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A healthy mindset to Festive Eating

10 top tips for a healthy mindset when navigating festive eating

With Christmas being a time for celebration, we often find ourselves surrounded with indulgent and delicious foods… but it might be a time of worry and stress. Mei Wan, Registered Dietitian, has shared her top 10 tips on navigating festive eating with a healthy mindset.


1. Decide what's right for you

 

There's bound to be loved ones that wish to overindulge or others, living with health conditions, that have set dietary choices they want to follow. Whatever anyone else's personal health goals are, always focus on you and decide how you want to eat and what you want to eat over the festive season.

 

Why not use the first few days of December to write down how you want to feel after Christmas...do you want to take a few days off from healthy eating? Do you think getting more specific and writing down which foods you want to enjoy will help you more? Are there any family traditions that you've wished year after year that you could say ''No, thank you - I'm full''- perhaps this is THE year you try setting your boundaries.

2. Check menus in advance

 

If you're lucky enough, your workplace might be hosting a team social which normally involves eating out somewhere. Where possible, find out which restaurant you'll be eating at and check which option(s) suits your festive nutrition goals. Restaurant menus are widely available online which will show the calorie content as well as the amounts of carbohydrates, saturated fats, added sugar and salt.

 

If no menu is available, steamed, ovened, or lightly stir fried options normally contain less calories. Cream based sauces, deep fried foods, and cheese based dishes usually contain higher amounts of saturated fat, salt and calories. Desserts are generally high in sugar and fat unless it's a fruit salad.

3. Don't get too hungry

 

Try not to miss meals and ''save your calories'' to then overindulge on Christmas Day. Eat as you would do normally as this helps with hunger and appetite regulation otherwise there is a risk over overeating which will leave you uncomfortably full.

4. Be forgiving

 

Feeling guilty, bad or frustrated with yourself if you have an off-plan meal or snack often feels heavier than the actual calories in the food itself! You cannot stop these uncomfortable emotions and feelings but you do have the power to choose how you respond towards it.

 

Perhaps ask yourself some questions - What is triggering the feeling of guilt? Could I in this moment choose to be kind to myself? How would I speak to a best friend that is struggling with the same issue?

5. Change the focus

 

Food glorious food! There is a lot of emphasis on food around this time of the year. Perhaps a game changing perspective is to switch food based activities into something non-food related. Make it fun and still about togetherness: could you try ice skating as a family, is there is local park you could enjoy, if it's you and your partner, how about a pamper day in the spa?

6. Enjoy nutritious seasonal food

 

Rather than thinking of Christmas as overindulgences, there's actually a lot of good nutrition in traditional, Western food eaten at this time of year. Parsnips, chestnuts, cabbage, brussel sprouts are high in fibre and certain vitamins; turkey is a a lean source or protein, and salmon and nuts are bursting with healthy fats.

7. Beat the Christmas bloat

 

Research shows that we tend to eat more quickly in social settings for various reasons (such as fast / loud music in the background, the excitement of things, and not feeling fully relaxed). Eating slowly and fully chewing each mouthful can help reduce that bloated feeling. Take just one mindful deep, belly breath before eating a snack or your meal, and take your time.

8. Avoid comparison

 

Christmas is typically the time when you see loved ones that you may not have seen in quite some time. They may make comments on your appearance and / or you may compare yourself with them. Try to steer the conversation away from diet and body image and focus on what made you smile this year.

9. Move your body

 

During the winter, it's even more important to move your body as when it's cold and dark, you tend to want to stay indoors more. Try and stick to your normal exercise plan over the festive season. If your gym is closed, go outside for a nice long walk or if you can't face the cold, put on your favourite tune and dance like no-one is watching you.

10. Create meaningful memories

 

Since Covid-19 impacted the entire world, I think it's shifted our perspective about time and meaning - the most important tip is to truly enjoy this time of year, whether you're with family or on your own (if you know someone that is on their own, why not reach out to them).

 

Give yourself permission to fully enjoy and be present :)

Mei Wan BSc (Hons), RD, MBDA

HCPC Registered Dietitian & Nutritionist

IG: @dietitian.mei

 

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