Christmas, for many people, is almost synonymous with overindulgence. Food-centred gatherings with free-flowing alcohol encourage us to eat, drink, and be merry. And while overindulging on a rare occasion is unlikely to do any damage, at this time of year many of us do so to the point of discomfort numerous times in short succession. Follow our tips to ensure you have a healthier approach to food & drink this Christmas.
The impact on health
Beyond discomfort, overindulging can have a negative impact on your health. It can lead to excess weight gain which increases your risk of many health conditions such as heart disease, cancer, and stroke to name just three. Overindulging in alcohol can also increase this risk, as well as negatively affecting your sleep and mental health.
It’s healthier to see Christmas as a way to enjoy special foods in normal proportions with loved ones, rather than as an opportunity to feast until you can’t move.
Be honest with yourself
It’s easy to keep munching on just one more chocolate, or have just one more potato, but every “just one more” quickly adds up. We tend to underestimate the negative impacts of unhealthy food, so be honest about what you’re eating and pay attention. Look at food labels and understand what you’re eating instead of guessing or burying your head in the sand.
Eat the healthy stuff first
Christmas dinners come with plenty of veg – gobble the brussels sprouts, carrots, and cabbage first so you know you’ve got your veggies covered and your five a day well under way. Then start on your protein, be that turkey, goose, or nut roast. Protein fills you up and helps stave off hunger, so it’s an important part of your meal and may help you eat less pudding.
Practice portion control & set your limits
It’s all well and good eating healthy things, but if you eat too many of them, you’re still overindulging and consuming too many calories. Look at your plate as if it’s a normal day – would the amount of food on it be considered excessive any other day? If you know you’ve got dessert coming, maybe skip the second helping of potatoes to help keep your calories under control. Similarly, think about how much alcohol is healthy to consume each day and when you will enjoy it most. Is it 2 small glasses of wine on Christmas day? Plan in advance when you will have each glass – maybe it’s one with lunch and one in the evening, and drink soft drinks the rest of the day.
Stop when you’re full
This isn’t always as simple as it seems, as some studies suggest that eating whilst distracted, e.g. whilst watching TV, can prevent you noticing when you’re full. Be mindful while you’re eating and try to avoid snacking in front of the TV, or you might find yourself as stuffed as the turkey.
Drink plenty of water
Sometimes we misinterpret thirst as hunger, so making sure you drink plenty of water throughout the day can help curb false hunger cues. It can also help to reduce your alcohol intake by filling you up with a healthy drink and reduce your risk of getting a hangover by helping you stay hydrated.
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