It’s the Festive Season and the end of another long year and so the Cape Dieticians team want to encourage you to continue on your healthy eating journey…

1. Keep meals consistent and routined:

Although many are on leave during this period, be cautious against unstructured meal times. Remember to start the day with a healthy breakfast and then add the appropriate snacks and meals during the day, every 3-4 hourly. This includes Christmas day itself – do not starve/ restrict prior to Christmas lunch as this can cause intensify hunger levels that can cause overindulgences when the food is served.

2. Remain active but also balance rest:

Being tired after a long year means that rest and recovery is important. But balance is the key – include some exercise and movement days during the festive season to remain focused and motivated to continue on the healthy eating journey. But also be kind to yourself, don’t try to exercise the Christmas indulgences away. Remember not to punish for enjoying food, balance is important.

3. Plan for realistic variety and options, but don’t over-do it:

So many times we get to the Christmas table and realise that there isn’t enough space on the plate to get to taste everything. While Christmas lunch may be notorious for plenty, be cautious when planning the menu. Opt for fewer sides and meats so that you can enjoy what is available while not feeling tempted to feast on every option.

4. Remember the plate model:

Add healthy vegetable options such as fresh salads and vegetable dishes to make up half of the plate first before dishing up the meat and starch options. And while we are on the topic of vegetables, try to avoid adding sugars – keep it as plain and fresh as possible.

5. Try to keep to healthy portion control:

With multicourse menus – it is difficult not to overindulge, remember there is lots of lovely food on its way… try to keep starters as a snack- sized portion, followed by a balanced, healthily portioned main meal and then followed by a snack sized dessert portion.

6. Choose wisely:

With so many options, you might need to choose your top few favourite vegetables, starches and meats. But also keep in mind that what you don’t eat for the first meal, you can eat for supper that evening. Be on guard against overeating one large meal and then skipping the next meal later. Try to be aware of choosing lower fat, less added sugars and sauces

7. Who says desserts are ‘bad’?

Remember that food is only food – it does not need to be classified as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. So don’t be afraid, or feel guilty for having some dessert. But if ‘health’ is your focus, then why not do some healthier dessert options such as fruit or yoghurt parfaits, using zero custard and sugar-free jelly in trifle, frozen yoghurts instead of ice-cream, chocolate covered strawberries instead of chocolates. Keep dessert as the afternoon snack to make sure that you are not over-eating.

8. Stay hydrated…

Increased water during this time is so essential for our hot Christmas climate. If alcoholic beverages are your thing, remember to limit to healthy portions (‘one or two drinks per day’ – not reserving all the weeks drinks for one day). Rather use diet/ sugar free drinks and mixes and alternate a glass of wine/ alcoholic beverage with a glass of water to stay hydrated.

9. Take it slow……

Take your time to get through the days activities. Try mindful moment-by-moment awareness instead of rushing through the eating process and eating hastily. As much as food is a big focus of Christmas day, try to be more focused on the meaning of Christmas and other Christmas traditions such as the family time. Take time to listen to your body and to notice how hungry you are, to select an appropriate portion size to fit your stomach hunger and to stop when you are full… even if you don’t finish everything on the plate.

10. Enjoy! ……

Whether you are on work holiday, taking a vacation away, camping, or working throughout – enjoy the Festive time spent with loved ones and appreciate the beauty of the season. This is not the time for diet and restrictions, this is the time for balance, moderation and giving yourself grace when not ‘keeping to the meal plan 100%’. Life is too short for guilt and shame around food, January is around the corner and we can always start fresh and focus on healthy eating in the New Year… So far now, Enjoy the time!

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