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How to stay in shape even while feasting on Christmas goodies

Arm yourselves with these healthy holiday eating tips


When confronted with a mouth-watering spread of Christmas goodies, it can take an incredible amount of self-discipline to resist all the high-fat and high-calorie food and drinks that seem to only show up during the festive season.

But you don’t have to say ‘no’ to every glass of champagne or helping of roast that comes your way.

Here are some tips on staying in shape during the year-end parties, without busting your diet.


Plan Your Meals Ahead

Contrary to popular belief, starving at lunch in anticipation of a dinner feast won’t counter the effects of a heavy meal.

In fact, you will tend to eat more at dinner, with your hunger resulting in unhealthy food choices.

Whether you’re dining out or eating in, using the Health Promotion Board’s visual tool, My Healthy Plate, can help guide you to a healthier diet and balanced meals.

The tool recommends consuming half a plate of fruit and vegetables; a quarter-plate of whole grains; and a quarter-plate of lean meat and tofu.

Even if you’re unable to follow the guide to a T, plan your meals such that you consume foods from all four
food groups.

For example, if you know you’ll be tucking into many meat dishes at a dinner, swap some meat for vegetables
at lunch.


Healthy Christmas Cooking

Making healthy choices doesn’t mean you have to compromise on taste.

Tweaking your recipes slightly or substituting certain ingredients can go a long way in ensuring you enjoy a healthy and hearty meal.

If you’re cooking up a storm this Christmas, opt for healthier oils with lower saturated fat such as olive oil, sunflower oil or canola oil.

Looking to bake some bread rolls to dip into turkey gravy? Or some fried rice to accompany the meat dishes?

You can consider replacing refined grains like white rice and white bread with whole grains such as brown rice and wholemeal bread, where possible, for a healthier meal.

Whole grains are beneficial to health as they have been shown to lower the risk of developing chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers.

In addition, whole grains add bulk to your diet and can promote the feeling of fullness for a longer period of time.

This will prevent unnecessary snacking in between meals — even when you’re faced with your favourite cookies.

Finally, using cooking methods such as baking, grilling or steaming instead of frying will help cut out unnecessary fat in your diet.

After all, a juicy baked turkey, when executed well, is a stellar addition to any dinner table.


Feast and drink in Moderation

When at a Christmas party, take your time and eat slowly to avoid excessive eating — the brain takes about 20 minutes to register fullness.

Quench your thirst with water instead of sweetened beverages, which are often a source of empty calories.

While alcohol may be a good way to unwind, watch out for how much you’re consuming.

For men, the limit is four standard drinks per two-hour session, whereas for women, it is three standard drinks per two hour session.

Examples of standard drinks include a can of beer (330ml) and half a glass of wine.

When it comes to limiting your alcohol intake during the festive period, all you need is some self-discipline, and maybe a trusted friend or two — no need for teetotalism.

Firstly, set a limit for yourself and stick to it. For example, make a pact with your friend not to exceed more than two drinks a night.

Throughout the night, have a “spacer” drink or two, by alternating between non-alcoholic and alcoholic drinks.

You should also control who gets to refill your drink. This person should ideally be yourself or a friend you trust.

Finally, be assertive — don’t let anyone make you drink more than your limit.


Work It Off

Exercise is just as crucial during the holidays as any other time of the year.

If you’ve always been active, aim for at least 150 minutes of physical activity a week or more.

For instance, during the festive season, try to fit in a workout before or after your Christmas shopping, or take the stairs when you shop to burn off those extra calories.
By Samantha Francis
Tips courtesy of Health Promotion Board.