It’s the season to be healthy


by Iftu Umar APD AN
It is that time of the year where there are a lot of social events taking place such as, Christmas parties, work parties and end of year celebrations. Even if one does not celebrate Christmas it is still a very social time of the year. By the end of the season many people find they have gained weight due to large amounts of feasting, regular consumption of sugar sweetened drinks (e.g. soft drink) and alcohol. For some people exercise may also be a neglected activity during this period. By the time New Year comes about people are now reflecting on the past year and may have realised that they have not been eating healthy for some time or have gained weight. A lot of people will then make a New Year’s resolution to lose weight or to be healthy. While, it is good that people are reflecting on their behaviours over the past year what if we could try to approach meal times with more awareness of what we are consuming.
My approach doesn’t involve pulling out the calorie counter book at Christmas lunch or punching in numbers into phone apps trying figure out how many calories you have consumed. It is about understanding that there are always better or healthier choices that we can make and that we can still enjoy the festive season without the extra baggage. Don’t worry I won’t be encouraging you to just munch on dry biscuits and fruit as it is all about variety. I will leave you with some tips on how to approach meal times during the various festive season celebrations.
– If smaller plates are available then I would use this to plate my food.
– With the main meal fill half the plate with a garden salad and preferably choose one without mayonnaise. Try to have just one portion of meat or fish and ideally this should take up less than half of your plate. If you are after some carbohydrate with your meal you could add some pasta salad or potato or corn or 1-2 small bread rolls to your plate.
– With snacks some of the healthier options are: fresh fruit, some dried fruit, handful of mixed nuts, dry biscuits/crackers and dip (e.g. hummus, tzatziki). Cheese and baked goods are high in fat and calories so try to have smaller amounts of these foods.
– When it comes to desserts I would go for the fruit based desserts (e.g. fruit cake) and try to reduce your intake of creamy based desserts.
– With alcoholic drinks I will always recommend that people drink responsibly and advocate that less is more definitely in this department. So you can still have a few drinks without going overboard. Try having some lower calorie/ light alcoholic beverages or maybe try interchanging some alcoholic drinks with water and diet soft drinks.
– Don’t panic even if you attended an event and you know you went to town with the alcohol or the pavlova. Try not to focus on how you ate for one day but, look at the overall picture. It is not one day but, rather a season or period of eating high calorie foods or drinks that leads to weight gain.
– If you happen to be the host of a Christmas party celebration then you can implement some of the recommendations I have provided above. Be creative, the internet is a good source when comes to ideas on how to present healthy foods in a festive way.
Iftu Umar is a community dietitian that recently started working in North East Victoria. Iftu enjoys learning new things in the area of nutrition. She is looking forward to exploring all the great farmers markets in the region.