Nutritionist's Top Tips for Healthy Eating This Christmas
With the holiday break just days away, it's easy to get swept up in the festive cheer and overlook your dietary habits. But who says you can't indulge in your favourite holiday treats and maintain a balanced diet? This year, let's switch things up! We've compiled some handy tips to help you navigate the Christmas feast without compromising on your health goals. Keep reading for a guilt-free, mouth-watering, and nourishing holiday season!
Healthy Substitutes for Traditional Holiday Ingredients
Foremost on the list, it's about planning. Thinking about your food choices ahead of time can save you from spontaneous, often unhealthier, options. Nutritionists suggest that one of the best ways to avoid overindulgence is to be prepared. If you know you have an array of holiday parties or family dinners on your calendar, make the effort to eat lighter meals on the days leading up to these events. This strategy can balance out your overall caloric intake for the week. It doesn't mean you have to starve or eat boring salads all the time - just make sure you're filling your plate with loads of colourful veggies, lean proteins and healthy grains.
Now, let's talk about appetisers - this is where the true challenge lies. You'd want to start off on the right note, yet your eyes land on the tempting cheese platter and fried items! Fear not, for there are plenty of nutritious and tasty alternatives. Opt for a rainbow-coloured veggie platter with a hummus or Greek yoghurt dip, stuffed mushrooms, or shrimp cocktail for a lean protein option.
Moving on to the main course, moderation is key. Savour your meal by taking small bites and chewing slowly - this actually aids digestion and helps you feel satiated quicker. It's also a great idea to fill half your plate with greens or other non-starchy veggies. As for proteins, opt for lean options such as turkey or seafood. Or, if you're vegan like me, choose options like lentils, chickpeas, or seitan.
The sides at your Christmas feast can either be your best friend or worst enemy depending on your choices. Instead of going for the rich creamy mashed potatoes or buttery rolls, why not try a quinoa salad or roasted veggies cooked with olive oil? These healthier alternatives not only pack a flavour punch but also keep your meal balanced.
Saving the best for the last - desserts! Who can resist those divine sweet treats that pile up around Christmas time? For a healthier twist, you could indulge in dark chocolate-covered strawberries or make a lighter version of your favourite pie with less sugar and whole grains. You could even try creating your own Christmas treats at home using alternative sweeteners like honey or maple syrup, and swapping out butter for applesauce or Greek yogurt. By making these simple adjustments, you can reduce the calorie count and increase the nutrient profile of your favourite treats. So go ahead and indulge, guilt-free.
Don't Forget to Stay Hydrated!
Keeping your body well-hydrated is crucial for maintaining health, especially during the holiday festivities. A healthy body needs adequate fluid to function properly and to avoid dehydration. When you're well-hydrated, digestion is more efficient, nutrients are better absorbed, and toxins are flushed out more effectively. So, remember to sip on water regularly throughout the day - not just when you're thirsty. A great tip to ensure you remain hydrated is to always have a water bottle handy.
Rethinking your alcohol consumption during the holidays can also contribute significantly to a healthier Christmas. Excessive alcohol can lead to dehydration, poor sleep patterns, and even disrupt your body's metabolic processes. An alternative could be to alternate alcoholic drinks with non-alcoholic ones, opt for lighter options, or consider alcohol-free alternatives. One of my personal favourites is Kombucha!
Managing Social Pressures and Temptations
Navigating the social landscape during the holiday season can be a challenge, particularly when it comes to maintaining a healthy eating regimen. But not to worry, you're not alone. It's all about strategy, and with some savvy tactics up your sleeve, you can successfully avoid undue holiday indulgence.
Start by setting your intentions beforehand. Before attending any social gathering, have a mindful game plan in place. Anticipate the types of food that could be present, and plan your portions accordingly. Knowing your limitations beforehand can prevent mindless grazing and hasty decisions.
Keep the conversation exciting and engage with the people around you. It's easy to overeat when you're not paying attention to your food because you're involved in a deep chat. So, turn the tables and let the discourse be the star of the evening, not the food.
Finally, try not to give in to the temptation of "just this once," but treat yourself occasionally with your favourite Christmas delights in moderation. Remember, it's okay to say no to second helpings and excessive sweets.
Supplements to Get You Through the Holiday Season
Even with the most well-intentioned meal planning, it can be a challenge for your body to get all the essential nutrients during the holiday rush. From irregular sleep patterns to excessively rich foods, the holiday festivities can compromise your nutritional balance. That's where supplements step in as your secret weapon.
Vitamin C and zinc are two key immunity-boosting supplements often suggested by nutritionists, especially during the holiday season. These can help your body stay resilient while strengthening your immune system to resist seasonal infections. Remember, even though Christmas and New Year's parties often feature plenty of citrus fruits and seafood, which are high in Vitamin C and zinc, a supplement can make sure your body gets the right amounts.
On the other hand, a probiotic supplement can help maintain a healthy gut. This is especially relevant amidst the holiday indulgence, which often disturbs our digestive system.
Lastly, if the holiday stress is keeping you awake at night, consider reaching for a magnesium supplement. Known for its calming properties, magnesium can promote more restful sleep. Be it from dietary or supplement sources, keeping proper magnesium levels will keep you rested and relaxed to better enjoy the holiday season.
Riya Lakhani-Kanji MSc ANutr is a registered nutritionist and health writer with a special interest in plant-based nutrition. She has completed a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Human Nutrition, and has developed a passion for writing about all things plant-based.