12 eating hacks for a healthier holiday season (and 2 delicious recipes)


It's not necessary to deprive yourself of all those yummy foods if you want to stick to your health goals this festive season. We asked three registered dietitians from ADSA (Association for Dietetics in South Africa) for their top four healthy eating hacks to help us make the most of the festive season without overindulging.

Mpho Tshukudu:

1. Don’t let exercise fall by the wayside

Keep to your exercise routine as far as possible. If you are going away and can’t get to your regular gym or fitness class, find alternative physical activities. Being on holiday with more free time means you can actually increase the frequency and duration of your bouts of exercise.

2. Be conscious about what you drink

All kilojoules count. Spritz your wine with sparkling water, and drink water between glasses of alcoholic beverages. Also be mindful of your non-alcoholic drinks as they may contain a lot of sugar. Make your own home-brewed ice-tea flavoured with herbs such as mint and lemongrass, as well as fresh fruit like watermelon, peaches and berries.

3. Be wise at the buffet table

Extravagant spreads of foods at the buffet or party tables make our mouths water. First walk around the buffet table to check out all the options, and then decide what you’ll put on your plate. Make sure you fill up half your plate with vegetables, especially the low carbohydrate kinds like lettuce, cucumber, peppers, onions, green beans, tomato, broccoli and cauliflower.

4. Wait 20 minutes

Don’t automatically go back for seconds just because it's there. Wait 10 to 20 minutes before going for a second helping to give your brain time to register whether you are really still hungry.  Strike up a conversation, drink a glass of water, or dance. You may find that you've forgotten all about that second helping.

Julie Perks:

1. Don’t party on an empty stomach

Eat a healthy snack before heading out to a social function. This will help you to avoid overeating on arrival or be tempted to fill up on what may well be unhealthy treats and snacks. This is a hack that can be of great help to those who are trying to stick to a healthy nutritional plan.

2. Bring along your favourite dish

One of the problems of social occasions is that you don’t know whether healthy options will be available. If you're going to a party or a family gathering, bring along a shareable favourite dish to ensure you have something suitable to enjoy in case there are no other healthy options. 

3. Get outdoors more

Make the most of the summer and get some fun outdoors exercise as a family. Regular swimming, walking, running, cycling, and family games and sports will help balance out the season of indulgence. 

4. Try alcohol-free 

Alcoholic drinks can be very high in energy and added sugar, especially if you're having cocktails or G&Ts. You can limit your alcohol intake or try the new zero alcohol options that are becoming part of a healthy lifestyle.

Alex Royal:

1. Portion alert! 

Keep your portions small and make only one visit to the table. Choose the smallest plate possible. Pile greens and other tasty veggies on your plate first, leaving just a little room for those high-calorie treats like fatty meats and cheeses. Eat small, lower-calorie meals during the day so you can enjoy a special treat in the evening. However, make sure that starving yourself doesn't lead to overeating.

2. Step away from the table 

If you don’t put your food choices on a plate, you have no idea how much you're actually consuming. The worst you can do is to stand at the table picking from the bowls.

3. Zen yourself

Holidays can be stressful. Keep expectations manageable. Organise your time, make a list of things you need to do, and prioritise the most important activities. Be realistic about what you can and cannot manage. And don’t forget to schedule some time for relaxing. 

4. Slip, don’t slide

If you eat three helpings of mashed potatoes and half a pie, all is not lost. Rather than polishing off the rest, learn from your slip-up. Next time, eat a salad first, start a conversation, and park yourself far from the 'danger zone'. The next time starts now.

For some holiday season recipes that are both delicious and healthy, have a look at NutritionConfidence’s Sustainably Farmed Kob Stuffed with Fennel and Orange and Alex Royal’s Christmas Themed Cranberry and Baby Spinach Salad.

To find a dietitian in your area, visit www.adsa.org.za

Image credit: iStock

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