Surviving Christmas without packing on the pounds
It may seem impossible to get through Christmas without feeling festively plump. But there’s hope! We’ve put together some simple tips to help avoid a blow out.
When the fruit mince pies hit the shelves in October and the parties start in November, it’s hard not to be tempted to get festive early.
But if you’re sick of sitting at the table with the top button of your pants undone - it might not be as hard as you think to avoid packing on the pounds.
Bupa Dietitian Gemma Cosgriff says just like the key to losing weight, it’s the small consistent changes that make a difference. A sneaky fruit mince pie or a few extra drinks each day, added to what you’d normally eat, might not seem like much at the time, but it can all add up.
“If you increase your exercise or incidental activity a little bit more if you’re adding in an extra treat, then it might be the way to balance it out, or it might be that you cut out another treat that you would normally have,” says Cosgriff.
Don’t go ‘hangry’
If you arrive at a Christmas party hungry, you’re more likely to be waiting for the waiter to come out with the hors d’oeuvres. And while the pastries, sliders and deep fried calamari may be small, they can be high in saturated fat, salt and sometimes sugar.
“If you have dinner beforehand, you can have a couple [of snacks] and really enjoy the flavour and not feel like you need to go back for more because you’re not hungry,” says Cosgriff.
But if you’re really keen to treat yourself, Cosgriff says have a light dinner like a salad before going out, and have a couple of days eating slightly less on either side to balance it out.
Overdoing it on booze is an easy way to put on weight, not to mention being bad for your health! Alcohol is almost as high in kilojoules as fat per gram and it doesn’t fill you up in the same way.
Fat contains 37 kJ per gram
Alcohol contains 29 kJ per gram
Cosgriff says it’s a good idea to set yourself a limit of one or two standard drinks, and sip sparkling or soda water in between.
“One of the most refreshing summery drinks is soda water and lime, it just gives you a bit of flavour and in a nice tumbler glass it looks great too,” says Cosgriff.
She also recommends trying diet or soda water mixers to help keep the calories down, particularly in energy rich drinks like punch.
Keeping jugs of water with mixed berries and mint or citrus on hand is also a nice touch.
“It looks really festive with all the colours and it entices people to drink lots of water as well,” she says.
Choose healthy snacks
Seeking out healthier snacks at Christmas parties and family events is a good way to avoid overdoing it.
Sushi, rice paper rolls and fresh seafood like oysters and scallops can help keep your kilojoule intake low. Meat skewers are also a better option than deep fried foods and pastries.
Snacks like vegetable sticks, pretzels and rice crackers are better choices as long as they’re not paired with a creamy dip. Opt for hummus, beetroot and tzatziki dips instead.
Step up incidental exercise
Christmas is a busy time of year and workouts can sometimes get bumped from the schedule.
Cosgriff suggests stepping up your incidental exercise; taking the stairs at work, walking to the shop instead of driving, and going for a walk or run at lunch.
“If you’re not doing bouts of exercise then increasing incidental activity throughout the day can add up and make a difference,” says Cosgriff.
Another trick is getting off the bus or train a stop earlier than normal on the way to work.
“There are a lot of train stations near parks. If you can get off the station near a park, it can be a really nice way to start or unwind from your day and doesn’t necessarily take as long as getting to the gym and working out,” says Cosgriff.
“Of course, if you can keep your regular workouts going, this is the best routine to stick to.”
Christmas is traditionally a time of indulgence. But Cosgriff says not every dish needs to have all the trimmings.
“Often, everything is higher in energy, so sometimes you can focus on just a few elements of your dish being high in energy, like the meat and the potatoes for example.”
Incorporating seafood is another good way to make your Christmas dinner healthier.
“Seafood generally is a lot lower in kilojoules and it’s nice to have it with salads as long as we avoid some of the higher energy dressings to keep it really fresh and light.”
Don’t try to lose weight
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It’s hard enough trying not to pack on the pounds over Christmas so it’s important to be realistic and enjoy yourself.
“If you can maintain your weight that is brilliant,” says Cosgriff. “But if you do put on a little bit of weight, it’s okay, it’s not the end of the world.”
“Don’t throw your hands up and throw all your healthy habits out of the window because you’ve failed - you haven’t,” she says.
“Just approach the next few weeks after that with a healthy mindset and getting your incidental exercise in, getting your exercise routine back in place and enjoy summertime.”