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When it comes to celebrating the festive season, healthy eating doesn’t always take first priority. More often than not, holiday preparations and sleeping arrangements for extended family can be quite stressful. Here are a few simple tips to help you survive the holidays and enjoy plenty of good, healthy food without feeling as though you’re restricting yourself.

First festive pitfall: Chips and dip

Come prepared to the party. If there’s one thing you can expect to find at almost every celebration these holidays, it’s the traditional chips and dip table snacks.

Tip 1: Eat a healthy snack or sandwich before the party
Sometimes you can wait up to five hours for the main meal to be prepared — especially if it’s a braai. During that time, hunger sets in and before you know it, you’ve devoured more chips and dip than the “few” munchies you’d originally planned to nibble on while you wait. Here’s a helpful trick — try to eat a whole wheat sandwich with a protein, like egg or meat, and an avocado to help you stay satisfied and full while you wait for the food to be prepared.

Tip 2: Bring your own healthy snack plate
Chips and pastries aren’t the only food options available when it comes to snacks. Fill your snack platter with baby carrots, celery sticks, cucumber sticks, snap peas, and mini corn or rice cakes — and don’t forget to add delicious dips like hummus, salsa, or a Tzatziki dip. With all the colourful combinations and yummy dip options, don’t be surprised if everyone suddenly starts taking an interest in your platter instead of the regular chips and dips option.

Second festive pitfall: Cocktails, ciders and wines

Be mindful of the fizzy drinks, juices, ciders, wines, and cocktails you drink over the festive season; these calories can quickly add up and lead to extra weight gain without you even realising it.

Tip 3: Carry a water bottle with you
December in South Africa can get very hot, and when you’re thirsty, it’s easy to drink fizzy cooldrinks when beverage options are limited. Carry a water bottle with you to help to keep your metabolism high; it will also prevent you from consuming unnecessary sugary drinks.

Tip 4: Avoid ciders and cocktails
Ciders and cocktails tend to have a high sugar content. Rather choose spirits such as vodka, gin, whisky and rum as these are highly distilled and should not contain sugars. Also be mindful of the beverage you choose to mix it with. Orange juice and fizzy drinks tend to be high in sugar. This can be avoided by choosing to mix your vodka, gin, or whisky with water or a sugar-free fizzy drink.

Third festive pitfall: Disruptive routine

The holiday season usually lacks the strict routine you’re used to, and late mornings generally tend to mean that breakfast gets skipped.

Tip 5: Never skip breakfast
Get yourself one or two healthy breakfast options like oats, high-fibre bran, or low GI toast with a boiled egg. Make sure that you have these ingredients on hand at home and make your breakfast first thing in the morning. This will help to keep your metabolism booming during the festive season. Try to stay away from rusks, flap jacks, and choc-chip pancakes this season. These kinds of breakfasts are high in sugar and fat.

Tip 6: Keep your eating routine
Many people lose track of what they eat daily during the festive season. It is still important to keep an eating schedule and to follow a guideline. Don’t forget to snack in between main meals, and remember your breakfast-snack-lunch-snack-supper guideline — this will help to keep your metabolism going over the festive season. Keep some mini rice cakes or a small bag of biltong or peanuts in your car or your bag for on-the-go snacking. Here are 10 yummy low-calorie snack ideas you could also try.

Fourth Festive Pitfall: Dining and desserts

Trying out new restaurants, puddings, ice-creams, and milkshakes are treats that are all traditionally associated with the festive season.

Tip 9: Eat out the healthy way
Just because you’re trying to stay healthy and keep your figure in check, doesn’t mean that you should avoid going to restaurants entirely. Read our article about easy tricks and tips to eat out the healthy way.

Tip 8: Enter the festive season with a few healthy treat ideas up your sleeve
Research a few delicious and low-calorie treats for the holiday season so you can “have your cake and eat it.” Here are a few healthy, but yummy options you could also try:

Celebrate your health this season. Following these simple tips so that you can still have a great time with family and friends, without compromising on fun or taste. Enjoy the season of celebrations and reward yourself with a healthy and happy body!

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