After indulging in festive feasts and family dinners, January can feel like a nightmare for many. The holiday season brings an abundance of tempting junk and fast foods and drinks that can lead to unwanted weight gain.
Health For Mzansi spoke to registered dietitians who are ready to rock the festive season with style while staying committed to their healthy lifestyle.
Sifting through a lot of options to get the best
Listening to your body is essential to reaching your healthy lifestyle objectives, says Howick, KwaZulu-Natal resident Zama Khumalo, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Association for Dietetics in South Africa (Adsa).
Cravings are the enemy of healthy lifestyles, so learn to control them, she cautions.
Khumalo notes that throughout the holiday season, there is a parade of parties and end-of-year gatherings, family get-togethers, and braais with friends. It’s a foodie frenzy that revolves around food and beverages, creating issues with nutrition and health.
“I personally try to listen to my body. I avoid depriving myself of the treats I may crave at that family braai – everything is allowed in moderation!”
Her approach is to select most of the vegetables and salads from the table, along with the leaner meat portions.
Keeping healthy lifestyle hacks for the holiday
According to Kelly Scholtz, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for Adsa, the summer school holiday brings a delightful change in routine, but it also poses a challenge for many working parents whose children are already enjoying their break.
“I have a handful of anchor habits that I keep track of to ensure I am staying focused on wellness and that keeps me feeling in control of my health when I’m busy.”
She says her target is to drink two litres of water or herbal tea and consume 500g of vegetables and fruits daily.
Scholtz says the fix for her is to make sure she conducts simple meditation and breathing techniques regularly, and that she maintains track of them during the changes that the holidays bring to our routines.
Take a kind approach to holiday eating
Nathalie Mat, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for Adsa, expresses her joy for the summer holidays. She appreciates being able to engage in physical activities and the additional time available to prepare meals together as a family.
“I love getting the kids involved in cooking meals as this improves their exposure to different foods and it’s a great time to model a healthy relationship with food.”
Mat explains that if they are going as a family to a holiday destination, they pack a car ‘picnic’, which is just a variety of finger foods that the family likes.
“We don’t just eat for nutrients; we eat for enjoyment and as part of celebration.”
She notes that cooking and eating together may create lifetime memories, and it’s crucial to include fun in our dietary decisions as well.
Keep it simple
According to Nelile Nxumalo, spokesperson for Adsa and a registered dietitian, her favourite moments of joy during the festive season are weekend braais and lunches spent with family and friends.
During the festive season, she adds, they often have large family gatherings, resulting in a wide variety of food choices. This wide range of options can sometimes make it challenging to maintain a healthy eating routine.
Nxumalo shares a few tips for staying on track:
- Firstly, I try not to attend events and parties on an empty stomach. When you’re hungry you run the risk of overeating or choosing the higher calorie food options.
- Salads and vegetables always fill up half my plate, and this is an easy way to limit your portions of foods with high refined starch content.
- I stock up on healthy snacks in the house, such as fruits, nuts, and popcorn and try to avoid keeping lots of sweets and cookies.
- I encourage my family to keep hydrated by drinking plenty of water and avoiding high-calorie beverages and drinks.
- I do not stop exercising just because it is the holidays. There are always ways to keep active without being at the gym, such as taking walks, hiking and swimming.
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