How to Limit the Damage of Festive Feasting
During the Christmas and New Year holidays, many of us will be taking a break from our routines and our exercise for a few days or more, which, combined with heavy eating and drinking, can see us welcoming the new year with a bit more on our waists than we’d like.
While it is, of course, important to enjoy yourself when you’re with friends and family over the holidays, there are some steps you can take to be a little healthier without bringing down the mood.
First, let’s talk about carbohydrates.
Low-to-no carb diets are very popular these days, but it’s the quality of the carbohydrates you eat that matters more than the quantity. Carbohydrates are essential for providing energy for your body, but if that energy is released into your bloodstream faster than your body can use it, then it gets stored as fat.
This is where the Glycemic Index comes in. This gives a value out of 100 for how quickly the carbohydrates contained in a food are converted into glucose. The higher the number, the quicker glucose enters your bloodstream, which means that regularly eating foods with a high GI leads to weight gain.
If your body becomes used to these elevated levels of glucose, it can even develop an addiction, where the more high GI carbs you eat, the more you’ll crave them. A lot of the difficulty people experience in changing their diet is a result of battling these cravings.
You may be familiar with terms like complex or slow-release carbohydrates, which are the colloquial terms for carbohydrates with a low GI number. Oats, barley, brown rice, sweet potatoes, low fat dairy products, legumes and wholegrain wheat products are examples of foods that will release their energy slowly throughout the day, keeping pace with your body’s energy use rather than delivering it in sudden spikes.
So, over the holidays, politely try to limit your portions of potatoes, white bread, white rice, white pasta and any other foods high in simple carbohydrates. Chances are you’re not going to be doing enough physical activity to burn off the amount of glucose that they’ll release. If you are going to indulge, try and get the carbs in early in the day when you’re more likely to use their energy, as opposed to late in the day when the energy is likely to be stored as fat.
When you’re filling your plate, it’s safer to load up on meat and fresh vegetables than simple carbs. Protein doesn’t get stored as fat like glucose does, it’s either used or it’s flushed out. If you can, choose a lean cut of meat or fish, but if you can’t avoid a fatty piece of meat it’s still a better option than a pile of roast potatoes – unless you can convince the table that sweet potatoes are just as good.
Also, if you’re going to be drinking, make sure that there’s always jug of water on the table along with the wine and beer. Keeping hydrated is second only to breathing in order of importance, so water should be at arm’s reach at all times to balance out the dehydrating effect of alcohol.
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