Keeping the kilos off over Christmas
It is well known that most people tend to gain a few kilos over the Christmas break. With food being an integral part of Christmas socialising, it is easily done! Unfortunately, many people won’t end up shifting those extra Christmas kilos and more often than not, it is stored around the stomach – the most dangerous region to store weight. Not to mention the exorbitant intake of saturated fats, salts and sugars that commonly come hand in hand with the elaborate Christmas feast.
If you are wanting to lose or maintain your weight, however, it does not mean you have to sit this one out! We don’t want you to miss out on all of the pleasures of Christmas. The main issue is that Christmas feasting is not generally isolated to 1 day but rather extends over a few days or a whole week or more of gluttonous eating and a relaxed lifestyle.
Albeit delicious, unfortunately the mega portions of meats, carbohydrates (probably with only a small side of greens) and numerous types of dessert are a recipe for weight gain.
Because this food is so enjoyable (and I wouldn’t want to deprive anyone of their annual Christmas indulgence), I am going to provide some tips on ways you can still enjoy it without consuming a weeks’ worth of your calorie requirements in just a few days.
Tips to keep the weight off
Unfortunately moderation still applies. If anything, it applies even more so with these foods because they tend to be made with more fats and oils/ rich creams and salt than you would perhaps normally add. So either the cooking methods must be altered, or the portion sizes must be decreased.
- Firstly, be mindful! It is easy for your brain to switch itself off and allow you to go overboard with food, especially when those around you are. It may be tough, but you need to really concentrate on keeping your brain and sensibility switched on!
- If you struggle to keep yourself from serving a mountain of food (let’s face it, it’s hard not to) try using a smaller plate. It may sound ridiculous but using a smaller plate or even a bread plate can trick your mind in to being a lot more satisfied with the quantity of food you have served. This is particularly important as larger plates are becoming the rage!
- Try as best you can to stick to the ¼ protein, ¼ carb, ½ vegetable rule. You can still try a small amount of everything but it will be hard to keep within your energy requirements if you start to go nuts with meats and starchy vegetables. Fill up on your greens!
- If you are one of the cooks, try and limit the amount of oils and fats used for roasting meats and vegies. This can cut down the calorie count considerably. Cook your meat and vegetables on a rack so that the fat can drip off and be discarded. Making gravy that is not based on the fat drippings is ideal.
- Don’t serve your vegetables in creamy or cheesy sauces e.g. potato bake, cauliflower in white sauce. This is a very easy way to get those added calories in! Alternatively, use fat reduced dairy varieties.
- Go light on the gravy/ mint sauce/ apple sauce. Yes, it tastes great when your meat and vegetables are smothered in gravy but it can be a good sacrifice to make in order to still be able to eat your favourite Christmas foods and cut down on the calories. Perhaps it seems like an insignificant element but these are the things that all add up.
- Avoid pork crackling or only have a small piece. After all – this is just fat and salt!
- Want to try each of those 5 desserts on the table? Instead of taking a slice of each, take only a very small portion of each, like a tasting plate. Alternatively, opt for the fruit salad.
- Ignore people ridiculing you for watching your portions. Unfortunately this happens frequently and can coerce you in to eating more in order for them to let up. However, once it is all over, your body will thank you for ignoring them!
- Don’t linger around food. Studies have shown that food left out encourages people to keep eating and go back for seconds or thirds (women tend to eat 10% more and men 29% more). If you can’t put it straight away, ensure it is not sitting on the dinner table and rather make a separate table for food.
- Eat slowly and put your cutlery down between mouthfuls.
- Studies have shown that variety impacts the amount of food we eat. If we are presented with only one food, we will only eat so much of it. Therefore, the wide range of different foods available at Christmas makes it easier to keep eating! Take a very small amount of each food OR choose just a couple of the foods on offer and concentrate on enjoying them rather than feeling as though you have missed out. If you are a host, don’t go overboard with variety, for example, do you really need 5 kinds of meat or 7 different desserts?
- Using special dinner settings, accompanied with all the frills and trimmings of Christmas has been shown to excite our senses and make the food seem all the more delightful! People are actually more inclined to think something tastes better if it is served on something special, opposed to the same food that is served on an everyday plate – keep this in mind.
- “It is better to have more than not enough”. This is a good point, no one wants to fall short of food for their Christmas guests but I find that more often than not, there is enough food left over to continue feeding a hoard of people for a few days to come. The abundant amount of food also encourages people to serve a lot more than they should.
- Do you really need seconds? Generally, the answer will be no. Take the time after eating to allow your stomach to register that it is full and if so, avoid going back for more – remember, you will probably be having more of the same for dinner that night or even the next day!
- Sit next to someone who is more sensible with their portions. This may sound like I am being a bit pedantic but it can make a huge difference to your intake! Sitting next to someone who eats large portions will make it seem much more acceptable for you to throw caution to the wind and as well have a large serving of food. The opposite is witnessed when sitting next to someone who eats less, however.
- Watch your alcohol intake! It is very difficult to avoid significantly exceeding your energy requirements if you are consuming alcohol as well as your Christmas foods. Unfortunately you can’t have your cake and eat it too, if you want to indulge a little whilst maintaining your weight, you will need to reduce your alcohol consumption over the holiday break.
- Keep your water intake up and avoid soft drinks, juices and punch that provide lots of energy. Water will also help to keep you feel more full and will make it easier to avoid more food or alcohol in order to quench your thirst. Sparkling water and fruit can make it enticing.
- Possibly the most important point – keep the special food indulgences to Christmas day alone! Do not continue to graze in the following days/ weeks.
The take home note
Remember – one day of feasting probably won’t make a significant difference to your weight. It is the continuous over indulging over the holiday period that does the damage and will lead to gradual weight gain. So behave as best you can and still enjoy your Christmas day but return to a more normal diet for the remainder of the holiday season e.g. instead of having another Christmas lunch/dinner on boxing day, use the leftover meat in a salad or sandwich.
It is good to be conscious of the foods and drinks you choose over the Christmas period, however, it is also important to enjoy the food and company without feeling constant guilt!
Contact us for results focused nutritional advice
This article was written by our dietitian Belinda Elwin who is a Dietitians Association of Australia member and Accredited Practising Dietitian and Nutritionist.
If you would like to find out more about healthy Christmas cooking and weight management or if you have any other nutrition related concerns, Contact us today!