Christmas is just one day, right? One day of eating all the delicious foods, even overeating them, is not going to harm your heart.
However, most of us have spent the whole year overeating. And Christmas isn’t just one day, when you think about the three to four weeks of Christmas parties, social gatherings and excess food that happens at this time of the year. Research actually shows that the average person puts on about 2kg over this time and never loses it.1
Rather than putting off healthy eating changes as next year’s problem, you can start making easy changes now. Christmas is going to come around every year for the rest of your life – get a jump on it and learn to manage it!
If maintaining a healthy eating pattern over the Christmas season is important to you, then here are 12 simple tips to maximise health and enjoyment during the festivities.
One is for:
One standard alcoholic drink and what that means. Any more than four standard drinks in one sitting is classified as a binge. This may not feel like a binge to you, but it sure does for your liver. Alternate one standard drink with one glass of water and you’ll not only help your liver (and your heart), but you’ll feel much better the next day as well!
As a rough guide, one standard drink = 1 shot of a spirit = 1 standard glass of wine = 285ml glass of beer.
Two is for:
The number of serves of fresh fruit to include in your diet each day. Antioxidants, fibre and carbohydrates are all great reasons to eat fruit. For snacks, salads and desserts, fresh is always best!
Three is for:
The serves of protein-rich foods to include each day. That’s one serve for each of your main meals: breakfast, lunch and dinner. Protein helps you feel fuller for longer, helps maintain muscle mass and can increase your metabolism.
- Choose whole foods whenever possible.
- Swap out ham and bacon for whole pork or turkey.
- Swap out schnitzel for whole chicken breast.
- Swap out sausages for steak or mince.
Four is for:
The number of days you can safely keep pre-cooked or pre-prepared food in your fridge. Prepping food in advance is a great way to stay organised, especially when you’re busy. Boil and peel eggs, poach chicken breast, pre-cook brown rice or wholemeal pasta, make up mixed garden salads or make a Bircher muesli or chia pudding for breakfasts.
Five is for:
The number of grams of fibre (or more) that you should aim to get in your bread of choice. Five grams or more of fibre per two slices of bread is a great benchmark and a key to helping you choose a healthier bread option. Fibre is vital for a healthy gut and a healthy heart.
Six is for:
It takes 60 minutes or less to write up a weekly meal plan to help you stay organised and prepared for a busy week ahead. Writing a meal plan is about setting yourself up for success. Having healthy meals and snacks planned and ready to suit your lifestyle day-to-day will mean no matter what your week throws at you, your food will still be on track.
Seven is for:
The number of days in the week that you need to prioritise healthy behaviours. Whether it’s a daily walk, vegetables at dinner, whole-food snacks or early nights, aim to make healthy living ‘who you are and what you do’. When it’s a normal part of your life, you’re less likely to fall off the wagon and more likely to do it long term. To make this possible, these healthy behaviours need to be realistic and suit your lifestyle.
Eight is for:
The number of glasses of water to aim for during the day. On hot days or when you exercise for over an hour, you’re likely to need more than this. If your urine is dark yellow, you’re not drinking enough.
Nine is for:
The number of times you need to try a new food or a new habit without giving up. In fact, you shouldn’t give up at all! Taking action, getting out of your comfort zone and doing something different is the key to creating new and lasting behaviours.
Ten is for:
Setting a goal to hit 10,000 steps per day. If you don’t have a step counter, there are step counter apps available to download for smartphones. Keep moving over the festive season to help burn energy and keep many body systems, especially your heart, in tip-top condition.
Eleven is for:
The number of kind, uplifting and encouraging things you need to tell yourself in one day! Looking after your health starts with a positive mind-set and kind self-talk.
Twelve is for:
Here are 12 vegetables to aim to try or include regularly in your diet. The research around the health benefits of vegetables, especially for the heart, is clear. You need five cups of vegetables per day – get them in via salads, stir fries, steaming, blanching, cutting them into sticks for snacks, roasting, BBQing, and sautéing.
- Broccoli or broccolini
- Asian greens: bok choy, pak choy, choy sum
- Baby spinach
- Green beans
- Snow peas or sugar snap peas
- Lettuce: rocket, cos, iceberg, coral – any leafy green will have benefits
And of course, there are plenty more than just these 12 – so don’t let this list limit you!
As always, these are general suggestions and do not take your own individual circumstances or health goals into account. Speak to your doctor or other healthcare professional for personalised nutrition tips.
- Foodsense. Consumer Reports on Health: Dodge holiday weight gain without missing the merriment. Dec 2002
About the author
The Healthy Eating Hub
This article was written by an Accredited Practicing Dietitian from The Healthy Eating Hub. The Healthy Eating Hub is a team of university-qualified nutritionists and dietitians who are passionate about helping people develop long term healthy eating habits through offering evidence-based and practical nutrition advice that people can put into practice straight away.