UK Dietitian 12 tips of Christmas weight management
Well, there’s no fool-proof method and life will invariably try to trip you up even with the best of intentions but here at UK Dietitian we’ve put our heads together to come up with 12 top tips to help you with your Christmas weight management.
1. Don’t leave the house hungry!
Breakfast is a hugely important meal and research has shown that those who have a low fat breakfast are less likely to be overweight than those who skip this meal all together. Breakfast is particularly important the morning after the night before, as it helps to replace fluid and minerals lost due to alcohol consumption and provides fuel and nutrients to give you the kick start you need. Choose low-fat, high fibre options to help you fuller for longer such as:
- Wholegrain cereal and semi-skimmed milk with a chopped banana and a glass of fruit juice.
- Mixed grain and dried fruit muesli topped with low-fat yoghurt and fresh fruit such as banana or blueberries.
- Poached egg on granary toast with low-fat spread and a side of grilled tomatoes.
- Reduced salt and sugar baked beans on wholegrain toast with a matchbox sized piece of grated cheddar and cracked black pepper.
2. Keep hydrated
Lots of us struggle to tell the difference between hunger and thirst when we’re on the run and sometimes we’ll grab a snack when what we need is a glass of water. Dehydration can cause tiredness, headaches and muscle weakness, just what you don’t want when you’ve got a busy Christmas list to get through. Carry a bottle of water or sugar-free squash with you most of the time to encourage you to keep topping your fluid levels up. If you feel peckish, try having a drink and waiting a couple of minutes before you decide to eat – you’d be surprised how often the feeling seems to magically go away!
3. Don’t go to a party on an empty stomach.
We know, it’s just what your mother always used to say! Well, she was probably right. Look at it this way, Christmas parties are an assault-course for those trying to avoid the extra calories and being hungry never helps. Instead of going out on an empty stomach try to have a low-fat, high-fibre meal or snack before you go out to help stop those finger foods or the inevitable “beige” buffet looking so appealing. Party or not, drinking without eating stimulates the appetite and can cause damage to the stomach lining over time. We’re not talking about a three course meal but try to always have something healthy available to eat with your drinks even if it’s just a festive glass of wine in the office after work.
4. Choose your party food cleverly
Speaking of that tempting buffet (you know the kind – deep fried and bread crumbed everything served with an extra dollop of mayonnaise) what are the best options to go for? Well, anything with pastry or bread crumbs is likely to be high in fat and the beautifully laid out cheese board has been the down fall of many a merry reveller. But there’s no need to avoid everything:
- Vegetable crudités are in themselves a great low-fat snack, just avoid combining them with the optional high-fat dips. If you feel a dip is unavoidable, be sparing and aim for the lower fat versions such as tatziki or salsa.
- Many cheese boards come with a selection of crackers and grapes, try eating the lower-fat crackers such as cream crackers or water biscuits topped with some fruit. Make sure you avoid any crackers that are already cheese flavoured or feel greasy to the touch (though don’t put them back on the buffet after you’ve checked!)
- Measure your portions. Allow yourself a plateful of titbits you fancy, eat slowly, enjoy and then step away from the buffet.
- Finally, if you have the opportunity speak to the organisers/caterers before the party and ask if it could be arranged for some healthier options to be made available – you’d be surprised how many people will thank you!
5. Watch the booze.
We know everyone is out to have a good time at Christmas but spending every morning feeling like death doesn’t do anything for the festive spirit, or your waistline. Alcohol also lowers your inhibitions making it even harder to keep on track with the tit-bit avoidance suggestions above. So our advice? Pick your drinks wisely, intermingle them with soft drinks, make sure you have some alcohol free nights each week and know when to say no!
- Firstly, try to pick drinks with a lower calorie content, for instance white wine spritzers made with soda water or diet lemonade or unsweetened spirits such as vodka or gin with low calorie mixers.
- Make sure you have a low calorie soft drink between each alcoholic drink such as water or a diet soft drink.
- Choose your nights and stick to them. Don’t let the weeks turn into 7 night drinking binges – plan at least 2 alcohol free nights a week and turn your phone off so you can’t be tempted.
- Finally, make an agreement with yourself before you go out and decide which drinks are not your friends and avoid them. Our personal list runs to anything that comes in a shot glass, is tall and sticky with a comedy double-entendre title or has the word “cream” in it’s name. Yours can be whatever you need it to be!
6. Don’t turn into a couch potato!
Try to keep up some semblance of exercise however much your social life gets in the way. Obviously dancing at the office party has it’s benefits but won’t make up for 3 weeks of indulgence and no activity! Even if the gym is too much of a stretch try these ideas out to keep the blood pumping and the calories burning:
- Try getting off the tube, bus or train a stop or two early and walking the last part of your journey. Equally, if you drive, find a parking spot a mile away and do the last 15-20 minutes on foot. Around half an hour of walking once a day will help you to burn an extra 112kcal.
- Take the stairs, not the lift or try wearing a pedometer at work to give you an idea of your daily activity.
- Plan outings at weekends or in the evening. Even if it’s just a brisk march around the local park after Sunday lunch it all helps.
- Get together with friends, colleagues or family for a festive themed game of rounders or football. Warm up and down well to avoid injury and try to keep it friendly!
7. Don’t super-size your portions
Christmas is a time for festive foods and enjoyment and making sure your portion sizes don’t get out of hand is a great way to have the foods you love without sacrificing your waistline. Here are some suggestions to help you along the way:
- Eat off a smaller plate – you are more likely to eat less food.
- Fill your plate up with lots of vegetables (except for potatoes). They are low in calories, good for you, and will help to fill you up.
- Cook smaller quantities of food. This will reduce the temptation for second-helpings.
- After you’ve served yourself, refrigerate or freeze leftovers so that you’re not tempted to have seconds.
- Use smaller amounts of spreads or fillings and choose low fat varieties.
- Don’t eat from the bag – place foods in a bowl so you can see how much you’re eating.
8. Opt for lower-calorie festive options
Although lots of festive foods, such as sprouts, cranberries and clementines are great low-calorie foods, many of our Christmas favourites come with a high-calorie price tag. Try out some of the alternative options below to make your Christmas cooking original and healthier (all recipes available on UK Dietitian)
- Try “Devils on Horseback” instead of “Pigs in Blankets” – lower fat, just as delicious with the added bonus of being a small percentage of your 5 a day!
- Try oaty mincemeat flap-jack instead traditional mincepies.
- Try fruit salad and low-fat crème fraîche or cranberry and champagne jelly instead of high-fat Christmas pudding or trifle.
- Swap chocolate Christmas tree decorations for home-made ginger-bread or dried fruit and nut rings.
9. Watch the snacks (little pickers wear big knickers)
Christmas is a time of great temptation and all over the country people will buying huge tubs of chocolates and biscuits. The biggest problem with these foods is that they are calorie dense and it’s extremely easy to lose track of how many you have had. Obviously we’d be mad to suggest banning all treats but here are some tips to help you keep track of what you’re having:
- Don’t sit next to the biscuit tin – put it in another room if you can or at least on the other side of the room.
- Do ration yourself – try taking 3 or 4 chocolates out of the main tin and putting them in one place so you know how many you’ve had and what you have left for the day.
- Don’t get into the habit of having a snack with your hot drink as this will be harder to break in the future.
- Don’t drink your calories – be aware that many festive drinks are laden with hidden calories, for instance syrup and liqueur flavoured coffees, mulled wine with added sugar and egg-nog.
10. Get your 8 hours
Evidence suggests that short sleep duration is associated with weight gain. Making sure you don’t burn the candle at both ends is important in giving you the energy and willpower to control your portion sizes and snacking during the day. As with drinking, make sure you give your body regular breaks throughout the week and get to bed early. If you’re having trouble sleeping try out some of these ideas from NHS Choices to help you get your 40 winks.
11. Enjoy your Christmas!
After all of this information, Christmas comes but once a year and is about family and celebrating as a community. It’s important not to let dietary concerns ruin this time of year!
12. New Year’s Resolutions
We all make them and we all break them every year. At UK Dietitian our next article in conjunction with our New Year’s Resolution Healthy Lifestyle and Weight Loss Package will be all about making your New Year’s Resolutions “SMART” to support you in any dietary changes you plan to make.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from all at UK Dietitian!