It is that time of year again. The holiday season, festive frolics, chocolate and cookie boxes, drinks by the fire and calories everywhere you look. It is undoubtedly a time to relax, unwind and enjoy time with your friends, family and loved ones. But that relaxation can have some unwanted side effects. A relaxed approach can lead to increased energy intake, increased sedentary behaviours, less time outside and poor quality sleep.
Holiday weight gain is a phenomenon that has been studied for many, many years. Researchers have found that between November and January most people gain between 1-2 pounds, certainly not as much as you think. But the issue is that those 1-2 pounds stick around. In fact those 1-2 pounds were still there the following winter, in almost all of the individuals involved in the study. It may seem like an insignificant amount of weight, but 1-2 pounds per year is 10-20 pounds over 10 years.
Now fear not, a study published in The British Medical Journal reported that individuals who maintained a level of restraint and activity during the holidays actually lost 0.3 pounds, while the other group who went into full relaxation mode with zero restraint, gained an average of 0.8 pounds.
Top tips to stay on track over the holiday’s!
1. Create space
Let’s be honest, staying in and eating chicken, broccoli and endless salad is unlikely and most certainly, unnecessary. Life is to be enjoyed, particularly during this time of year! Going out to restaurants or around to friends and families houses is almost essential at this time of year. But be mindful that those meals are often much larger and more energy dense than your normal meals, and those additional calories can add up over time.
During this period we can think about ways in which we can make room for those extra calories we might consume, by reducing energy intake in other meals. For example, if I know I am going out for dinner this evening, I could eat a smaller breakfast and lunch, and thus save myself 500 calories which I know I will consume that evening. Therefore, still remaining in a calorie deficit or ensuring you don’t go into a surplus. A simple way to achieve that would be to swap out your normal breakfast for a B.Fresh Lean Greens and an apple, then have an omelette with veggies for lunch.
2. Keep protein high
Include a lean, high-quality protein such as chicken, fish, eggs, low fat yogurt, soy or beans with all meals and snacks, this should be around 1 hand serving size. Protein helps to fill you up and increase energy expenditure, so you burn more calories.
3. Whey to go
If you do not ordinarily consume a protein supplement, then now is the time to start doing so! Whey protein is just an alternative source of protein, but it has been shown to reduce appetite and cravings as it sends signals from the stomach to the brain to say, “I’m full, don’t eat more”. Research has shown that a 30 gram serving of whey protein can reduce energy intake at a subsequent meal by 12-17%. I’d recommend having 30 grams of whey, mid-afternoon and again in the evening, when relaxation mode is in full swing and cravings are at their highest.
4. Full on fibre
Fibre fills you up. Vegetables are packed full of fibre, they are also low in calories and rich in micronutrients, vitamins and minerals, to boost your health during the holidays. Vegetables should make up around 50% of your plate during the holiday season. The B.Fresh gut range, Gut Health Berries and Gut Health Greens, are also packed full of fibre and should be considered here.
5. Go low fat
Where possible opt for lower fat options. Fat contains 9 calories per gram, meaning high fat foods such as cheese, butter, red meats, nuts, avocado, olives and alike, tend to be higher in calories. All may be considered healthy in moderation, but opting for low fat dairy, prioritizing lean meats like chicken or turkey, and controlling serving sizes of nuts, avocado, olives (1 palm sized serving) is your best bet to manage calorie intake. Thankfully the entire B.Fresh range is completely fat free, so can easily be included in your daily diet.
6. Portion caution
Be mindful of portion sizes at all meals, snacks and especially desserts. Remember the serving size suggestion of 1 hand serving size lean protein, 1 fist size serving of carbohydrate and around 50% of your plate a rainbow of colourful vegetables and fruits. When consuming desserts, imagine you are feeding a young child. The serving size should be small and where possible bulked out with berries and low fat yogurt. Think a small slice of apple pie with low fat vanilla yogurt or pavlova with a large serving of berries and fat free Greek yogurt.
7. Be active
Use the free time to walk outside, be active, try and stay on track with the in-app exercises and aim for 10,000 steps each day. Rather than meeting up with friends at a restaurant or coffee shop, how about meeting them for a walk, workout or yoga class?
8. Think about the drinks
Try to avoid drinking additional calories, prioritize water, sparkling water or sugar free flavoured water. Opt for low calorie alcoholic drinks like light beers, white wine, spirits and soda water or sugar free soft drink mixers. Remember that calories from drinks can quickly add up and cause a catastrophe at the end of the day. By sticking to water, you can save your calories to use on a festive treat, like a tasty mince park or dip into that box of celebrations.
9. Smart snacks
Prioritize low calorie, high protein and fibre snacks, such as low fat Greek yogurt, berries, apples, oranges, Fibre One bars and protein shakes. Have these mid-afternoon to manage blood sugar, and prevent excessive hunger and cravings which could result in making poor decisions.
10. Adapt your environment
Calorific food can be found everywhere you look at this time of year, so try and adapt your environment to make the low calorie, healthy snacks easily accessible. Think fruit bowls, pre-prepared berry pots, single serve low fat yogurt pots, a fridge stacked with Lean Greens, Gut Health Berries and Greens and Fibre One bars. Make the high calorie, high fat, high sugar sweet treats, difficult to access, away from eyesight and in an awkward location. Make the default decision the best decision!
Managing the holidays can be a challenge, but it is possible. Enjoy this time and adopt some of these simple strategies to stay on track this Christmas!