It is now mid December and with Christmas fast approaching this is usually the time when the “ah well it’s Christmas” excuse starts to trickle out of our mouths whenever we are near those tasty chocolates or at the bar asking for another glass of wine.
During the festive season we can easily end up overindulging with our calorie and alcohol consumption as we watch our waist lines expand. Research shows we can all expect to gain at least 1-2lbs during this time. (According to NHS Choices, a typical Christmas Day’s food can add up to a massive 6,000 calories – three times the recommended daily amount for most women, and over 2.5 times for most men.)
However is this surprising when we are faced with temptation everywhere we look? The shops are filled with Christmas delights as soon you walk through the door, our workplaces have more chocolate on offer than Willy Wonka’s factory and we have at least 3 Christmas parties to attend all that stipulate that a 3 course meal needs to be consumed….that's all before the big day is even here!
It is not just our waistlines that can be affected, the festive season can often bring many other detrimental health effects. While many people enjoy some time off work, the impact of Christmas can be negative with a range of factors contributing to making Christmas a busy and potentially very stressful time of year. These include pressures of shopping, time, financial concerns and social demands, as well as fatigue, general overindulgence and lack of physical exercise.
Active Health and Wellbeing have compiled some top tips for how some small changes can allow us to enjoy Christmas, while avoiding that guilt-trip in January while trying to squeeze back into those jeans.
1. Continue to eat your 5 a day
Just because it is Christmas it doesn't mean we can forget the golden rule of eating your 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day. Fruit and vegetables are part of a healthy, balanced diet and can help you stay healthy, especially during these colder months where various colds and viruses are rife. Evidence shows there are significant health benefits to getting at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day. They provide a good source of vitamins and minerals, including folate, vitamin C and potassium and are an excellent source of dietary fibre, which can help to maintain a healthy gut.
To increase vegetable intake, ensure half of your plate is filled with vegetables or salad when serving meals (fruit with breakfast)
2. Christmas snacking
Firstly, don’t give into the offers that confront you when you walk into the shop, I know Terrys chocolate orange are 2 for £1 but if you have two in the house you will eat them. If you don’t have them, you can’t eat them! Are you really sure you need to stock up the ‘Christmas cupboard’ just incase ‘Janet’ who you haven’t seen all year pops in?
In the workplace, when the office is flooded with sugary treats, having healthier alternatives to hand is a good way to avoid some of the temptation – stock up on healthy options like tangerines, handful of unsalted nuts, plain popcorn, wholegrain crisp breads, low fat cream cheese or dips and vegetable sticks. To avoid constant grazing every time you head to the kitchen or walk past the ‘snack table’ in the middle of the office….limit yourself to one indulgent snack each day (no not one box!!)
3. Christmas parties
We all know that Christmas dinner is going to be an indulgent meal and there to be enjoyed, however, even before the big day, you might eat several ‘Christmas dinners’ – whether that is Christmas lunch in the work canteen, or several ‘three course Christmas party’ meals.
If you’re going for a traditional Christmas dinner, then you’ll be pleased to know that many foods included are rich in essential nutrients. Love them or hate them, Brussel sprouts are full of folate, fibre and vitamin C, and remove the skin from turkey for a lower-fat, high-protein festive feast that is brimming with B vitamins. Just go easy on the extra gravy. If you’d rather avoid turkey, you could try a fish or vegetarian main instead. You could also try sharing a starter or a dessert with a friend or colleague so you can both have a three course meal without such a big volume of food.
4. Christmas Buffets
If you’re going to a party straight after work, ensure you have breakfast and lunch and maybe have a small healthy snack before you go, like some oatcakes with peanut butter, or a yogurt with fruit, so you don’t arrive hungry and dive straight into the nibbles. If there are nibbles or a buffet on offer, try selecting the healthier items first. Go for things like vegetable sticks, olives, and breadsticks and steer clear of too many choices with pastry or breadcrumbs.
When it comes to alcoholic drinks, choose sugar-free mixers, go for smaller glasses of wine and beer where possible and try including non-alcoholic drinks in between. Warning - cocktails can be filled with sugar and a lot of calories. If you do overindulge in alcoholic drinks, drink plenty of water before you go to bed and keep more by your bedside, as rehydration is key to help reduce the effects of a hangover and the ‘hangover binge’ that comes with it the morning after.
6. Keeping active
Keeping active throughout the festive season can help to burn of some of the extra calories, help keep your fitness up and may also help improve mood and sleep and can help to reduce stress. Even small amounts of activity, like a 10 minute brisk walk, can be beneficial for health. It can also be a good reason to get some fresh air and spend time with family off the sofa and outside of the house.
We wish you a happy and healthy Christmas :)