If you are on a weight loss journey, the festive season can cause you some anxiety. However, you should be able to enjoy it and eat the foods that you love, typical from this season without feeling guilty.
I understand that it can be difficult eating and drinking with moderation, especially if you have many social events, with lots of food and drinks being offered.
During this season, it’s normal if your weight doesn't drop. However, when you go back to your healthy food habits and routine, you will see the weight dropping again. Don’t be frustrated with the scales and focus on applying some of the following strategies to help you to keep your weight during Christmas.
1. Eat foods with higher fiber content, like vegetables and have a complete balanced meal
When choosing foods from the buffet, take vegetables and salads as priority.These contain fiber that will fill you up and are great for your gut health. If you are going for starters, it’s a good idea to choose a salad or soup, for example.
Avoid dressing the vegetables and salads with oils and sauces, to not increase the calorie content. You can add lemon juice and vinegar, for example.
Your main meal should be balanced: fill half of your plate with vegetables and salad; and keep a quarter of the plate for your meat or fish or other vegetable protein (tofu, soya, pulses) and another quarter of the plate for rice / potatoes / pasta.
You can check out this video, how to have a balanced meal.
2. Eat slowly and socialise more
The festive season is the time to celebrate reunion with friends and family. Focus on those conversations around the table, and try to eat slowly. This will give more time to your stomach to send the signal of satiety to your brain and stop you from eating more and become very full.
3. Don't skip any meal and keep your food routine
Sometimes people try to skip meals in order to compensate for the extra calories on the festive meal later on. However, it’s important to try to keep your food routine as usual, starting the day with a nutritious breakfast will help you to not become very hungry and overeating later on.
Also, if you keep your regular meals during the day, your blood sugar will be stable, meaning, you will have a better control of your appetite.
Check out the following links for healthy breakfast ideas:
4. Drink more water and less alcohol or fizzy drinks
“Alcohol is empty calories” - you have probably heard this a lot, this means from the nutritional point of view alcohol doesn’t contribute with good nutrients but instead with just extra calories from sugar and alcohol. 1g of alcohol contains 7 Kcal, almost double the amount of calories for protein and carbohydrates: 1 g protein or carbohydrates = 4 Kcal.
Keep yourself hydrated, aim for at least 2 L of water a day. Even at your social event, always go for water first, before considering alcohol or fizzy drinks. If you desire to have some wine, have a glass of water next to your glass of wine, this will remind you of drinking more water and less wine.
5. Eat until you are no longer hungry, not until you feel full
Don’t try to fit as much food as you can in your stomach, this will cause you some discomfort. Remember that you will have more opportunities to eat and this one is not your last chance. You can always keep some food for later or the next day, when feeling hungry.
It’s important to pay attention to your satiety clues, and stop eating when not feeling hungry anymore, so you don’t overeat.
Read more about emotional eating on the blog post
6. Say 'later' when you have trouble saying 'no'
I understand that when we are invited to someone’s home to eat, it’s almost rude to reject food, and good hosts tend to fill our plate multiple times to make sure we are well fed. This could be a tricky situation to manage if you are trying to manage your weight. My suggestion is to reply with a smile and say “I really appreciate your food. I’m really full right now. I will eat it later on, thank you”. The host will be happy that you are enjoying the food, and might forget to offer you food again.
7. Offer healthy dishes at the dinner table
If you are the host, you have more control in what you offer and how you cook the meals. You can still cook traditional christmas meals and still offer healthier options to your guests. Sometimes, all you need is to choose a lean cut of meat, not frying and instead baking with less fat, offer more fish and shellfish, have a variety of fresh vegetables and salads, and offer your desserts alongside with fruit, for example.
I hope you find these food strategies useful. I would love to know which one (s) you applied and how they worked for you. Also, if you have any other strategies that you use during this festive season to keep your weight, please share them with me.
Most importantly, enjoy the time with your family and friends and have a Merry Christmas!
MSc Clinical Nutrition
Hi, I'm Joana, a Portuguese registered dietitian in the UK. I am passionate about helping others achieving their health goals.