How to Survive the Holidays: Some Dietary Tips to Avoid Overindulgence
December is perhaps the month of temptations, isn’t it? Between dinners with colleagues, drinks with friends and relatives for exchanging greetings, every opportunity in this month is good for celebration and interrupting our diet, only to step on the scale at the end of the festivities and fear that we may have indulged too much! Not to mention the Christmas Eve dinner, followed by Christmas lunch, perhaps Boxing Day, and ending with the night of December 31st and New Year’s Eve. In short, there are many days that can jeopardize a dietetic journey started a few months ago.
To understand what precautions to take during these days, we spoke with Dr. Ilaria Ernesti, a specialist in nutritional science at Paideia International Hospital.
What is the secret to surviving the holidays?
“First of all, enjoy them! It’s a special time of the year with a unique atmosphere. My advice is to approach the table with awareness: food is pleasure, taste, but also smell and sight. Let’s set the table with awareness and dedication: let’s cook healthy and nutritious foods, avoid precooked or packaged ones, increase the portions of vegetables, and make room for traditional dishes. Last but not least, look around: we are sharing a festive moment with loved ones, and food is an additional pleasure, not the only one.”
Is it better to sample everything or have a full plate?
“Let’s make room for tastings but always in a controlled way. This means being aware of portions, choosing what we prefer, both to avoid waste and to be able to have seconds of what we liked the most. Always listen to our stomach; it might get full before our head does.”
How can we regulate ourselves with desserts?
“Christmas is sweet by definition! Certainly, these are elaborate desserts, so quite calorific and rich in fats… that’s why they’re so good! It’s hard for them to remain an exception in these days. My advice is mainly related to ‘snacking,’ meaning not leaving them in sight on the table but closing and storing them in the cupboard to avoid recurring temptations during the day.”
And for alcoholic beverages or non-alcoholic cocktails?
“A nice toast will accompany the dishes, this is the case on most tables. Prefer wine or prosecco over sugary and artificially colored cocktails, and don’t overdo the quantities. Remember that alcohol, especially the higher proof ones, doesn’t aid digestion; on the contrary, it slows down stomach emptying, achieving the opposite effect.”
Physical activity can’t just be about the fork, what can we do?
“Oh no, poor fork! Let’s try to include more physical activity in these festive days, which often coincide with reduced work activity days: a simple walk in the park before or after lunch, a home workout in the morning, and why not, a visit to the gym or swimming pool to dedicate time to our body and our psycho-physical well-being. Let’s try to maintain the balance that we have achieved with more or less difficulty during the year.”