Dietitians Association of Australia spokesperson Lauren McGuckin said: ‘Christmas is just one day a year, but celebrations often stretch over a month or longer. So weight wise, this is a difficult time of year for many Australians.’
Ms McGuckin said recent research has shown that weight gain over the festive season is a major contributor to excess yearly weight gain, especially for people who are already carrying more weight than they would like1.
She said another study involving 82 people showed a significant increase in body fat percentage and total fat mass over the festive season2.
‘Most Australians would agree that Christmas is not the best time to be trying to shed excess kilos. The goal over the festive season should instead be around keeping weight stable by making smart food and drink choices.
‘Even an extra 600 kilojoules a day – the amount in a small slice of Christmas cake or a can of full-strength beer – can add up over time and result in a couple of extra kilos come January. Those extra kilos are so much harder to get off than they are to put on, so the trick is to avoid gaining weight in the first place,’ said Ms McGuckin, an Accredited Practising Dietitian.
Some tips to help keep weight gain at bay over the festive season include:
- Eat lighter. Snack on seasonal fruit (such as cherries and watermelon), a small handful of nuts, or low-fat crackers and a salsa dip. Eating a handful of cherries instead of a handful of lollies will save you around 330kJ and 16g of added sugar.
- Plan plan plan. Take a healthy platter to parties or functions. Include lots of bright, colourful vegetable sticks such as carrot, red and green capsicum, green beans and snow peas. Serve with an avocado dip, beetroot dip or yoghurt-based dip.
- Drink smarter. If you drink, aim for two glasses of low joule non-alcoholic drinks to every alcoholic drink. Try soda with a squeeze of lime or lemon, or a jug of cold water with cucumber or strawberries and lots of ice for a refreshing change. If you swap a glass of sparkling wine for sparkling water with a squeeze of lemon you will save 470kJ.
- Eat mindfully. Try to eat slowly, savour every mouthful and enjoy your food over the festive period. You don’t need to eat everything on offer – be selective and enjoy a small amount. Stop eating once you are comfortably full.
- Move more. Take the stairs instead of the escalator, wash the dishes by hand instead of using the dishwasher, get off the bus a stop earlier and walk the rest of the way, ride your bike to the local shops instead of taking the car.
- Get the right support. An Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) is your diet coach – providing you with individual, expert advice to help you achieve your goals. Visit the ‘Find an APD’ section of the Dietitians Association of Australia website at www.daa.asn.au to find an APD in your area.
1. Schoeller DA, 2014, ‘The effect of holiday weight gain on body weight’, Physiology & Behavior, Vol. 134, pp. 66-9
2. Hull HR, Hester CN & Fields DA, 2006, ‘The effect of the holiday season on body weight and composition in college students’, Nutrition & Metabolism, Vol. 3, No. 44. Accessed 28 November 2014. Available from: www.nutritionandmetabolism.com/content/3/1/44