Here are 5 holiday healthy-eating tips from a registered dietician

Here are 5 holiday healthy-eating tips from a registered dietician

Published on 4th November, 2021 at 08:58 am

Research published in The New England Journal of Medicine revealed that our weight increases significantly during the holiday season, with a gain of anything between 0.37-1.52kg. This time of year can give rise to a lot of anxiety with endless outings and an abundance of food options, making it easy to overindulge. So, we asked a dietician for tips for enjoying yourself in a balanced way this holiday season.

#1: Don’t skip meals to ‘save space’

Skipping meals to ‘save’ space for eating at the big festive meals is one of the most common mistakes people make over this time, says Monique Piderit, a registered dietician at Nutritional Solutions. What usually happens is that you end up arriving at that meal incredibly hungry and more likely to overeat, she adds. Piderit recommends having a healthy snack before heading out. She also recommends sticking to your usual healthy routine as much as possible during the holidays. “In the morning, have a hearty breakfast, like scrambled or poached eggs with wholewheat toast and avocado, or overnight oats, and then a snack mid-morning, like yoghurt and fruit. Then, when you head into that lunch or dinner, you won’t be overly hungry, and it will be easier to control your portions,” she adds.

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#2: Be mindful of drinking your calories

As we all know, it’s easy to let our guard down on alcohol during the silly season. “While all foods can (and should) form part of a healthy and balanced diet, we must remember that the energy in alcohol is very high. Gram for gram, alcohol is higher in energy than carbs and protein. One glass of wine (red or white) is the same as two slices of bread worth of energy. That means drinking one bottle of wine is about 10 slices of bread worth of energy,” cautions Piderit. This can quickly add up. Piderit suggests drinking light beer and wine, and alternating alcoholic drinks with water, sparkling water or a sugar-free fizzy drink. “Shandies and spritzers (made with sparkling water or sugar-free lemonade) are a great low-energy thirst-quencher for a hot summer’s day,” she suggests.

This is roughly how much energy your drink contains:

  • 1 small glass (150ml) white/red wine = 585kJ
  • Wine spritzer = 300kJ
  • Regular beer = 600kJ
  • Lite beer = 450kJ
  • Beer shandy (with 1/2 lite beer & 1/2 Sprite Zero) = 225kJ
  • Regular gin (double) & tonic = 1 100kJ
  • Gin (single) & sugar-free tonic = 316kJ
  • Single spirit with sugar-free mixer = 316kJ

#3: Go easy on the snacks

“Going big on the pre-lunch or dinner snacks, like chip and dip, popcorn and biltong is another big mistake we make,” says Piderit. “We mindlessly nibble away on the appetisers, and then still eat a big main meal when it’s ready.” During the festive season, it’s easy to lose track of your routine. “During this time, we tend to eat very irregularly. This leads to erratic and unstable blood glucose levels, which trigger cravings and the need for bigger portions,” says Piderit. If you want to enjoy snacks or appetisers, Piderit recommends limiting yourself to a side-plate serving before the main meal.

Nutritional Solutions suggests the following snacks as a delicious low-kilojoule option:

  • High-fibre crackers with hummus, cottage cheese or peanut butter.
  • Roasted chickpeas: rinse tinned chickpeas, toss in olive oil and seasoning (chilli flakes, garlic, cumin or cinnamon) and roast for 45 minutes.
  • Stove-popped popcorn.
  • Ice lollies made with a sugar-free concentrate such as Brookes Low-Cal Squash or Slimsy Squash.
  • Home-made froyo (place a 100ml flavoured tub of yoghurt in the freezer).

#4: Get creative with healthier swaps

You can still enjoy your favourite foods, but with a healthy spin. Piderit suggests making a healthier potato salad by mixing half mayonnaise with half low-fat yoghurt for a creamy alternative. Snack on raw vegetables such as carrots, cucumber, tomatoes, cauliflower dipped in hummus, tzatziki or flavoured cottage cheese. “Fresh fruit salad with sorbet, fruit kebabs grilled on the braai and drizzled with chocolate, or coal-baked apples or pears wrapped in foil are all healthy and tasty dessert options,” adds Piderit.

#5: Eat healthily when you can

“It’s important to enter this period with the intention to be as good as you can when you can,” encourages Piderit. “When someone else is doing the cooking, like when you’re visiting family or friends, it’s important to remember that what is in your control is your decision about how much and what you eat.” Piderit advises building your meal with half a plate of veggies, a quarter plate of starch (like rice, pasta, potatoes, samp and pap), and another quarter of protein (like red meat, chicken or fish). “This way, you can still eat everything on offer, but just control the portions of each, focusing more on vegetables and less on starch. Also consider offering to bring a salad or healthy dessert to ensure you have better choices for yourself to choose from,” says Piderit.

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