Getting the Christmas Parties Started!

Guest Blog by Sian Porter, Consultant Dietitian & Spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association

With the festive party season kicking off, there is a tangible sense of excitement and frivolity. For many of us the Christmas period is the one time of the year we get all our friends together in one place for a night of fun and celebration. We can all get a bit carried away and actually, for one or two nights, why not?

However, those Christmas catch ups and office parties can take their toll. On average, people gain between 1-5lbs (1-2.5kg) over the Christmas period meaning the party clothes that look absolutely fabulous on December 1st, can be a little snug by the time we get to the New Year’s Eve party on the 31st.

Although this statistic can seem daunting, it is not inevitable. Many people can feel helpless, like the endless eating and drinking is unavoidable. We all have the ability to make better choices and this is what the British Dietetic Association (BDA) Guide is aiming to help people to do. It’s really not about being a party pooper but about having fun whilst making your own healthier choices and feeling less overwhelmed. You can choose to gorge on all the food and drink you clap eyes on, or you can choose to pace yourself, make ‘wise man’ choices and balance the feasts with lighter days. Combine this with some dancing and you’ll still be feeling fab by the time 2016 is heralded in.

We all know it can be difficult to resist those seasonal treats. A little bit of what you fancy is fine in moderation, just make smart choices. Remember – Christmas is a great chance to spend time with loved ones, not hours with the buffet! Either way, the British Dietetic Association wants to wish everybody a very Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy 2016!

The LBD (little blaScreen Shot 2015-12-02 at 11.26.31ck dress) and LBT (little black trouser) Guide to Getting the Christmas Parties Started:

  • Eat before!  The buffet table can often offer limited food choice, usually fat-laden stodgy offerings that provide poor nutritional value. Why not fill up on the food of your choice beforehand at home or work (but don’t end up eating twice!)? Try eating something healthy and filling before you make your grand entrance, such as hearty vegetable and bean soup, hummus with oatcakes, or a fresh fruit and yogurt-based smoothie.  As a bonus, you won’t be drinking on an empty stomach or have to worry about embarrassing spillages down your favourite party clothes.
  • Walk this way!  If you are travelling by car, why not park a little further away and walk the extra distance (if safe to do so of course) or get off the bus a stop early. Not only will that walk contribute to your daily activity and burn some calories, it will also get your blood pumping making you more alert and energised for the festive fun ahead.  In addition, if you drive, you won’t be tempted by calorific alcoholic drinks but be careful to watch the calories in soft drinks.
  • Drink, but think!  Whilst tis the season to be jolly, take it easy and don’t get carried away. Those enticing, brightly-coloured cocktails are often full of sugar, cream and the hangover favourites – ‘congeners’ (mostly found in darker spirits like whisky and rum).  If you are going to drink alcohol, try sticking to a refreshing white wine spritzer (less alcohol and fewer calories) and alternate your alcoholic drink with a glass of water, low calorie soft drinks or unsweetened fruit juice mixed with fizzy water.  If you do want to indulge at cocktail hour, you could go for the good old fashioned Screwdriver (vodka and unsweetened orange juice) or a Sea Breeze (vodka and cranberry juice).
  • Festive Foods!  If you decide to eat at the party, try to pick out healthier options such as skinless chicken, salads without dressing, or veggie crudités with hummus or salsa that also contribute to your recommended 5-a-day.  Try to avoid creamy dips, mayo-loaded salads, fried foods, and the pastry offerings that will inevitably be in abundance.  Visit only once with a small dessert sized plate and then step away from temptation.
  • Just enough! Most people don’t really know what appropriate portion sizes look like and this isn’t helped by the fact that plate sizes and glasses are constantly getting bigger. In terms of meal portions, think about eating protein like meat the size of the palm of your hand, carbs the size of a clenched fist, half your plate as veg. Share courses, try not to over order, ask for a doggy bag and only eat if you are truly hungry (not tempted, bored, seeing food).
  • Rockin’ around the Christmas…dance floor!  Get those dancing shoes on and bust out your best dance floor moves to Christmas classics. Dancing is a great way of burning calories and it is also the perfect distraction from drinking and eating more.  Just remember to drink lots of water throughout the night to maintain hydration levels and keep up your disco dancing stamina.

Screen Shot 2015-12-02 at 11.34.36Save your money and access a whole raft of FREE BDA Food Fact Sheets  including one specifically about weight loss.

Additional information:

  • The BDA, founded in 1936, is the professional association and trade union for dietitians in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It is the nation’s largest organisation of food and nutrition professionals with over 8,000 members.
  • Dietitians are the only qualified health professionals that assess, diagnose and treat diet and nutrition problems at an individual and wider public health level. Uniquely, dietitians use the most up to date public health and scientific research on food, health and disease, which they translate into practical guidance to enable people to make appropriate lifestyle and food choices.
  • Dietitians are the only nutrition professionals to be statutorily regulated, and governed by an ethical code, to ensure that they always work to the highest standard. Dietitians work in the NHS, private practice, industry, education, research, sport, media, public relations, publishing, non-government organisations and government. Their advice influences food and health policy across the spectrum from government, local communities and individuals.

Why not see 2020health’s Report  ‘CARELESS EATING COSTS LIVES’  for more information on the causes of Obesity. Our research has shown that hand-in-hand with obesity is widespread confusion over what constitutes healthy eating.

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About Julia Manning

Julia Manning is a social entrepreneur, writer, campaigner and commentator. She is based in London and is the founder and Chief Executive of 2020health, an independent, social enterprise Think Tank whose aim is to Make Health Personal. Through networking, technology, research, relationships and campaigning 2020health has influenced opinion and action in fields as diverse as bioethics, alcohol, emerging technologies, fraud, education, consumer technology and vaccination. Julia studied visual science at City University and became a member of the College of Optometrists in 1991. Her career has included being a visiting lecturer at City University, a visiting clinician at the Royal Free Hospital, working with south London Primary Care Trusts and as a Director of the UK Institute of Optometry. She specialised in diabetes (University of Warwick Certificate in Diabetic Care) and founded Julia Manning Eyecare in 2004, a home and prison visiting practice for people with mental and physical disabilities using the latest digital technology, which she sold to Healthcall (now part of Specsavers) in 2009. Experiences of working in the NHS, contributing to policy development, raising two children in the inner-city and standing in the General Election in Bristol in 2005 led to Julia forming 2020health at the end of 2006. Julia is a regular guest on TV and radio shows such as BBC News, ITV’s Daybreak/ GMB, Channel 5 News, BBC 1′s The Big Questions, BBC Radio, LBC and has taken part in debates and contributed to BBC’s Newsnight, Panorama, You and Yours and ITV’s The Week. She is mum to a rugby-mad son, a daughter passionate about Shakespeare, and wife of a comprehensive school assistant head-teacher. She loves gardening, ballet, Zimbabwe, her Westies Skye and Angus, is an honorary research associate at UCL and a Fellow of the RSA.
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