Most Australians have now finished school or on a break from work, ready for a season of yummy foods, drinks and overindulgence through parties, Christmas and the New Year.
While treats and special occasion foods can add variety and enjoyment to our diets, unfortunately many of us are already eating poorly as a regular practice. Each week, Australian adults eat 17 or more serves of alcoholic beverages, chocolate, sugar-sweetened drinks, cakes and biscuits, processed meats and savoury snacks such as crisps.
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How can I eat better at Christmas?
Regardless of how healthily you normally eat, it’s useful to have a plan of attack in periods renowned for dietary excess. Based on what we know about typical Australian eating habits, here are ten festive season survival tips for better health.
1. Plan your drinks
Alcohol contains a lot of kilojoules (1 calorie = 4.2 kilojoules), so try setting yourself an alcohol limit before arriving at a party or social function. A good strategy is to alternate alcohol with water, soda water or diet soft drinks. To keep your sugar intake down, switch sugar sweetened drinks for diet options, or better still, water.
2. Eat before the party
It can be a mistake to arrive hungry to a function offering cocktail food. The temptation to shove lots of yummy treats in your mouth is hard to resist!
The ideal option is to eat a healthy meal beforehand. Aim for plenty of salad or vegetables, some lean protein (meat, chicken or fish) and a small side of wholegrain carbohydrates (for example, half a cup of cooked brown rice). Dietary proteins leave us feeling fuller for longer.
Not all canapés are created the same. If you are eating at the party, look for lean protein-based choices, such as meat balls, prawns, lean meat skewers, sushi, cold rolls or frittata. Avoid fried and pastry-based morsels.
3. Have a platter strategy
It’s difficult to keep track of how much you’ve eaten when enjoying finger food. If grazing from a platter, go for the vegetable sticks in preference to crackers, and choose hummus and vegetable based dips.
If cheese is your thing, focus on quality rather than quantity, and consciously cut thin slices. Cheese is high in kilojoules.
4. Two courses is plenty
There’s no need to miss out on delicious meals when eating at a restaurant.
A simple way to prevent kilojoule overload is to limit yourself to one to two courses, for example entrée and a main, mains and a side salad, or main and dessert.
5. Focus on lean protein plus vegetables
Instead of carbohydrate-heavy pasta, pizza and rice-based dishes, select main meals that include lean protein foods, and salads or vegetables.