As a big believer in the concept that food is something to be enjoyed and savoured, I am not one to encourage particular dietary restraint at this time of year (it is Christmas, after all). However, I am also mindful of the fact that the sort of overindulgence typical over the festive season can leave many of us feeling distinctly blurred around the edges. The usual round of social engagements and a glut of tempting food have us feeling uncomfortably full by the end of the day, and uncomfortable about how well we fill our clothes by the end of the year. Christmas is coming, and it’s not just the goose that may be getting fat.
I thought I’d use this special time of year to bring some glad tidings: believe it or not, it can be possible to have a very merry Christmas without causing our waistline or weight to balloon. Some savvy dietary tactics can help us to exercise some control over the quality and quantity of the food we consume over the holiday season, but without fostering feelings of deprivation or sacrifice. Establishing a decent breakfast is a good start to the day, as it often does wonders to reduce the risk of over-eating later on. Unfortunately, many of us can be tempted to eschew breakfast in an attempt to compensate for the anticipated food-fest to come. This usually turns out to be a false economy, however, as going without food early on can increase the risk of us gorging ourselves later on.
Precisely what we eat at breakfast can have a bearing on its appetite quelling effects. High carb breakfasts such as cereal and toast can cause surges of blood sugar that may be overcompensated for leading to low blood sugar about three or four hours later. This can trigger a ravenous appetite and a tendency to crack into dreadful edibles such as cheese straws or chocolate pretzels by late morning. I suggest getting some protein into the body early on in the day, as this generally helps to sustain blood sugar levels and keep hunger nicely under control. Scrambled or poached eggs or smoked salmon would do very well for this, perhaps accompanied by some rye bread or toast (see Nutrition News below) and some grilled tomatoes. Some may find that snacking can reduce the risk of over-eating at meals, and may benefit from grabbing a satsuma or two as they go. Other healthy foods to be had between meals include nuts, olives and dates. Nuts and olives can be particularly useful for dulling the appetite-sharpening effects of an aperitif before lunch or dinner.
By evening out our food intake, healthy snacking reduces the risk of us overwhelming our digestive system at meal time. Other things that can assist the digestive process is to chew food thoroughly and to avoid quaffing too much fluid at the meal itself (fluid dilutes and tends to impair the function of the digestive secretions). Another useful ploy is to take what are known as digestive enzymes (available in health food stores) after meals. Digestive enzymes assist the body in its digestive duties, and can reduce the risk of indigestion and a feeling of inertia after meals. Tactical eating and giving digestion a helping hand can really help to make sure that its only the turkey that gets well-stuffed over Christmas.