How to stay healthy in the holidays
Oh, Christmas. It’s the most wonderful time of the year, right? I mean what’s not to love about exchanging presents with family and friends while wearing daggy reindeer t-shirts and belting out ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’ #mariahforever. But while the parties and celebrations are a great way to promote some extra festive cheer, the downside is they tend to lead to overindulging. According to Nutrition Australia, Aussies gain on average 0.8 to 1.5kg over the Christmas period, and this weight is rarely lost once the holidays are over. I think the key to avoiding the holiday bloat is to remember, ‘everything in moderation’, but I also asked some experts for their opinion. Here are their insights and healthy eating tips for enjoying the Christmas period while maintaining your health and wellbeing!
Why do we overindulge?
I don’t know about you but when I see a gingerbread cookie I just can’t resist having one (or five). Urban Remedy's Steph Lowe, Founder of The Natural Nutritionist, describes why we can fall into this trap. “The festive season is usually a very busy time of year and some people change their focus - there’s work parties and Christmas shopping for example, and we don’t prioritise our day-to-day nutrition.” Fitness guru Dani Stevens also explains, “Many unhealthy elements of the holiday season are disguised as joys – cookies, Christmas ham, parties, late nights, cocktails and lack of food planning.” Guilty!
Common Christmas traps
There are a few traps we tend to easily fall into over the Christmas period. Steph explains, “We’re receiving chocolates and wine as gifts and there are more social occasions that are catered. For some, this can be the catalyst to drop their usual routine of prioritising real food, grocery shopping and food preparation.” Nutritionist and Vitasoy Ambassador Zoe Bingley-Pullin tells us the classic Christmas trap is, “Not eating before an event and just thinking you’ll eat when you’re there – this is the worst! You often get there, you have a drink, your blood sugar destabilises and your cravings for unhealthy foods increase, which can all just lead to overeating.” Her advice? “Just have even a small snack before you go, so you’re not faced with drinks and canapés and other temptations on an empty stomach.”
- It’s all about balance! Steph tells us, “Keep the balance! If you’re going to a Christmas party in the evening, eat light but nutritious food during the day – think smoothies and salads. This can create balance with your overall intake as it’s the total sum of what you’re eating that really counts. You can have your cake and eat it too, if you look for ways to create balance during the festive season.”
- Hydration is key! Zoe’s advice is to, “Be smart and drink water, water water! We’re [often] eating quite a few dehydrating foods or drinking more alcohol than normal over the Christmas and New Year period. Drinking more water will help you stay hydrated and flush out toxins.”
- Look for alternatives. Dani suggests aiming to eat a different fruit or vegetable each day in December as a way to stay healthy and motivated! Steph’s advice is to, “Look at your consumption of plant materials (veggies), proteins and good fats – this will ensure you stay nourished and satiated.” Zoe recommends bringing a healthy dish to family and social events. “It’s a great way to try out that new dish you’ve been eyeing off, plus you can ensure there’s something nutritious there you can eat and enjoy!”
- Keep moving! There’s no doubt that finding time over the holidays to exercise is more difficult than usual, but Zoe explains its importance. “My best advice is to keep moving, even if it’s just for 15 minutes a day. And be creative about it! This month I’m doing #xmas25squats for every day in December!” Finding the time to do these little challenges is a great way to stay on top of your festive fitness!
- Be realistic! We all know that indulging at Christmas is inevitable so it’s necessary to keep your health and wellbeing goals over this time realistic. Dani offers some advice, “This might mean reassessing your eating and fitness routines and to make sure they’re working for you and your work, social and family commitments.”
- Don’t beat yourself up. After all, Christmas is a time we should enjoy. While it’s important not to go nuts with your food and alcohol intake, it’s also vital not to be too hard on yourself. Dani tells us, “I believe the worst trap we can fall into is beating ourselves up about an indulgent time! Yes, it happened, but you can take steps to get back on track, like doing a juice cleanse come January!” Zoe agrees being critical of yourself is not productive. “Remind yourself it’s ok to overindulge a little sometimes, to celebrate every element of eating. You’re an adult and you can take responsibility for your eating and enjoy it.” Amen, Zoe!
So, beauties – when it comes to Christmas and holiday festivities, remember you can be a little naughty and still end up on the Nice List! Enjoy your time off work, being with your families, appreciating the sparkling beauty of the streets lined with fairy lights and the New Year’s fireworks. When it comes to staying healthy, it’s essential to find a balance and fit some exercise in where you can – but most importantly, don’t beat yourself up if you fall off the wagon – you can always jump back on in the New Year!
How do you stay healthy over the festive season? Are these tips helpful for you?