Ask a Dietitian: How Can I Keep My Health on Track During Party Season?
2020 is coming to a close (pass the champagne) and party season is rapidly approaching. I think we speak on behalf of everyone when we say we are very much looking forward to getting together with friends and family, relaxing, and participating in a little spirited indulgence. While good food is to be celebrated and enjoyed, it can be easy to overdo it on Christmas pudding and find yourself starting the new year feeling a little less than great. So, here are a few of our dietitian-approved tips for navigating this party season whilst keeping your immune system strong, energy levels high and your fitness on track.
1. Eat a healthy meal or snack before events
Eating regular, nutritious meals is incredibly beneficial to your immune system and for maintaining lean body mass throughout the holidays. Before heading out for that espresso martini (again), make sure to fill up on a healthy meal first. Eating a balanced meal will help to keep the munchies at bay when confronted with endless canapés, or when driving past those fast-food joints on the way home. By eating something before you have a drink, you’ll also slow the rate at which any alcohol you consume is absorbed into your bloodstream, i.e. you’ll feel much better in the morning with no embarrassing stories to tell! When preparing a healthy meal, aim to fill up half your plate with a variety of colourful vegetables, one quarter with lean, quality protein such as meat, seafood, tofu or legumes and the remaining quarter with whole grains. Sprinkle some healthy fats, such as avocado, olive oil, nuts or seeds, and you’ve got yourself a meal that will keep you feeling satiated, your blood sugars stable, plus a great dose of fibre, vitamins, and minerals. If time is limited try a protein smoothie, apple slices with nut butter, or Greek yoghurt with berries and nuts.
2. Go easy on the alcohol
Alcohol. It can be fun. It can be tasty. It can be a welcome social lubricant when your only friend at the party has gone off and left you to fend for yourself. But let’s face the facts, alcohol is energy dense and nutrient poor, meaning that when consumed in excess it does more harm than good. Alcohol can lead to weight gain and can be detrimental to numerous aspects of our health. If you’re going to drink, opt for the less sugary options such as vodka lime and soda or gin and tonic, and remember that moderation is key. Start the night with a big glass of water, and for every alcoholic drink you have, have another glass of water in between.
3. Eat mindfully
Mindful eating is all about slowing down to appreciate the food in front of you, to experience it fully and to get back in touch with your body. Mindful eating is an incredible tool for anyone who may be prone to overeating, which, let’s be honest, can be many of us over the holidays. We know that it takes up to 20 minutes for the digestive system to communicate to the brain that it’s full, but if we’re eating too quickly, we may miss those cues and can easily overindulge. Here’s how to do it:
- Really use your senses. Look at the colours on your plate, smell the delicious aromas, notice the textures, appreciate the subtle flavours.
- Chew thoroughly. In fact, chew each bite at least 10 times before swallowing. Your digestive system will thank you.
- Put your cutlery down between bites and pause to enjoy conversation with those around you.
- Stop when your stomach feels 80% full. We often neglect these sensations until we’ve overdone it.
Pro tip: have a mint or piece of gum when you’ve finished eating to cleanse your palate and to symbolise to yourself that mealtime has ended. This may just save you from having that third helping of your Aunt’s famous Christmas pavlova!
4. Maintain the basics
Create time in your calendar between work and social commitments to ensure you are meeting the basic pillars of health throughout the party season. Though simple, these habits compound and make a big difference for your mood, energy levels, immune system and waistline.
- Get up 20 minutes earlier for that quick HIIT workout or brisk walk around the block. Ensure you’re going to bed and waking up at the same time whenever possible to maintain a healthy sleep schedule.
- Get those 7-8 hours in! Drink 35-45ml of water per kilogram of body weight for adequate hydration, plus more if you’re working out.
- Choose the healthy alternatives where possible. Opt for the veggie sticks on the platter instead of reaching for the crackers. Try making homemade apple or cranberry sauce this year instead of store-bought for a dose of gut-loving pectin and heart-healthy polyphenols. Try using Greek yoghurt as a substitute for cream in salads and dips. Roast your veggies with olive oil and herbs instead of adding them to rich casseroles. Instead of fizzy drink, try your hand at making fruit-infused mineral water.
Do you have any other tips for maintaining your health and wellbeing throughout the holidays? Share them with us in the comments below, we’d love to hear them!
Always seek the guidance of your doctor or other qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition.
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Health & Performance Collective is the brainchild of Sydney Dietitians Jessica Spendlove and Chloe McLeod. They use their 20 years of combined knowledge and skills as dietitians to work with motivated people to live and perform at their best.