According to Nutrition Australia, the average Aussie packs on around 0.8-1.5kg over the Christmas period[i]. The trouble is that most of us don’t lose the extra kilos over the year. The result? We’re getting heavier and heavier. Today, a staggering two thirds of Australians are overweight or obese[ii].
Being too heavy is seriously bad for your health – it increases your risk of chronic (long-term) conditions such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancers and even Alzheimer’s disease.
This Christmas season follow these easy tips to pick smarter and healthier options at your gatherings, to help you fill up on flavour – without filling out!
Before the party
Don’t let yourself get too hungry before an event – it’s easier to succumb to fatty/sugary treats. So have a small sandwich or some veggie sticks and hummus or tomato salsa. Make sure you’re hydrated, too. It’s easy to mistake hunger for thirst.
Circle before you choose and chew
Studies show that when faced with a wide selection of foods, people tend to want to try everything. So make a conscious decision to stop, take a look at what you fancy going around the table a few times before making your choice. Then make sure you chew, chew, chew! According to food psychologist, Dr Brian Wansink, people who chew their foods more tend to be lighter than people who don’t[iii].
Pick up a small one
Psychologically speaking, eating from a smaller plate is more satisfying than loading up a large plate – the plate looks fuller so your mind is tricked into thinking you’ve had loads to eat. Plus, Brian Wansink found that people tend to finish everything on their plate[iv]! Our portion sizes have grown over the last 20 years along with our waistlines – did you know that the plates used by our grandparents were the size of our current salad plates? That’s one great reason to downsize your plate.
Put your knife and fork down between bites. Put your glass down before you have another sip. Why? It helps you to become more focused on what you’re consuming. It also takes around 10 minutes after you are full that the signals reach your brain to tell you that you’ve had enough. Slowing it down helps you get back in tune with your body and puts you back in control.
They are low in kilojoules and rich in nutrition, water and fibre. They also require a lot of chewing which helps to slow things down as you take the edge off your appetite. The fibre in veggies and legumes (peas, beans and pulses) absorbs water (another reason to ensure you’re well hydrated), which forms a jelly like mass that helps you to feel physically fuller.
If sushi is on the menu, it’s a great option. The combo of high protein fish and filling fibre in the sticky rice is a healthy choice. Add wasabi to tempt and tantalise your taste buds.
Don’t drown in fat
Creamy, cheesy, dressings, dips and sauces make the kilojoules soar and drown fresh tastes, too. Instead, drizzle a little olive oil and lemon or lime juice on your salads and veggies.
Try smaller treats
If you love certain treats, you don’t have to cut them out completely. If you can, try to opt for small amounts and eat slowly – enjoy every mouthful.
Move away from the buffet
Research shows that being near food – seeing it and easily being able to grab it – makes it more likely that you’ll eat more[v]. So try and sit as far away from the meal mountain as you can.
Drink from a long one
Again, Dr Wansink’s pioneering work has shown that people tend to feel that they have drunk more if they drink from long glasses compared with short, stubby ones[vi]. Using tall thin glasses instead of large wide ones means that you’ll end up pouring less and drinking less, too.
Don’t drink your kilojoules
Your body was meant to be hydrated with kilojoule free water. This may be one reason why your body finds it so hard to detect the kilojoules in juices, waters and smoothies. Alcohol provides a double whammy – it has a lot of KJs and it also puts the brakes on fat breakdown. So try to dilute your drinks, alternate between alcoholic drinks and water and opt to be the designated driver if you can.
Balance things out
Don’t make the celebrations start early and stay late into January – it’s a sure fire way to start the New Year a little heavier. Balancing your extra intake with extra exercise is vital if you don’t want to start the New Year heavier than you were last year. Just half an hour a day can make a big difference to your health – your body health and your self-confidence and emotional wellness, too.
[i] Nutrition Australia. Tips to beat the Christmas bulge. http://www.nutritionaustralia.org/national/resource/tips-beat-christmas-bulge
[iii] Reader’s Digest. How to Chew Your Food More. http://www.rd.com/health/diet-weight-loss/chew-more-eat-less/
[iv] Cornell University Food and Brand Lab. Most of the World Belongs to the Clean Plate Club – Except Children. http://foodpsychology.cornell.edu/op/Clean_Plate_Club
[v] Cornell University Food and Brand Lab. How Visibility and Convenience Influence Candy Consumption. http://foodpsychology.cornell.edu/content/how-visibility-and-convenience-influence-candy-consumption
[vi] Cornell University Food and Brand Lab. Short, Wide Glasses Induce Us to Over-Pour Despite Serving Experience. http://foodpsychology.cornell.edu/op/glassshape