Healthy Festive Eating

Sunita Pant Bansal

As the festive season approaches, all our diet plans are thrown out of gear. We get busy attending parties or giving parties. There might be a brief period of lull in between, but that also is spent in recovering from the aftermath of party binging and/or preparing for the next round of parties to come. Let’s see how to handle our diet at this crucial time of the year.

When Attending A Party:
Brushing teeth or rinsing with a mouthwash before going for a party actually discourages eating, as very few food flavors work well with the flavor of toothpaste or mouthwash.

Pre-empt party indulgence by snacking before you go – preferably on protein and fiber. Have some cereal, yogurt or fruit. When you are comfortably full, you will be less likely to eat everything you see.

At the party, eat only those snacks or dishes you know and like. Avoid salty or deep-fried foods. Salt leads to increased drinking, water retention and discomfort; while greasy foods increase fat and calorie intake.

Avoid sweet, sugary snacks and foods – they are addictive and make you crave more. If you must have sweet foods, reduce the amounts.

Eat more of the foods that are good for you and low in calories, such as soup, fruit, nuts, raw or cooked vegetables, and lean cuts of meat. This will leave less space for other unhealthy foods.

Choose boiled potato or steamed rice as an alternative to a high carb dish like potato chips and wedges.

Chips and dips are often placed on the table for us to pick at while we have our drinks. Alternatives to these snacks are cheese and fruit platters. Choose fruit that is not coated in sauces and minimize the crackers. Be mindful of the cheeses, as most are relatively high in fat.

Instead of a dinner plate, choose a side plate. Remember to use the size of your clenched fist as a measurement for carbohydrates (rice, potato and pasta).

For protein (meats), use the size of your palm as a measurement.

Have water as often as possible, certainly between alcoholic drinks, and food too. This will help maintain hydration and control appetite.

Eat slowly and concentrate on enjoying the flavors of different foods. Eating slowly will help you not to overeat.

It is also important to avoid drinking alcoholic beverages before having something to eat. Alcohol dehydrates, and reduces blood sugar levels leading to sugar-cravings. Alcohol also stimulates the appetite.

Make your first drink non-alcoholic. Follow any alcoholic drink with one that’s non-alcoholic, such as water or orange juice.

Avoid high-calorie drinks like eggnog, fruit punch and beer. Stick to sparkling water and light beer (if you have to).

If you’re doing any party-hopping or same-day holiday visiting, eat one meal in stages. Limit yourself to the main course at one gathering, dessert-only at your next stop.

When Planning A Party:
Plan your meals to include a variety of vegetable dishes, a few favorite dishes, and one or two new healthy dishes.

Replace sweets or fried snacks and dishes with fruits, vegetables and nuts. These may be prepared as interesting, attractive dishes or served in their natural form.

Use cooking methods that require little or no oil, such as grilling, roasting, steaming, microwaving, and stir-fry instead of deep fry.

Reduce the sugar in some recipes. Although ice cream is great for a treat, try the frozen yogurt options.

When At Home:
Don’t go for the “binge and starve” strategy. Missing meals will often lead to snacking on sweets, crisps and leftover food. Concentrate on eating when you’re hungry and stop eating when you are full. Always have at least three meals a day.

Try and eat the recommended five daily servings of fruit and vegetables. Fruit contains fiber and water, as well as various vitamins and minerals. Indulge in fruit smoothies and fruit salads.

Try to eat healthy meals 75% of the time. If you plan to have supper with friends, have a high fiber, low fat breakfast and lots of salads and fruit at lunch.

If you find it difficult to continue with your normal weight loss over the festive season, at least try to maintain your current weight and put in more effort as soon as you are back to your normal routine.

Make sure you get enough rest. Exhaustion makes you overeat to restore energy. Meditation is a good way to achieve mental and physical relaxation. Listening to your favorite relaxing music and taking long relaxing baths will help keep stress and tension in check.

Dietary Modifications For A Quick And Effective Weight-loss:
You should eat higher than normal protein as it gives a feeling of satiety and also increases the basal metabolic rate of the body, resulting in burning of stored calories. Good quality protein in the form of low fat milk, lean meats and whole pulses should be included in all the meals. A high protein meal reduces your appetite and thus the total calorie intake.

Fried foods and high fat foods like processed cheese, butter, chocolates, fatty meats, ice creams and salad dressings should be avoided.

Carbohydrates should be taken in complex forms, as in whole grain cereals. Simple carbs like sugar should be restricted and sweets should be avoided.

Fruits and vegetables should be taken in plenty, as they are low in calories and provide fiber.

High fiber foods are typically low in calories and very filling, so you reduce your overall calorie intake. Dietary fiber also helps in burning of the stored calories in our body. The good sources of fiber are cereals like rice, wheat, maize and millets; legumes like beans; all vegetables and fruits. Having the vegetables and fruits unpeeled, as much as possible, helps.

Substitute sugar-rich fruit juices and colas with plain tea (without cream/ milk and sugar). The ability of tea to promote good health has long been believed in many countries, especially Japan, China, India and England. Nobody knows exactly, or when, the first cup of tea was brewed. According to folklore, Emperor Shen Nung who reigned over China in 2737 BC discovered the stimulating effect of tea accidentally when wild tea leaves fell into his pot of boiling drinking water. Chinese have probably been drinking tea in some form or the other since the fourth century AD and considering that wild tea grew in many parts of Assam, it is not unlikely that tea drinking in India too is as old as in China.

Research has shown the anti-cancer properties of antioxidant polyphenols. Studies have suggested that tea’s polyphenols may reduce the risk of gastric, esophageal and skin cancers; help the immune system; lower cholesterol levels; and keep the heart healthy. This is especially true for green tea and black tea. Tea is also calorie-free, so it helps in weight loss.

Tea is fairly rich in most of the B group vitamins. Apart from these, it is also a good source of vitamin E and K and Beta-carotene (changes into vitamin A in our body). Tea contains traces of minerals like copper, fluoride and manganese too.

So, at the end of the festive season, when you put away your party crockery and cutlery, resolve to follow a healthy diet regime – at least for a fortnight. Have a high protein, high fiber diet – and see the extra pounds melt away.

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