How to eat healthily during the festive season

’Tis the season to spend time with loved ones and this, of course, involves socialising and plenty of food! Before heading out to yet another buffet, keep in mind that you can enjoy the festive season and still eat healthily. Try these tips to stick to your eating plan.

Eat enough beforehand

You should maintain your eating schedule, such as having a breakfast high in protein to sustain you until lunchtime. And before you head out to a gathering, have a light snack such as fruit with peanut butter, a slice of wholegrain toast or a small yoghurt and a glass of water. This will help to prevent overeating.

Tip: Keep a healthy snack in your bag like some nuts or an apple when you’re on the go.

Fill up on fibre

Instead of garlic bread or deep-fried starters, choose fibre-rich, low-energy-dense foods. Soups, salads and grilled veggies are great options for volume eating that will help you to curb your appetite during the main course. Veggie dips and sides like guacamole and salsa can add extra flavour and healthy fats.

Tip: Split starters if you’re in a group so you can try different options.

Prepare a strategy

Keeping in mind how you’re going to build your plate will help you to stick to your eating plan. A good rule of thumb is to fill half your plate with fresh or cooked veggies and the other half with proteins and grains. This could look like a plate of salads, chicken, hummus and pretzels. Try using a side plate and a small glass to control your portion size.

Tip: Prepare your own food (to take with you to family gatherings, for example) if you prefer, so you can control your fat, sodium and sugar intake.

Drink smart

Alcoholic beverages are often packed with sugar and kilojoules, and it’s easy to go over the limit when you’re having a good time. Try to stick to the recommended daily limit of two drinks or less per day for men or one drink or less per day for women. Even better, skip the alcohol and have delicious mocktails instead – and remember, the best drink to fill up on is water.

Tip: Don’t drink and drive. Always choose a designated driver if you know you will be drinking. Alternatively, use apps like RYDD, where you can hail a designated driver in. It works similarly to Uber, which is also a good option.

Make room for dessert

If you completely deprive yourself of festive treats, it may become harder to resist them, leading to overindulgence. Choose your favourite treat at restaurants or casual gatherings. You could split it with someone, dish a small serving or order a half portion if possible – many restaurants offer half portions of desserts like brownies and ice cream.

Tip: If you can’t avoid a large serving, save the rest for later!

For more advice related to healthy eating, read these helpful articles:


Recipe: Giant pumpkin-jacks with herbed mushrooms, peppers, wilted greens and feta

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How to reclaim your guilty pleasures

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While a harmless guilty pleasure brings joy and release, it can be seen as embarrassing or taboo. Here’s why guilty pleasures can be good for your wellbeing, and what healthy indulgence looks like.

From watching your favourite show and enjoying a delicious slice of cake to taking a day off, indulging in life’s pleasures is often associated with guilt. Laziness, selfishness and weakness are also tied to leisure. But why?

According to Psychology Today, guilt may arise from your perception of judgment, either from yourself or others. This is often associated with anything society views as ‘bad for us’. We are also made to feel ashamed for not being ‘productive’, ‘moral’ or having ‘self-control’. As a result, anything pleasurable is seen as something that needs to be earned.

The benefits of indulgence

  • Doing something for fun gives you a mental break and gets you out of problem-solving mode. This helps you to deal with stress and pressure better.
  • It’s healthy to embrace your need for all kinds of treats and restricting yourself makes it more likely that you’ll overindulge.
  • Entertainment can help with emotional release. For example, you may cry or laugh while watching a show, and this has a cathartic effect.

Tips for indulging healthily

Taking a lazy day

Despite what you’ve been taught, this is not unproductive and can allow your mind and body to recharge. This makes you less prone to burnout, helps you to be more creative and aids in better sleep.

What this could look like:

  • taking a day off work, shutting down your computer and not reading emails
  • saying no to plans and spending all day in bed watching your favourite show
  • switching your phone to Airplane Mode and ignoring texts and social media for a day
Eating whatever you want

Food not only nourishes your body, but can also be good for your wellbeing. And although it shouldn’t be used as an emotional crutch, it’s perfectly fine to eat for the senses. Furthermore, depriving yourself of your favourite foods because they are labelled ‘unhealthy’ could lead to overindulgence.

What this could look like:

  • eating your favourite foods in moderation
  • getting takeout, on occasion, when you don’t feel like cooking
  • having comfort foods, or healthy alternatives, when you’re stressed or feeling down
Treating yourself

Since many people have suffered financially during the pandemic, overspending shouldn’t be encouraged. However, it’s still important to do nice things for yourself now and then, staying within your budget, of course. This is part of self-care because it reminds you that you deserve to be treated well.

What this could look like

  • finally checking out your digital shopping cart
  • subscribing to a streaming service such as Netflix, or going to a spa
  • buying something just because you like it, not because you need it

For more lifestyle advice related to mental health, read these helpful articles:

For confidential assistance, contact Life EHS; SMS your name to 31581 and the Care Centre will call you back.

The information is shared on condition that readers will make their own determination, including seeking advice from a professional. E&OE.


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