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Healthy holiday habits

Don’t bring back that extra baggage! HFG senior nutritionist Rose Carr has advice on how to avoid summer holiday weight gain.

Here’s the good news: US research tells us traditional holiday weight gain is actually far less than many people estimate. Unfortunately, the same research tells us that the average half kilo gained (in this study) over a holiday period tends to stay with us and could make a sizeable contribution to overall weight gain during our adult years. While a little indulgence can lift the spirits, ongoing overindulgence where food and drink are concerned can have the opposite effect.

Here are ten traps which can trip up good holiday intentions and helpful tips to overcome them.

1. Overdosing on edible gifts

Mum gives you Christmas cake, an aunt gives you toffees, the neighbour gives you biscuits, a friend gives you chocolates… you have food treats coming out of your ears! What do you do? Eat them all as quickly as possible so they will no longer tempt you.

Tip: For those of us not good with temptation, re-gifting some food treats as soon as possible is a good idea. Or put some away (out of sight) for sharing with guests, or to have next month.

2. I’m on holiday – I deserve it

Yes, we do deserve to treat ourselves. But while we may get away with eating rich foods over a three-day weekend, if all of our treats are based around food over a longer holiday, it’s easy to end up with several unwanted extra kilos.

Tip: There are plenty of ways to treat yourself which don’t involve food. Buy a new bikini (providing its own incentive), or with free time on your hands, have a massage, or take in some sightseeing.

3. Guzzling the kJs

We’re advised not to overdo the alcohol for health reasons, but sometimes we forget it’s also pretty high in kilojoules and we can quickly pack on the kilos if we party a little too much or a little too often. And the alcohol-free alternatives, such as fruit juice, soft drinks, punch or alcohol-free cocktails can be high in kilojoules, too.

Tip: Seek out, or even BYO low-kilojoule alternatives such as soda water, diet soft drinks, juice diluted with diet soft drink or water, or even plain water. You don’t have to give up alcohol, but you could try alternating your drink of choice with a low-energy drink for better health and less kilojoules.

4. The buffet

Research tells us the more dishes on offer at the dinner table, the more we are likely to eat. So when faced with a buffet, it can be all too easy to overload our plates.

Tip: Aim to put the meal into perspective before you eat. Ask yourself questions such as “Am I likely to eat again at the next mealtime?”; “Is this my last chance ever to try chocolate mousse / pavlova / cheesecake?”; “Am I likely to see good food again?”; “Do I want to walk out of here uncomfortably bloated?”, and “Do I want to enjoy my meal rather than feel guilty about it?” The trick is to find the questions which hit the right buttons and make your eating decisions mindful not a ‘knee-jerk’ reaction.

5. Finger-food temptation

A bit like the buffet trap, we’re faced with appealing food so we might as well eat it. If the party is in the early evening when we’re already hungry, it’s easy to load up on tasty morsels.

Tip: When we’re not hungry, it’s much easier to apply the ‘love it or leave it’ principle. So try to have something to eat before you go out and you will be more likely to make better choices. When you do choose a nibble, try to savour and enjoy it rather than wolfing it down, to feel more satisfied.

6. Hunger strikes on the road

If your holiday involves a fair bit of driving, it can feel as though there’s no ‘real’ food alternative to the crisps from the dairy or petrol station to keep you going until you get there.

Tip: Keep a few well-chosen snack bars or a sealed container of rice crackers in the glove box for those emergency munchies. If crisps or crackers seem to be your only option at the dairy or petrol station, check the December 09 issue for our pick of these snack foods. And don’t forget a supply of water.

7. Can’t get to the gym so exercise goes out the window

If your regular exercise involves a specific time and place – dance or aerobics class or swimming – being away from home can mean much less exercise at a time when you might be increasing your energy input.

Tip: You can exercise pretty much anywhere – the trick is to find something you enjoy and recognise its exercise value. Swimming in the sea, beach cricket or volleyball can all get your heart rate going. And don’t underestimate walking if that’s the only option. Whether you’re in a new city or out in the wops, you can use lots of energy by walking briskly and discovering your new environment. Go up hills to use more energy and see the sights at the same time. Make exercise a daily habit while on holiday.

8. Afternoon drinks

When we are in holiday mode, it’s easy to get into the routine of an afternoon beer or wine – especially when friends pop over – and that daily drinking practice can creep earlier into each day. It’s an all too easy way to add kilojoules to the day.

Tip: Make some simple rules for yourself and try to put them in a positive sentence. Instead of saying “I won’t…”, use “I will…”, such as: “I will have a glass of wine (bottle of beer) after 6pm (or 7pm)”; “I will have cake with my coffee for morning tea on Thursdays”; “I like to do something physical each morning”.

Simple rules help us remember what our goals are and keep us on track. They are also useful instead of having to explain ourselves to others. Rather than having a bottle of beer placed in our hand when we’ve said “Maybe I shouldn’t”, we can instead say “I make it a rule not to have a beer until 6pm”. You will find people accept that quite readily.

9. Little food choice

You’re in the country and the only food you can buy is from the local dairy with its limited selection or takeaways. Takeaways it is!

Tip: Sometimes a little planning goes a long way. If you know the food shopping is limited where you’re going, it pays to plan your menu as far as possible and take as much food with you as you can. You will enjoy eating better food and saving money, too. If you’re faced with limited choices, make it a habit to choose the best of what’s available: find the lowest-fat sausages in the chiller; buy a good breakfast cereal and trim milk rather than a muffin for breakfast; or at the takeaway choose a stir-fry with lots of vegetables rather than deep fried noodles or spring rolls.

10. The cook is on holiday, too!

We’re all on holiday but everyone still expects to eat three meals a day. While some cooks enjoy spending a longer, more relaxed time in the kitchen, others would rather not go anywhere near it while on holiday.

Tip: Again, the key is advance discussion and planning, so everyone understands what will happen when you’re all on holiday. Those who don’t often cook may be more willing to help out if pointed in the right direction while some might just need to be told exactly what to do. You may need to plan menus and food in advance for inexperienced cooks, but it will be worth the effort to get a break, and with luck they may develop new skills.

Plan some simple, healthy, tasty meals, a few simple snacks for entertaining and a few quick dishes for the ‘take a plate’ BBQ that any of the family or holiday group could throw together.

Date modified: 30 January 2018
First published: Jan 2010


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