Wherever you look, there are Christmas temptations at every turn. From mince pies and Christmas cake to chocolate and your favourite tipple, it is easy to over-indulge over the festive season.
But don’t worry! As part of the Welsh Government’s Help Us Help You campaign, we have drafted in Public Health Dietetic Support Workers, Fern Walter and Elinor Davies, from Powys Teaching Health Board who have revealed their top 10 tips.
“Winter is always a busy time for the NHS due to colder weather and flu viruses. This winter, the pandemic will add further pressure on the NHS. But there are things we can all do to help. We can improve our wellbeing by being more active, making healthier food choices and drinking less alcohol,” says Elinor.
“But we don’t have to deny ourselves the things we enjoy,” adds Fern. “Here are some small steps you can take.”
Although Christmas is actually just a couple of days, it can be a long season with tempting foods filling the shops as soon as Halloween is over. Try to keep the festive foods for those few special days and try our tips below for healthier options throughout the season.
When Christmas comes around, so do the festive drinks. Cream-based liqueurs are particularly high in calories and those festive hot drinks can soon add up too. Look for reduced sugar or sugar free alternatives, and choose low calorie mixers. Fruit juice is an option but remember that these are high in sugar so stick to one 150ml glass a day.
Christmas isn’t just about tubs of chocolates. Satsumas, clementines, nuts, and smoked salmon are in abundance at this time of year. Seasonal vegetables are highly nutritious, and are often cheaper and locally produced too.
If you have grown up with the smell of mince pies and Christmas cake baking in the kitchen, the preparing of food is very much part of the celebrations. Head to the British Heart Foundation website and you will find delicious, reduced fat recipes for mince pies, Christmas cake, trifle, chocolate logs, stuffing, and more. You can still enjoy your festive favourites while keeping an eye on your waistline. Visit www.bhf.org.uk/recipes. We have picked out a handful below:
Recipes supplied by the British Heart Foundation. For more healthy recipes and tips for leading a heart-healthy lifestyle sign up free to Heart Matters at bhf.org.uk/heartmatters.
Eating out can be difficult when you are faced with large menus. Don’t deprive yourself of foods you enjoy but you could consider choosing between a starter or a pudding or filling up with a side order of vegetables or salad. The British Heart Foundation website says: “Whether you're eating out or at home, having a coffee or cup of tea while others have a pudding is a good way to round off a meal, or you could share a pudding with others.”
There will be times over Christmas when you may decide to eat a bigger meal or enjoy some chocolate. And that’s fine! Just try to balance things out with lighter, healthier meals for the rest of the day. Try making a batch of vegetable soup and freeze in small portions for an easy lunch or dinner.
Make sure you are drinking plenty of water. Often, we think we are hungry when actually our bodies are thirsty. Keeping hydrated is so important for our health, and can prevent tiredness, headaches, and constipation.
Try pouring out six or eight glasses into a jug and drink it regularly throughout the day. If you do not like the taste of plain water, add a slice of lemon or lime or brew yourself a herbal tea. Regular teas and coffee count too!
The festive season can often disrupt our routines but still aim to have regular meals, and space out your eating evenly throughout the day. This will help to keep your energy levels steady and mean you’re less likely to reach for high calorie food and drinks. Plan in some healthy snacks in case you feel hungry between meals.
Many of us often confuse cravings for hunger. Hunger is our body’s need for food whereas a craving is our ‘want’ for food and usually this feeling disappears once we’ve distracted ourselves with something else, other than the thought of food. Time to dig out a board game or a good Christmas movie!
You don’t have to sign yourself up for a marathon or even go to a gym to get the benefits of exercise. A nice family walk is a great way to blow away the cobwebs and get moving. If its icy outside, those that may be frail and in danger of falling could try some chair-based exercises which can be found on the NHS website, or maybe try playing charades.
If you want to kickstart your journey to a healthier lifestyle, but don’t know where to start go to the Living and Feeling Well pages on the NHS 111 Wales website for tips and advice.