Tis almost the season to be jolly, but these days it all seems to kick-off long before you open the first door on your advent calendar… and continues past the sound of popping corks welcoming in the New Year.
Christmas can be a time for indulgence, but eating, drinking and making merry can cause you to seriously pile on the pounds over the course of a few short weeks. In fact, on average people gain between one and five lbs (0.5-2.5kg). And, you only need to take in 500 additional calories (kcals) a day over five weeks to see the scales register an extra 5lbs. 500 kcals may sound a lot but it doesn’t take much; just a glass of homemade mulled wine (271 kcals) and a minced pie (246 kcals). But, don’t despair, eating, drinking and being healthy this festive season doesn’t mean that you have to compromise on fun:
Start the day with a healthy breakfast. It’s easy to miss this important meal, or indulge to ease your Christmas party hangover. But, eating a good breakfast – protein rich smoked salmon or a bowl of wholegrain porridge topped with fresh berries and a swirl of a sugar-free liquid sweetener like SPLENDA® ZERO (if you like a little extra sweetness, without extra calories) – will help kick start your metabolism and keep you feeling full.
Get creative with advent. Even big kids love opening those little advent calendar doors – it’s the perfect excuse to eat chocolate daily (and at breakfast!) till Christmas. But, enjoying 25 days of chocolaty goodness will do your waistline no favours! A little chocolate Xmas character provides around 26 kcals, 1.5g fat, 2.8g sugar – even more if they are truffle or alcoholic filled – that’s an extra 650 kcals, 37.5g fat and 70g sugar over 25 days! Why not get creative with your countdown, instead?
Love seasonal fruit and veg. With the abundance of festive food, it can be easy to forget the basics of eating healthily and achieving the (at least) 5-a-day recommendation. Include at least two servings of fruit and three servings of veg each day, and I like to pile the veg on my plate first, rather than last. That means less room for calorie-dense, nutrient-lacking treats.
Make time for exercise. However well you plan, life is going to get hectic over the festive period, so schedule your 2.5 hours of moderate intensity exercise into your week now. Exercise is also a fabulous stress buster, as it releases endorphins, making you feel happier and calmer.
Don’t skip meals. If you’re going to the office party straight after work, or you’ve got a dinner date, don’t ditch lunch for fear of overdoing the calories. You’ll be famished and hungry people tend to make bad food decisions.
Try not to burn the candle at both ends. We cram in so much over the festive period, going out during the week and hosting family and friends at the weekends; not always giving our body the rest it needs to recuperate! Too little sleep can reduce the level of the appetite controlling hormone leptin and increase the hormone ghrelin, telling the brain you need to eat – and not always the right healthy food choices. Pace yourself!
Rethink tea breaks. Cutting down on the ‘white stuff’ is a tall order for anyone with a sweet tooth, especially around Christmas; an easy win are your tea breaks! Instead of adding sugar to your tea, swap to a low-calorie sweetener, like SPLENDA®. If you drink four cups of tea a day with two teaspoons (8g) of sugar in each that adds up to 128 kcals. Your sweet tea also tots up to nearly one 1kg bag of sugar over the 25 days of December and 3,200 kcals!
Be mindful. The key to a healthy diet is moderation, so allow yourself to indulge on occasion with a bit of what you fancy. But, do it mindfully; eat slowly and savour the taste, smell and texture of food, rather than mindlessly picking.
Keep calm. Christmas can be one of the most stressful times of the year – the expense of gifts and food, the pressure of shopping and the expectations can play havoc with your digestive system and health; where possible try to plan to minimise stress levels.
Treat sweets as treats. Everyone knows how hard it can be to eat healthily around Christmas. The constant supply of treats from guests and savoury snacks at work can be too tempting. Keep healthier seasonal snacks, like clementines, to hand; a medium clementine has just 25 kcals and will provide you 31% of your daily needs for immune boosting vitamin C and 1g of gut healthy fibre.
Wise-up to the buffet. Faced with a buffet, resist the temptation to start filling your plate at one end of the table and continuing to add to it until you reach the other! With such variety, portion control can be difficult; before you pick up the plate (always take the smallest!), pause and prioritise healthy choices. Choose fresh king prawns, smoked salmon, slices of lean ham and vegetable crudité. Now, step away.
Monitor portion size. The bigger your tableware, the more you’ll fill it; research shows that downsizing from a 12 to 10-inch plate could help you eat roughly 22% fewer calories, and you’ll not feel like you’re missing out because you’re getting a plateful! Christmas is the time to put away your plus-sized plates, bowls and glasses.
If you’re keen to find out more about making sugar swaps, or want to swot-up on healthy festive bakes ahead of the holidays, visit www.splenda.co.uk.