Healthy & Thrifty Christmas: 5 Ways to Stay Fit & Save

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As Christmas approaches, it becomes a challenge to eat healthy and maintain weight-related goals. The many social gatherings of the season can easily tempt us to indulge in calorie-dense foods and festive drinks. That’s why we tend to put on weight around Christmas and struggle to keep it off for the rest of the year.

Christmas 2023 is also increasing cost of living pressures, causing some to rethink their food choices. Throughout the year, 71% of Australians – or 14.2 million people – adjust their diet to respond to rising costs.

Fortunately, there are some simple, science-backed hacks for the holiday season to help you celebrate the food traditions you love without affecting your healthy eating habits, weight, or hip pocket.

1. Pack up on healthy pre-party snacks before heading out

If your holiday season is filled with year-end parties that may tempt you to fill up on finger foods and foods high in fat, salt, and sugar and low in nutrition, have a healthy pre-party meal before you head out. .

Research shows that carefully selected snacks can affect satiety (feelings of fullness after a meal), which may reduce the calories you eat later. High-protein, high-fiber snacks have a very powerful effect: because they take longer to digest, our hunger is satisfied for a longer time.

Nuts are a good choice.
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So enjoy a few nuts, a tub of yogurt, or a serving of hummus on veggie sticks before you head out to help keep your healthy eating plan on track.

2. Skip the low-carb drinks and enjoy your favorites in moderation

Despite marketing promises, low-carb soft drinks aren’t good for our health or our butts.

Many low-carb options have the same amount of carbohydrates as regular options but make us think they’re better, so we drink more. A study found that 15% of low-carb beer drinkers drank more beer than they used to because they believed it was healthier for them.

A regular lager or ale will contain less than 1.5 grams of carbohydrate per 100 ml while “low-carb” varieties can range anywhere from 0.5 grams to 2.0 grams. The calories in drinks come from the alcohol itself, not the carbohydrates.

The next time you go out to order, think about the amount of alcohol you’re drinking rather than the carbohydrates. Make sure you drink plenty of water between drinks to stay hydrated, too.

3. Don’t skimp on healthy food on Christmas Day – it’s actually cheaper

There is a perception that healthy food is expensive. But research shows that this is a misconception. A recent analysis in Victoria, for example, found following Australia’s Dietary Guidelines cost the average family A$156 less than the average food cost for two months, which includes packaged processed foods and alcohol.

So when planning your Christmas Day meal, offer pre-prepared, processed foods and substitute healthy ingredients:

  • swap out heavy, salty meats for leaner, lighter meats like fresh seafood. Some seafood, such as prawns, are said to be cheaper this year due to favorable weather conditions that are improving local supply.
  • for a side dish, choose fresh salads that include seasonal ingredients such as mango, watermelon, peach, cucumber and tomato. This will save you money and ensure that you eat the freshest and tastiest food
A woman holds a plate at a summer Christmas lunch outside
Substitute healthy ingredients. – Yuri A/Shutterstock
  • when grilling vegetables, use a healthy cooking oil like olive instead of vegetable oil, and use flavorful herbs instead of salt.
  • if there are expired vegetables you want to include, look for frozen and canned foods. They are cheap, and nutritious and delicious because the produce is often frozen or canned at its best. Watch the sodium content of canned food, however, and give it a quick rinse to remove any salt water.
  • serve store-bought sauces and dressings, making your own from scratch using fresh ingredients.

4. Organize your Christmas food shop with military precision

Before going to the store to buy your Christmas Day food, create a detailed meal plan and shopping list, and don’t forget to check your pantry and refrigerator for items you already have.

Eating ahead and shopping with a plan in hand means you’ll only buy what you need and avoid buying impulsively.

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When shopping, check the price of everything. Comparing costs per 100 grams is the most effective way to save money and get the best value. Check prices on products sold in different ways and locations, too, such as custom nuts versus prepackaged options.

5. Don’t skip breakfast on Christmas Day

We’ve all been tempted to skip or eat a small breakfast on Christmas morning to “save” calories for later. But this plan will fail if you sit down at lunch hungry and find yourself eating more calories than you are “saving”.

Research shows that eating a low-calorie or low-calorie breakfast leads to increased feelings of hunger, especially the desire to eat sweets, throughout the day.

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What you eat for breakfast on Christmas morning is also very important – choosing the right food will help you control your appetite and avoid the temptation to overindulge later.

Research shows that a breakfast that contains high-protein foods, such as eggs, will leave us feeling fuller for longer.

So before you head out for Christmas lunch, have a big, nutritious breakfast, like eggs on wholegrain toast with avocado.

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