These days the festive season seems to kick-off long before you open the first door on your advent calendar…and continues past the sound of the New Year’s popping corks. Christmas can be a time for indulgence, but eating, drinking, making merry on extra helpings of sugar and food can cause you to seriously pile on the pounds over the course of a few, short, pastry and party-filled weeks. But don’t despair, being healthy this festive season doesn’t mean you have to hang up your Santa hat and compromise on fun, as Splenda and leading UK dietician Helen Bond have been analysing the weekly food diaries of two sugar lovers, to see how easy it can be to reduce your sugar intake this Christmas. Why not take a look at the list of top tips below so you can embrace the season of treats and be sweet to yourself– with compromise!
Christmas can be a time for indulgence, but eating, drinking, making merry and splurging on extra helpings of sugar and fat-laden food can cause you to seriously pile on the pounds over the course of a few, short, pastry and party-filled weeks. In fact, on average people gain between one and five lbs (0.5-2.5kg) over the Christmas period. And, you only need to take in 500 additional calories (kcals) a day over five weeks to see the scales register an extra 5lbs. But don’t despair, being healthy this festive season doesn’t mean that you have to hang up your Santa hat and compromise on fun; follow my top tips to get into the Christmas spirit the healthier way:
1. Always start the day with a healthy breakfast. It’s easy to miss this important meal, or give in and indulge in fatty croissants to ease that Christmas party hangover. But eating a good breakfast will help kick-start your metabolism and keep you feeling full, making it easier to ignore the inevitable chocolates lying around.
2. Get creative with your advent calendar. Even big kids love opening those little advent calendar doors – but, enjoying 25 days of chocolaty goodness will do your waistline no favours! A little chocolate Xmas character provides around 26 kcals, 1.5g fat, 2.8g sugar - even more if they are truffle or alcoholic filled – that’s an extra 650 kcals, 37.5g fat and 70g sugar over 25 days. Why not get creative with your countdown to Christmas, so you’ve got a daily treat, without the daily guilt.
3. Love seasonal fruit and veg. With the abundance of festive food, it can be easy to forget the basics of eating healthily and achieving the (at least) 5-a-day recommendation. I like to pile the veg on my plate first, rather than last.
4. Make time for exercise. However well you plan, life is going to get hectic over the festive period, so schedule your 2.5 hours of moderate intensity exercise into your week now. Exercise is also a fabulous stress buster, as it releases endorphins, making you feel happier and calmer.
5. Don’t skip meals. If you’re going to the office party straight after work, or you’ve got a dinner date with friends, don’t ditch lunch for fear of overdoing your daily calorie intake. You’ll be famished and hungry people tend to make bad food decisions.
6. Try not to burn the candle at both ends. Burning the festive candle at both ends, with parties during the week and weekend hosting duties, can also affect your waistline. Too little sleep can reduce the level of the appetite-controlling hormone leptin and increase the hormone ghrelin, telling the brain you need to eat – and not always the right healthy food choices.
7. Rethink your tea breaks. Cut cutting down on the ‘white stuff’ is a tall order, especially around Christmas. It appears in so many of the traditional festive favourites, that it’s near impossible to keep track of how much you’re eating. An easy win is to rethink your tea breaks; instead of adding sugar to your tea, swap to a low-calorie sweetener, like SPLENDA®. If you drink four cups of tea a day with two teaspoons (8g) of sugar in each cup - that adds up to 128 kcals. Your sweet tea also tots up to nearly one 1kg bag of sugar over the 25 days of December and 3,200 kcals! You, and your Xmas shopping could be a whole lot lighter for a simple sweet swap!
8. Treat sweets as treats. The constant supply of treats from guests and salty savoury snacks at work can be too tempting to avoid. Keep healthier seasonal snacks, like clementines, to hand; a medium clementine has just 25 kcals and will provide you 31% of your daily needs for immune boosting vitamin C and 1g of gut healthy fibre.
9. Wise-up to the buffet. Faced with a buffet, resist the temptation to start filling your plate at one end of the table and continuing to add to it until you reach the other. Before you pick up the plate (and always take the smallest one!), pause for a moment and then prioritise healthy choices; smoked salmon, slices of lean ham and vegetable crudités. Now, step away.
10. Keep in mind portion size. Most of us are over-generous with serving sizes at Christmas and it’s a fact that the bigger your tableware, the more you’ll fill it. Research shows that simply downsizing from a 12 to 10-inch plate could help you eat roughly 22% fewer calories, and you’ll not feel like you are missing out.
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