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How to maintain healthy eating habits during the festive season

For those of us in the southern hemisphere, with the festive season comes a heavy social emphasis — both in the lead-up to and afterwards — increasing the likelihood of being found at the bottom of a glass of champagne rather than in the weights room at the gym.

Summer means 3pm frosés, jugs of sangria, platters for meals and fruit for days. Christmas means ham, lots of ham, those cute itty-bitty potatoes, bottomless brunches, shortbread, mince tarts, buckets of mini cookies, boxes of chocolates and candy canes in the membrane. New Years means booze, lots of booze, trips to McDonalds and kebab shops in the early hours and, okay, you get the idea… It’s a time of indulgence and consequently calorie bombs seemingly unavoidable at every turn.

If you want to do your best to remain healthy this summer without sacrificing the good stuff (pavlova, we see you), mindfulness and portion control are paramount.

We break down how you can indulge in all of the brunches, lunches, drinks and dinners without completely derailing the healthy habits you worked so hard on during the winter.


1. Eat your breakfast

Skipping breakfast will only lead to overeating later. Instead, take the morning to squeeze in plenty of low-GI nutrients and get the metabolism primed for what’s to come.

According to WebMD, “You need food in your system long before lunchtime. If you don’t eat first thing, you may get so hungry later on that you snack on high-fat, high-sugar foods.”

Wholegrain oats with blueberries, nuts and seeds, cinnamon and Greek yoghurt will keep your blood sugar stable so you don’t crash and burn, otherwise, a green smoothie is a surefire way to guarantee you’re getting a healthy dose of vitamins and minerals early doors.


2. Drink plenty of water

We all know drinking water is fundamental to good health. Fluids carry nutrients to your cells, flush bacteria from your bladder, and help keep your regular.

Make sure you’re staying hydrated throughout the day and throughout any heavy meals — or stock up on water-rich foods such as salads, fruit and applesauce. That way you won’t confuse thirst with hunger and overeat when surrounded by plenty of delicious foods.

And, if you’re drinking alcohol, alternating with a glass of water will keep your calorie intake in check.


3. Plate of mind

The easiest way to manage how much you’re eating and avoid that eyes-bigger-than-your-stomach trap, be strategic with your plate choice. A large plate encourages you to fill it to the brim. As does a medium plate and a small plate, except of course, you’re automatically scaling down your servings available to you.

“Sometimes, it’s all a visual game and not really about your stomach,” dietician and representative for New York State Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Joelle Malinowski tells Brit + Co.


4. Colour by numbers

Another handy tip, if it’s available to you, is to choose the colour of your plate colour carefully. Research shows that you’re less likely to overeat when there’s a greater contrast between the food you’re eating and the colour of the plate you’re eating off.

For example, if you eat a light-coloured food like rice or pasta off of a dark blue or black plate, you’ll probably eat less than, say, if you were to eat the pasta off of a white plate.


5. Increase your (pot) luck

Heading round to a friend’s for a meal? Call up your host (or slide into their DMs) and find out what everyone is bringing. In doing so, you can make sure you bring a healthy version that you can always fall back on knowing full well what’s in it. Oh, and always make your salad dressing from scratch to eliminate sinful quantities of hidden sugars…



6. Spices are your saviour

Forget butter, salt, sugar, runny cream and compote for toppings and look to spices to give your dish a hit of flavour. Cooking waffles? Sprinkle with cinnamon and nutmeg or look to natural unprocessed sources such as maple syrup or coconut sugar to sweeten the deal. Your waistline will thank you for it.


7. Always peruse, before you choose

Buffets are magical. We’ll be the first to admit it. So many options to tantalise the taste buds. Eggs, bacon, sausages followed by French toast, pancakes, and dessert. Don’t be fooled into thinking ‘why not have it all? After all, it’s right there begging to be eaten.’ Think about what you actually feel like. Then choose your options, be mindful of your portion size and forget the rest.

Another way to avoid the #BuffetBinge according to Greatist is ‘Hit It and Quit It’. A strategy based on studies that suggest the further away you sit from the buffet, the less likely you are to return for seconds.


8. If you can’t stop yourself, allow your wardrobe to

Dressing for success isn’t restricted just to your career. Form-fitting clothing with a firm waistband is guaranteed to stop you from shovelling more in before you do.

Certified nutrition specialist JJ Virgin tells Everyday Health: “Elastic waistbands have no business at holiday social functions; they give you permission to indulge in second helpings.”

“Instead, wear your most fitted little black dress, or the slimmest top and skinny jeans you can find. You’ll think twice before devouring that gooey cinnamon-raisin bread.”


9. Take a seat, eat, don’t repeat

Sit down, be humble. Avoid standing while eating or leaning up against the breakfast bar. Sit down, focus on your meal, enjoy it, savour it and let it sit for at least 15 minutes before heading up for seconds. This allows you to feel satisfied and recognise you’re full before going in for extra helpings. Because we all know overeating leads to midday naps that could be better spent ripping into your presents with family and friends, right?

Taking your time during a meal makes you feel fuller, faster. “Signals for feeding are sluggish in terms of influencing the brain, so they’re easy to ignore,”  neuroscientist and author of author of This Is Your Brain On Food Gary Wenk tells Greatist.


10. Get social 

Once you’ve eaten, get up, move around and stroll the property or through the house and socialise. It’s beneficial to keep moving (although not strenuously) after a meal. Plus it keeps any temptation to pick at the treats at bay.

Photos: Supplied, Getty Images

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