Christmas can be a tricky time for those of us who are health conscious or watching our weight. You work hard all year round to eat better and exercise more for it to feel as if it’s all been undone over a couple of indulgent weeks.
Does it have to be this way? We spoke to dietitian Sian Porter to get some tips on how to avoid overeating on Christmas day – and on the days leading up to it, and after, too.
What preparations can you make in advance, if any, to ensure you don’t eat excessively over Christmas?
Avoid the seasonal aisle in the supermarket so you’re not tempted. If it’s not in the house, you cannot eat it so don’t buy it in the first place. When you do shop, have a list and stick to it. Cast your eye over your trolley before you check out and remove anything not on your list bar things like dog food you may have genuinely forgotten!
Have more healthy choices on offer such as fruit (a bowl of satsumas looks very Christmassy), unsalted nuts, vegetable sticks with salsa and lower fat dips. Don’t get too hungry – have an appropriate-sized healthy breakfast and a healthy snack late afternoon.
Visit the buffet only once – move away and clear your plate as soon as it’s empty. If you are entertaining, don’t over-buy however tempting the offer is. Freeze leftovers or send them home with guests rather than putting them in the fridge or eating them because they’re there or you don’t want to waste them.
When eating, use a smaller plate and smaller glass. Fill your plate up with healthier choice foods first like veg and salad leaves leaving less room for less healthy choices.
Keep up physical activity over Christmas by walking, cycling, housework, working out in the gym, dancing, gardening, chopping logs, playing active games or an organised competitive sport.
Try and have meals rather than grazing. Eat slowly and plan how you eat. Look at the menu beforehand, make your choices and stick with them. A good trick for tackling a Christmas goody such as a mince pie is to take the lid off to halve the pastry.
When it comes to drinks, stock up on low sugar or sugar-free soft drinks. Order a small e.g. 125ml wine rather than a large 250ml glass.
If you feel an urge to overeat, what tips can help you ride through that?
Ask yourself why you are eating – are you hungry? Is it because you can see the food is available? Is it to be social? Is it boredom? Are you feeling down? Are you eating out of habit?
The idea is to identify the triggers and find other ways to combat these feelings or to manage the behaviour. Being mindful is key.
If you can see the food then move it out of sight or move away from the buffet, if the office kitchen is heaving with treats avoid going in there or have some fruit or a handful of nuts in your bag as an alternative.
Chew some sugar-free gum for a short time to subdue the urge. Limit your portions to no more than two items at a time.
Balance is the key – indulge here and there, embrace it, don’t feel guilty or apologise and move on.
If you feel your binging is out of control then seek professional help.
Is overeating such a bad thing anyway? Will it harm you?
Enjoy Christmas day in all its glory but don’t make it an eat-and-drink-athon for the whole month.
Excess calories leads to weight gain and extra drinks and snacks can become a habit.
Overeating can lead to raised blood pressure, indigestion and other gastric problems, difficulty sleeping and can have other effects on your health.
Indulge here and there. Balance nights out and celebration meals by eating lighter beforehand and afterwards. Nobody is perfect and trying to be is exhausting.
Should we avoid specific kinds of food to prevent overeating?
It’s not healthy to view foods as “good” or “bad” – it’s about balance, moderation and having a healthy relationship with food.
Choose low-energy density foods, such as fruit, vegetables, soups and fibre-rich foods like wholegrains, beans or pulses, and use lower-fat options and cooking techniques.
Avoid snacks that are low in essential nutrients and high in salt, fat or sugar.
So now y’all know!