
For many people, the festive season can feel like a never-ending meal, and a continuous challenge to beat the bloat and not gain extra pounds. Christmas time should be about spending time with family and friends, and while food is an enjoyable part of it, remember to be mindful of what you’re putting into your body, and aim to maintain your current weight. Here are some simple guidelines that will help you do that:
- Avoid going to functions and parties on an empty stomach, and try to eat a light, nutritious snack beforehand as this can prevent consumption of high calorie party food and help you avoid overeating. Some healthy food choices might include a slice of whole grain toast with avocado or some yoghurt with a handful of fresh berries.
- It’s not only about the quality – quantity matters also. Be mindful and watch your portion sizes, and try using a smaller plate if you struggle with understanding portion control or have weak will power when it comes to food. This will also assist in keeping the calorie count down.
- Aim to eat healthier food choices that are lower in calories, sugars, saturated fats, and salt. Check the healthy party food suggestions below.
- Choose foods that keep you feeling fuller for longer and that don’t cause spikes in blood sugar levels. These are foods with a low Glycaemic Index, such as whole-grains and legumes, which are broken down by the body to release sugar slowly to make us feel fuller and help maintain good energy levels.
Stay Hydrated and Avoid Excess Alcohol Consumption
Christmas time is a social time, and while alcohol can add enjoyment to the occasion, it’s important to keep in mind that overconsumption of alcohol can lead to weight gain, fluid retention, and dreaded hangovers! The diuretic effects can also lead to dehydration. Make sure you are drinking adequate amounts of water during the day of an event where drinking may be involved. Herbal teas, coconut water, and mineral waters (carbonated and still) are excellent sources of fluids to stay hydrated. Aim for 6 to 8 glasses of hydrating fluids a day.
Every country has it’s own similar guidelines, but the national Australian guidelines recommend that “for healthy men and women, drinking no more than two standard drinks on any day reduces your risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury over a lifetime. Drinking no more than four standard drinks on a single occasion reduces the risk of alcohol-related injury arising from that occasion.” Here are some simple tips to avoid weight gain and prevent excess alcohol consumption.
- Watch and have understanding of your serving size. Some establishments may serve beverages in larger glasses, or in large quantities
- Be careful with top-ups. Finish one glass before having a top-up, as this helps you keep track of how much you are drinking
- Try and have a full glass of water after an alcoholic beverage
- Aim to consume the recommended amount
- Try to avoid drinks with a higher calorie content, for example cream based cocktails (which are high in fat), and fruit based cocktails (which are high in sugars)
- Mixing drinks with soda water is a good way to reduce calorie content
- Set limits for yourself and adhere to them
- Eat before or while you are drinking and drink slowly
The following day after a party or a big event, stay hydrated and eat foods that promote detoxification. The diuretic effects of alcohol cause the body to lose some important electrolytes like potassium and sodium, but foods like bananas are rich sources of potassium and can help to replenish the body’s stores. Berries that are rich in antioxidants can help to repair damaged cells and play an inflammatory role in the body. Nuts are also an excellent source of magnesium, a mineral which is diminished from cells during a hangover. Eggs are a protein food rich in cysteine, an amino acid that produces the antioxidant glutathione in the body. Glutathione helps to breakdown the toxic by-products produced with excess alcohol consumption too. These are just some of the many foods which may help the body to recover from excess drinking.
Read more! Check out these handy Hangover Cures from our friends around the city.
Get a Good Night’s Sleep
Did you know that how much sleep we have can influence our food choices and how much food we actually consume in a day? Studies have shown that sleep deprivation has direct effects on eating behaviour and can increase appetite, influencing the preference for high calorie, and high carbohydrate foods. These associations may be mediated by specific hormones released by the brain. The “hunger hormone” ghrelin, for example, increases due to lack of sleep, while the “appetite suppressor” hormone leptin, decreases in sleep deprivation. Follow these simple tips for getting a good night’s sleep during the party season:
- Bed is for sleep, not for screens, so try and avoid looking at your phone, Ipad, or any other devices for at least 20 to 30minutes before bedtime
- Create a relaxing environment in your bedroom
- Aim to get to bed at roughly the same time each night to maintain a steady sleep pattern
- Avoid high fat, rich, spicy meals before bed, and allow time for food to digest before you go to sleep
- Avoid stimulants like caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol before bed
- Try not to “clock watch”, as this can heighten anxiety about sleeping
- Essential oils like lavender can promote relaxation (read more about essential oils here)
- Certain foods can help to promote sleep, such as bananas which provide a good source of tryptophan and magnesium, which both help to regulate sleep hormones such as melatonin and serotonin
Read more! Sleep easy with these helpful tips to beat insomnia
Include Exercise into Your Daily Routine
Exercise will help you to burn excess calories consumed during the party season. There are many benefits of exercise: it’s good for keeping the waistline down and helps prevent risk factors for diseases like cardiovascular disease and type II diabetes. In addition, it’s great for mental health and stress relief, so keep your body moving with these handy tips:
- Set yourself goals for exercising each day, and include some weight training as part of your exercise regime. Remember, muscle burns more calories than fat!
- The cooler months bring excellent opportunity to get outdoors, and Hong Kong has many beaches which are excellent for playing football, cricket, and walking. We are also blessed with beautiful hiking trails and outdoor group exercise classes which you can join (check out the best free group workouts here)
- Ask for a gym membership as a Christmas present
- If you’re travelling on vacation, remember that one of the best ways to explore a city is to walk
- Find an exercise that suits you and fits into your lifestyle
It’s also important to remember that eating a balanced diet which is rich in nutrients will help keep your immune system strong over the cooler winter months. It’s essential to include all of the five main food groups into your daily diet. These are the macronutrients, protein, carbohydrates (try and stick to whole-grain varieties and legumes etc), healthy unsaturated fats (nuts, oily fish, avocado etc), and the micronutrients which are the vitamins and minerals (primarily found in fruit and vegetables).
Consuming a balanced diet, in conjunction with getting adequate hydration, sleep, and exercise will not only help you to feel your best, but also look your best. Remember that while Christmas is a social time, and food can play a wonderful role in bringing people together, being mindful of what we eat and how it affects our body can help to beat the Christmas bloat.
Read more! Discover more helpful tips and information in our Wellness section.