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Healthy Eating Over the Festive Season

festive season

The festive season is a time when it’s rather challenging to maintain a healthy diet – to uphold all those good habits you’ve developed during the past year. So, what is the answer? Do you stay at home and refuse all party invitations or do you throw caution to the wind and think that come January you’ll stop eating for a month?

I spoke to clinical nutritionist and wellness expert, Desi Horsman, to get some ideas on how best to get through the silly season without over indulging, but also ultimately enjoying the celebrations and get-togethers.

Is there a middle way?

The most important thing to remember is that it’s the festive season and indulgent meals and drinks are probably not going to be avoided. Together with family and friends, traditional meals are there to be enjoyed to the fullest and a few days here and there of not so healthy eating will not have a huge impact on the body, provided that healthy meals are eaten the rest of the time.

If there is a health condition present like diabetes, then one would have to be more particular with how each meal is combined. But for the average person, don’t feel guilty over one unhealthy meal. Start again with healthy eating the very next day. The biggest mistake is to let a few indulgent meals define the entire festive season, which is what many people do. They feel as if it’s pointless to try and eat healthy and this becomes a big regret in January.

If I’m going to a Christmas lunch should I skip breakfast, knowing that I’ll probably have an enormous meal?

Have a very light breakfast instead and include fresh fruit rather than skipping this meal. The brain needs consistent glucose through the day and you don’t want to arrive at your Christmas lunch feeling irritable because of a sugar dip – nor do you want to be starving because you might end up over-indulging too quickly.

Are there guidelines when it comes to alcohol?

Make sure you drink lots of water in between alcoholic beverages. It’s also very important to support the liver over the festive season with herbs like milk thistle. If there is going to be consistent drinking then it’s a good idea to drink alcoholic beverages that are diluted e.g. spritzers.

What snacks should I choose, if I can’t avoid them?

This will be very dependent on what’s available – but always try and start with the veg crudités and dip and stick to the snacks that are whole foods and the least refined.

How can I eat healthily if I know my hosts aren’t really big on wholesome food?

Unless you have a health condition, don’t stress if it’s only for one meal of the day. Just enjoy what your host has provided and make sure that from the very next meal, you eat healthily again. If you have real concerns then eat a salad before you go out.