A HEALTHIER CHRISTMAS

Christmas is notoriously known as a time for indulgence. Despite this time being a festive season, it should not be the time when one should justify overeating. It is understood that the last thing someone would want to hear around Christmas time is to eat healthy. Indeed, many people change their lifestyle around Christmas time and New Year as many tend to party and eat out. It is a good time to meet up with family, workmates, and old friends in a social environment and it is tradition for such social events to include an abundance of food and drink. The food usually served is not really the type of food most health experts and nutritionists recommend.

So, shall we take Christmas as a green light to indulge in food and then turn a new leaf in the New Year? Deep down, we all know that New Year’s resolutions are not usually kept! Would you rather be careful what you eat, not exaggerate, but still enjoy yourself? Wondering how you are going to survive this season? Indeed, there are different ways in which one can enjoy the festive season without disrupting a healthy lifestyle.

If you’re hosting your own dinner party, opt for lower calorie, less sweet, salty and fatty ingredients when preparing the traditional favourites with these tips:
• Make open-top mince pies. Using less pastry cuts down on calories and fat.
• Instead of sausage rolls, opt for chicken, vegetable and mushroom kebabs
• Don’t use cream or cream cheese for dips. Choose tomato-based dips, such as salsa, lentil or chickpea dip. Otherwise, mix some chopped herbs into low-fat yoghurt. Use cucumber and carrot sticks instead of salty biscuits or sticks to dig in.
• Serve rice cakes, oatcakes, plain popcorn, walnuts, almonds, cashews, brazil nuts, sesame seeds, and pumpkin seeds that are rich in protein, essential fats and minerals.
• Serve mulled wine (mix wine with 100% freshly squeezed orange juice) instead of wine only or try non-alcoholic, low calorie drinks, such as home-made fruit extracts.
• Grill meat and fish on a wire rack to allow excess fat to drain off.
• Use healthier fats for cooking.                                                                                 • Opt for healthier options for dessert such as apples, apricots, banana, raisins, frozen berries or yogurt.

Be careful with food portions for yourself and when serving others. You may have spent a whole day preparing lunch or dinner for a whole family. If you serve a large pasta dish as a starter, no one would appreciate your efforts in cooking turkey as a main course. Small portions are enough. Another important pitfall during Christmas time is left overs. The best thing to do is use them during the next family meal or freeze them. This will also avoid food wastage.

Be sure to eat a healthy breakfast on the day of the party and do not starve yourself prior to the banquet as this will leave you so famished that you end up overeating. A bowl of porridge in the morning helps control your appetite later on in the day. Eat slowly as it takes approximately 20 minutes for the stomach to signal the brain that you’re full. This is why any meal should last at least that long to eat!

Buffets can be a disaster for someone trying to eat healthily. Fill half of the plate with salad and vegetables, and the rest with protein products like salmon or chicken.

Apart from watching what you eat, include physical activity in your schedule. Regular physical activity is important because it benefits your health and wellbeing. 30 minutes of moderate activity each day can improve your health and reduce the risk of developing certain conditions or diseases, manages weight control, and makes you feel good about yourself. This activity can be accumulated in bouts of 10 minutes or more if it’s more convenient. Remember, they say something is better than nothing, but more is better than something. Here are some tips:
• Take a walk outside.
• Plan well and fit exercise into your regime.
• Do not fall into the ‘all or nothing’ trap. If you missed on a day, don’t give up.
• Aim to do at least 10 minutes of exercise. Download a 10-minute workout and follow it.
• Exercise before eating.
• Do your own chores.
• Find a workout buddy to accompany you at the gym, for a walk, or join a zumba, pilates or aerobics class together.

These are simple tips on how you can enjoy the Christmas festivities and get through this period without too much of an impact on your health and waistline.

On behalf of all my colleagues at the department, I wish you and your families a blessed and healthy Christmas.

DR CHARMAINE GAUCI

© 2018 – VIDA Magazine