Do you tend to put weight on over the holiday season? Perhaps several kg? You’re not alone! It’s easily done. But the good news is, it doesn’t have to be like that. You can get through the party season without putting on anything. Apart from a snazzy outfit of course! Here are our 15 top tips to avoid gaining weight over the party season.
Be fat aware
Of course, the ideal solution to avoid weight gain would simply be to carry on eating the way you normally do. That’s pretty much impossible for most people.
A good compromise is to be fat aware.
Why are we targeting fat? Because fat has 9 calories per g compared to protein and carbs, which have 4. That means the calorie content of food tends to be strongly correlated to the fat content.
High fat content, high calorie content.
It’s far easier to spot the fat content than it is to try and estimate the calorie content of everything. If you think something is high fat then either avoid it or go easy on it.
So, what to be aware of?
- Gravies, creamy sauces, cheesy sauces, oily sauces, cream, most custards, dressings.
- Cakes, biscuits, pastries.
- Crisps, munchies and dipping nibbles like cheesy twists.
- Puddings and ice cream.
- Anything in pastry, breadcrumbs or batter – like most party food!
- Processed meat products – sausages, pâtés, pies, salamis.
- Oily accompaniments to nibbles – houmous, taramasalata, supermarket dips.
Also, be aware of fat you are adding to food due to of the way you prepare it. If you roast in a bath of oil, your veg or spuds are going to absorb a lot of extra calories. If you add butter to eggs, open sandwiches, vegetables, crackers and so on, then you’re going to add a lot of calories.
I know what you’re thinking – I’m trying to ruin your holiday! Honestly, I’m not. I’m not saying don’t eat these things. Although that would be the most effective thing to do. No, I’m just saying that if you care about gaining weight over the holiday, be aware of the foods that have a lot of calories. Then make a conscious decision about whether you’re going to eat it. Or how much of it you’re going to eat.
Amend your food
Make some lower calorie swaps to standard foods. Here are some examples
- Roast your veggies and spuds in cooking spray rather than an oil bath.
- Just have the cheese on the cracker without butter.
- If you’re having little squares of bread with something on – like smoked salmon – then leave the butter off. Usually the topping has a high enough fat content that you don’t need it anyway.
- Try thick Greek yoghurt on puddings instead of cream.
- Swap out your calorific pudding for a fruit salad or bowl of berries.
- Use a gravy separator to syphon off the fat from the juices before you make the gravy out of it.
- Try a lower fat cheese or cottage cheese.
- Make your own dips and have them with crudités rather than cheesy twists.
You get the gist. You don’t have to abstain, just make better choices
A controversial one I know – if there’s one time of year to have a drink, it’s around this time.
The easiest time to decide not to drink is if you’re going out. Then you have an excuse – you’re driving!
Worried about peer pressure? I’ve been on a stag do and a lads’ weekend to Majorca without touching a drop. I was expecting abuse, but got respect instead. Try it, you might be surprised.
If peer pressure is an issue, try the next tip.
Drink zero alcohol beer
At least you’ll have a drink in your hand that looks like it’s alcoholic. Of course, there are calories, but nowhere near as many. Almost all the calories in alcoholic drinks comes from the alcohol itself. And yes, that means swapping beer for vodka is ineffective – and the reason it does not feature as one of our tips.
If you fancy a drink but you want to curb your consumption, try alternating alcohol and water. You’ll get half as drunk, spare yourself a load of calories and stay hydrated, avoiding that hangover.
Don’t start on the nibbles
You know what it’s like. Once you start you can’t stop. They’re moreish! Well, if you don’t start in the first place then you won’t get that urge to keep sticking your hand in the nibbles. See the next tip for a way to resist.
Have a healthy snack before you go
If you turn up to the party hungry, you’re going to reach for the nibbles. Have something before you go. A lump of protein, some fruit and a glass of water would do the trick. You’ll have taken the edge of your appetite without ruining it for the actual meal. And because you’re not starving hungry, you’re less likely to be greedy during the meal.
Get it on the side
Ok, deliberate innuendo there. I’m talking about dressings, sauces, gravies etc. Ask for them on the side and you can make your own decision about how much to have, if any.
And as if one piece of innuendo wasn’t enough, here’s another. Go naked! Ask for your veggies without any butter or oil. We had grilled veggies in a restaurant the other day and forgot to ask about any oil. Grilled is grilled, right? Not fried. Not roasted in an oil bath. Foolishly, we were expecting fat free veggies. We got grilled veggies in a bath of oil, added as a ‘dressing’. Disappointing. The take home: remember to ask, then request that they come naked.
Send the bread away
A lot of restaurants have a basket of bread on the table before you even order your food. Don’t leave it there. The longer it stays there the louder it’s call will become. Eat me! And put butter on me!
Ask for it to be removed.
This presents the same challenge as nibbles. You’ll do better if you don’t start. Avoid starting by sending it away. Have a healthy snack before you go and you’ll be less tempted.
Choose the two-course option
At this time of year there are lots of events where you choose your food before you go. You’ll be offered the two-course option or the three-course option. First of all, make your choice just after your main meal of the day when you’re full up and, second, just choose the two courses. At least then, even if you fancy a pudding on the day, you can’t have one.
Study the menu before you go
Most restaurants have their menu online. Have a good look at it and figure out the best choices. You don’t want to hold people up when you’re there or make a rushed decision and get it wrong.
If you’re going to one of those dinner parties where everyone brings a dish or two, then you can take something healthy and fill your plate with it whilst everyone else eats the lardy stuff. If you find others wanting yours then that’ll probably be because they are health conscious too. In which case they’ll also have brought a healthy dish.
A party like this will enable you to take your own nibbles and dips too. There are plenty of healthy options out there.
Wash your mouth out
No, not because of the strong of expletives coming out of your mouth. Because of the chocolate going into your mouth!
Chocolate is the most craved food by far. There are plenty of others, and this tip applies to all of them, but we’ll talk about chocolate as an example.
You see, our genes have evolved to encourage us, when we find some tasty bounty, to scoff the lot. This made sense when food was scarce. Nowadays it’s more of a problem than a useful trait. It means once we start eating something like chocolate, we can’t stop. We just keep going back for more.
But there is a way to halt it.
Take the taste of chocolate away by putting something else in your mouth. It could be as simple as a cup of tea or coffee. Or you could try brushing your teeth and rinsing your mouth out with mouthwash. That will put a halt to your chocolate grabbing.
If you’re determined to avoid piling on the pounds then tell your friends. They might want to join you. At the very least they should support you, applaud you and respect you. The more everyone knows about it, the less likely you will be to have peer pressure. You’ll have nothing to hide and you won’t have to lie or pretend about anything.
Last but definitely not least in our 15 top tips to avoid gaining weight….exercise! It’s obvious when you think about it. As if the extra calorific food wasn’t enough, if you sit on your bum for 10 days and stop being active you’re going to gain weight pretty quickly. Remain active, or even increase your activity, and you’ll minimise the impact of any change in diet.
No, not the Chinese take-away. The take-home message. You can still enjoy this time of year, take part in everything but maintain your healthy weight. You just have to be calorie aware, be prepared, exercise a little self control and enjoy the support of your friends and family. And, of course, you’ll have to continue your exercise habit. That’s a given.
Is it important to you? Then you can do it. Follow our tips and stay on track with your weight loss and fitness goals this holiday season.