Healthy holiday food choices
Let’s be real for a moment: the festive season is often the culprit that ruins fitness progress. Scaling down from our busy work life after a long year into a more flexible routine on holiday, leads to most of us feeling an uncontrollable urge to eat more by binging on everything that looks good and tastes good. We often end up losing all the progress we’ve made throughout the year. Many people have a fitness life cycle that leads to throwing away all the hard work, just so that you have to come back and start all over again in the new year. But is it worth it?
It doesn’t have to be difficult! All it takes is a little planning with some advice from our resident personal trainer and nutrition specialist, Monique Jansen van Vuuren to make this holiday your healthiest one yet.
Try these basic tips to help you cut down on unhealthy snacks this holiday season.
Fill up on fibre
Research has shown that people with fibre-rich diets tend to eat less during the day. This is because fibrous foods take longer to chew; they digest slower and take up more space in the stomach, which makes you feel full for longer. This will help to curb those hunger pangs between meals.
Eat smaller meals, more often
Many dieticians and nutritionists recommend eating every 3-4 hours to keep your metabolic rate high and sustain healthy, consistent energy levels. Fuelling your body with smaller, more balanced meals throughout the day can also help you to avoid binge eating and curb food cravings during your holiday. Portion control and eating the correct foods are essential to meal planning, otherwise you risk gaining unnecessary weight.
TIP: Smaller portions (4 to 5 meals/snacks per day) should do the trick! Use this as a guideline:
1 x small portion of protein
1 x small portion of carbohydrates or healthy fats
1 or 2 x portions of healthy greens
Cut out processed carbs
Although processed carbohydrates often taste good, they are hard for the body to digest and they spike blood sugar levels, which is then followed by a drop. This carb-driven sugar level ‘rollercoaster’ can create extreme cravings and hunger, which often leads to unnecessary or uncontrollable overeating.
TIP: Avoid white pasta, breads, cookies, sweets, crisps and sodas loaded with sugar.
Planning TIP: Get more sweet potato, whole grain rice, butternut and natural unprocessed foods and plan your lunch and dinner meals around what you’ve bought. This way, you’ll also save money by not continuously grabbing takeaways.
Pack in more protein
Proteins also take longer and require more kilojoules to digest, which means you burn more energy to process them. Furthermore, protein-rich foods keep you feeling full for longer and help stabilise your blood sugar, preventing dips in energy, hunger and cravings.
TIP: Healthy protein source options include grilled or steamed hake, salmon, skinless chicken breast, whey protein powder, eggs or liquid egg whites, lentils, tofu, extra lean beef mince and ostrich.
When we are skipping meals - especially breakfast - it can badly affect our food choices during the rest of the day, and often lead to constant snacking throughout the day. Distractions like eating inconsistently or only at random times may mean that your body fails to recognise what it should be digesting and does not absorb nutrients optimally. This can lead to too much snacking, despite having eaten an entire meal.
TIP: A great tip is to slow down when chewing your food. Chew slowly, savour every taste, flavours and textures of what you are eating and notice how satiated you feel with each bite.
Restaurants ARE NOT the enemy!
Pick restaurant outings at places that do have healthier varieties on the menu to choose from. Ensure you select a meal on the menu that includes a lean protein source with veggies, salad or dark greens as a side. Skip the fries this time for a healthier baked potato, sweet potato, butternut or rice and enjoy a glass of water during and after your meal to ensure you stay full, you don't overeat, and for better digestion of the food that you have consumed.
Finally, I leave you with this quote: “I could write you a million motivational quotes, I could show you a thousand progress photos, I could take you through a whole training programme, I could cook hundreds of healthy meals for you, but the truth is, you need to get up and fight for the body you’d want to live in.”
Happy healthy eating this holiday everyone!