Oh the holidays, the most wonderful time of the year, somehow leaving us simultaneously filled with joy and a dash of regret all rolled into one when January comes around. But, remember to cut yourself some slack, it is possible to indulge in those Christmas cookies and a few extra cocktails without having to give up your healthy habits altogether.
During this busy time, it’s only natural to put friends and family first, and healthy eating second (or even third or fourth). I recommend implementing some form of routine and consistency, so you don’t fall off the bandwagon entirely. The last thing you want to find yourself doing is labelling those pre-existing health and wellness goals as New Year’s resolutions instead. This only makes them all the more of a hard task to achieve.
Here is a helpful guide to maintaining your health during the holiday season.
When it comes to your nutrition:
Sticking to simplicity is always best during busy periods. One of the easiest ways to avoid overindulging is to ensure you have some simple nourishing snacks on-hand for moments when you have to really grab and go.
Eating regularly also means you can sustain energy throughout the day and aren’t inclined to over-eat when you finally find the time to feed that hunger.
Keeping pre-made meals in the fridge or freezer cuts out the prep phase and guarantees you reach for something nutritious every time. Brands like Mighty Meals, made fresh, designed by in-house dietitians, and delivered straight to your door, can sometimes be more enticing due to the variety of options and cuisines available. When you’re feeling bored with your usual dinner recipes it’s definitely worth trying something you wouldn’t cook yourself.
Most meals during the holidays often end with the phrase “my eyes were bigger than my stomach”. Try portioning next time you’re having a shared meal, especially if there has been an amazing spread provided.
Aim to fill half your plate with the salad or vegetable dishes, add a palm-size of your protein (hello roast meats, yum!), and the remaining quarter of your plate with some carbs like potato salad, rice or pasta dishes, bread, etc. This is the recipe for satiation, and you’ll most likely still have room for some Christmas pudding.
If too much alcohol is what you’re worried about this time of year, my tip is to stay hydrated and pace your beverages. Alcohol dehydrates us and also needs to be metabolised before all else. Keeping hydrated helps your body to function at full capacity the following day, and means you are more likely to keep a regular routine following the celebrations. If there will be a high frequency of alcohol, remember you can always swap for low or no alcohol options!
When dealing with those elaborate platters that seem to be at every party and function, try to opt for a napkin or small plate to portion out what you would like to enjoy, and eat mindfully – more on this below. By grabbing things one at a time while socialising, this often leads to mindlessly consuming more than we realise.
Some other strategies include:
Mindful eating is a very useful tool, but it is much more than what meets the eye. It starts by ensuring we eat satisfying meals and snacks regularly throughout the day, so when it does come to mealtime, our body isn’t ravenous. Just like when you don’t have water for a long time, the first sip turns into a skull, and you wondered where this passion for water came from!
Same with if you over-restrict your food. Avoid this at all costs. In addition, mindful eating can involve: reducing distractions (phone away/tv off); taking the time to truly enjoy the food – focus on the flavours and textures of the food; chew well (to a paste consistency); and listen to your fullness signals – aim for about 7/10, where you are satisfied but not uncomfortable. If you have to unbutton the jeans, you’ve gone that little bit too far (no judgement though, we’ve certainly all been there).
Try not to completely disregard routine when possible, even if rough, it can help prioritise your healthy habits over the holidays. That all or nothing mindset is what we don’t want to get trapped in. When it comes to keeping active, ensure you are also prioritising your sleep and maintaining your ‘health basics’. The more simple you make it, the less barriers you have to actually achieving it.
If your holiday schedule is looking hectic and a routine is out of the question, why not try simple organisational tactics like making to-do lists. Being able to tick off tasks and see what you’ve achieved will keep you in the productivity mindset and avoid falling into a holiday slump.
Throughout this holiday period, try not to guilt-trip yourself on a well-deserved rest from an exhausting year. Whether that means treating yourself to some delicious meals or celebratory drinks, indulge in moderation and be as mindful as possible.