It's Christmas time! It's easy to get caught up in the madness of the season, and so you should - to an extent. Amongst all the festivities, nutrition can often go out of the window. I'd encourage anybody to get into the spirit and enjoy the fun and games, and I believe the social support of interacting with friends and family that can benefit our psychological wellbeing.
At the same time, it's wise to be aware of what - and how much - you're eating. Here are some tips on maintaining healthy habits over Christmas.
Plan in Advance
This doesn't mean planning every meal, the time you eat, and restricting yourself if you fall outside of your preparations. Meal planning could improve diet quality and variety, and weight management (Ducrot et al., 2017). However, having a general awareness of what you'll be having, and being realistic in your portion sizes will help you stay in control.
You could be the one in charge of the shopping and make a list of what you need without going over the top. If not, check with your parents, friends, or others about which options might be available so you can be one step ahead.
Image Credit: Meal planner courtesy of Loughborough University
Take Your Time
Taking your time to eat is a good way of monitoring your fullness and satisfaction with a meal. Don't overthink this. Simple 'hacks' could be putting your cutlery down in between bites and taking longer to chew the food (with smaller bites) to savour the taste, rather than wolfing it down (as explored by Forde et al., 2012). It can take time to feel full after eating. Slow spaced eating has been associated with greater feeing of fullness and less hunger (Angelopoulos et al., 2014 - although this was in Type 2 diabetics).
Having a drink of water before a meal may help you reduce energy intake and hunger, and increase fullness (Corney et al., 2016 - although the participants drank a pint of water). Try drinking during and/or after a meal if you prefer! High-protein (meat, fish, eggs etc) and high-fibre foods (e.g. fruit, vegetables, beans and pulses) promote satiety to help you feel full and suppress hunger.
These tips also mean you'll have time to socialise with your family and friends. Tell a joke, put a Christmas film on the TV, or pull Christmas crackers and those feelings of fullness might have kicked in by then.
That old chestnut. Everything in moderation – it helps1 Whether it's pigs in blankets or desserts, indulgence is important if it makes you feel happy and avoids restrictive punishment behaviours. Maintaining a healthy relationship with food can go a long way towards success in your dietary goals. Knowing when you've had enough, what kind of foods and drinks you like and how they affect you is a good step towards greater self-awareness. Tips include taking the skin off meat or simply taking it easy on additional sauces, condiments and drinks, as well as having smaller slices of dessert if you have some. The British Nutrition Foundation website has some great suggestions ('Understanding satiety: feeling full after a meal').
Christmas dinner can be a nutrient-dense - and incredibly tasty - meal. A lean meat or vegetarian option gives you plenty of protein. Stacking your plate with vegetables provides a mix of vitamins and minerals, helping you get your 5-a day. These fibrous foods and lean protein options are lower in calories but will likely help you feel fuller for longer!
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Angelopoulos, T., Kokkinos, Liaskos, Tentolouris, Alexiadou, Miras, ... Le Roux. (2014). The effect of slow spaced eating on hunger and satiety in overweight and obese patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus. BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care, 2(1), BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care, 3 July 2014, Vol.2(1).
Corney, R., Sunderland, A., & James, C. (2016). Immediate pre-meal water ingestion decreases voluntary food intake in lean young males. European Journal of Nutrition, 55(2), 815-819.
Ducrot, Pauline, Mnjean, Caroline, Aroumougame, Vani, Ibanez, Gladys, Alles, Benjamin, Kesse-Guyot, Emmanuelle, ... Pnneau, Sandrine. (2017). Meal planning is associated with food variety, diet quality and body weight status in a large sample of French adults. The International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 14(1). The International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity.
Forde, Van Kuijk, Thaler, De Graaf, & Martin. (2012). Oral processing characteristics of solid meal components, and relations with food composition, sensory attributes & expected-satiation. Appetite, 59(2), 626.
Article written by Liam Oliver, sports nutrition intern at British Diving on behalf of Youth Sport Nutrition.