Here are some strategies for coping with the overindulgence and late nights that are an inevitable but enjoyable part of the festive season.
TIP ONE:Everything starts with breakfast
If you are going out in the evening, start the day with a generous bowl of porridge, topped with a handful of cranberries and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Porridge stabilises blood sugar levels, as does cinnamon, which helps control appetite later in the day. Add a good dollop of probiotic yoghurt, which helps boost immunity as well as combat some of the less beneficial effects of the party season, like too much alcohol and not enough sleep.
TIP TWO: Stay hydrated
On the day of a big night out, and the day after, make a conscious effort to drink 6-8 glasses of water or plenty of herbal teas or diluted juice. Even mild dehydration can lead to a headache and combined with the diuretic effects of alcohol makes maintaining your fluid intake so important. Regular teas and coffee count towards your fluid intake, but caffeinated versions shouldn’t make up your full quota.
TIP THREE: Sensible snacking
If you arrive hungry at a party, it may be a struggle to resist the canapés, so always have a pre-party snack such as a small pot of plain yoghurt with a sliced banana. The yoghurt’s protein slows stomach emptying, which helps delay the effects of that first glass of wine while the potassium-rich banana helps balance any increase salt intake – especially helpful if I’m going to be nibbling on olives, crisps or salted nuts. You are better off eating before you go to a party because you are more likely to stick to your resolve when the nibbles come round a second or third time. Other snacks which do the trick include grainy toast with nut butter, a bowl of muesli with milk, or a mug of chunky veggie soup.
TIP FOUR: Back away from the buffet
Buffets can be a disaster zone – so make sure you fill half your plate with salad and vegetables, and the rest with lean protein-based food such as salmon and chicken. Take time selecting and eating your food and move away from the table as soon as your plate is full to avoid non-stop grazing.
TIP FIVE: No more hangovers
Don’t be tempted to skip meals so you can stockpile calories for drinking. Alcohol only supplies empty calories, so avoiding proper meals to compensate for a booze splurge means you’re losing out on valuable nutrients, just when your body needs them to help it detoxify. Stick to one type of drink and I make it a lighter-coloured one because they tend to be lower in the chemical by-products that can worsen a hangover. Aim to have no more than one alcoholic drink an hour, alternated with juice, water or soft drinks – perfect if you don’t like holding an empty glass.
TIP SIX: What to eat the next morning
A fabulous ‘morning after’ breakfast is a frittata or omelette packed with veggies. Try mushrooms for their energising B vitamins, tomatoes for vitamin C and onions for their liver-friendly sulphur compounds. Or spinach because it’s a great source of folate which helps the body repair DNA. Eggs are an excellent choice for the morning after because they provide choline, a nutrient that supports the liver. Add a sprinkle of cayenne pepper or a chopped chilli to boost circulation and rev up your recovery. If you can’t face a cooked breakfast then have a smoothie made with fruits like bananas, oranges or kiwi – these are rich in potassium which helps replenish the electrolytes lost due to the diuretic effects of alcohol.
TIP SIX: Get back on track
After a big night out don’t skip meals, even if you have over-indulged. After all, it’s the balance of your diet that’s important. Apply the 80:20 principle – eating healthily 80% of the time, which allows space for delicious treats at weekends and on special occasions.A great principal to keep to all year long, I might add.
TIP SEVEN: Bring Your Own Food
Contribute a healthy dish to a gathering to ensure there’s something you can indulge in. Offer to bring the nibbles (include vegetable crudites, hummus and nuts), a large salad or a healthy fish dish such as salmon and wasabi or grilled chicken with a herb crust.
TIP EIGHT: Concentrate on your meal while you’re eating it.
Focus on chewing your food well and enjoying the smell, taste, and texture of each item. Research shows that mealtime multitasking (whether at home or at a party) can make you pop mindless calories into your mouth. Of course, dinner-party conversation is only natural, but try to set your food down until you’re finished chatting so you are more aware of what you’re taking in.
TIP NINE: Keep a food diary
Be honest with yourself and write down everything you eat and drink, not to beat yourself up but to raise awareness about what and when you head for the fridge. Aim to eat while seated anf focused on food, again, so that you are mindful of what you are eating. There is a tendency at this time of year to eat on the run or snack constantly – this often leads to high calorie, low quality intake.
TIP TEN: Keep active
Make the most of the Kiwi summer months and take up a new sport or commit to walking, running, swimming or whatever activity takes your fancy at least three times a week. The more muscle we have the easier it is to burn off those extra calories, and cardiovascular exercise (where we huff and puff for about 20 mins) is great for fat burning.