Top nutritionist Dominique Ludwig reveals how to avoid heading into New Year with a weight loss resolution
The festive season is a time for fun, celebration and socialising with your friends and family over food and drink – but many people find the season of overindulgence rather tricky to navigate.
We all want to enjoy ourselves – but it so often comes at a price in the new year, when waistbands feel snugger and we feel wiped out.
Here, nutritionist Dominique Ludwig shares tips to ensure you can eat, drink and be merry without compromising your health or happiness.
Eat smarter, not less
“It’s certainly possible to enjoy festive food without piling on the pounds or negatively impacting your health,” says Dominique.
“It’s all about making smarter choices that will leave you feeling energised throughout the season.
“Eating smarter can help stabilise blood sugar levels – and when our blood glucose stays within a tighter range, we are less likely to find ourselves on the blood sugar roller coaster that can make us feel constantly hungry and cause us to overeat. To do this, I advise my clients to choose higher fibre meals with plenty of lean proteins.
Eating seasonal foods can be great for our health and offer nutrient diversity. Tangerines, walnuts, Brussels sprouts, red cabbage, turkey and dates offer a range of nutrients and can benefit our health due to their rich vitamin and mineral content.”
Make that festive buffet work for you
Dominique says: “Plenty of foods lure us in with their festive packaging and the promise of a quick treat, but while the first bite is often delectable – an explosion of crunch, salt, umami and tart flavours all in one bite – a quick look at the label reveals these imposters are often ultra processed foods(UPFs).
“While it is fine to eat some, research has linked too many with increased weight gain and increased appetite.
“These foods are designed to be very addictive – so one bite is never enough.
“Consuming crisps, bread, pastries, mince pies, glazed biscuits, cakes, and chocolates results in rapid sugar conversion in the body.
“Excess sugar not immediately utilised tends to be stored as body fat. These foods can lead to feelings of heaviness and fatigue instead of energy for dancing and partying.”
Keep portions in proportion
“When it comes to eating healthily, simply arranging your food on your plate in the right proportions will automatically help you balance your meals with the correct amount of proteins, carbohydrates, fibre, and fats,” says Dominique.
“Consult any nutritionist, and they’ll begin by recommending veg. They provide fibre, which not only fills us up but also supplies plenty of antioxidants to support our immune system.
“Starting with a plate full of colourful crudités is a great way to begin. Salads are fantastic too, but you should steer clear of those heavy on pasta. Fibre slows down our digestion, delays gastric emptying, increases fat burning and ensures we absorb carbohydrates and sugars from our food more slowly.”
Put some protein on your plate
“Like fibre, protein fills us faster and for longer and helps keep our blood sugar levels more stable.
“This can reduce our appetite and craving for sugary treats. Go for chicken, salmon, prawn skewers, cheese canapes or some hummus dips,” says Dominique.
“But be cautious of refined carbs commonly found in buffets, like pastry, bread, crisps, and snacks. These low fibre, high starch and sugary foods can disrupt appetite regulation,which can lead toovereating.
“Healthy party food options include cucumber rings with cream cheese and salmon, cocktail sticks with mini mozzarella balls and cherry tomatoes, or Parma ham and melon.”
Eat sugary treats after meals
If your office or home is filled with lovely chocolate treats, it is so easy to grab them between meals for a quick pick-me-up – but be warned, once you start to nibble it can be hard to stop.
“Research shows eating sugary foods on an empty stomach can lead to greater blood sugar spikes,” says Dominique.
“A meal creates a food obstacle course in our stomach which slows down the speed with which we absorb glucose into the bloodstream, so that the sugary treats will have less of an impact on your blood sugars.
“This means you’ll be less likely to find yourself reaching back into the selection box for an energy boost as soon as the sugar high wears off.”
Don’t skip meals
Deciding to skip meals because we know we are going to indulge later can be a false economy – and will in some cases lead to us eating more when we go out than we planned.
“Eating regular, balanced meals can help us to feel nourished and keep our mood on an even keel,” advises Dominique. “Start the day with a good source of protein, healthy fats and fibre with some fruit, vegetables or a small amount of seeded bread.
“Good choices include scrambled eggs with avocado and mushrooms, plain yogurt with milled flax and chia seeds with berries, or a bowl of porridge with grated apple and cinnamon.
“When we eat enough protein and healthy fats (avocado, nuts and seeds) we tend to feel better throughout the day. It is better for our metabolism to eat more at our meals and ditch the snacks than to graze continually,” she adds.
“My experience in the clinic shows those who snack regularly often find it harder to manage weight and are more likely to feel hungry during the day.”
Pre-load on protein
We all know the feeling when we arrive at a party starving and immediately start picking at bread or snacks to abate our appetite.
“Eating a protein-rich snack before you go out can take the edge off your appetite and stop you heading for the snack bowls the minute you enter the room,” says Dominique.
“My favourites are carrots and hummus, smoked mackerel and avocado on rye bread or a couple of boiled eggs with carrot and cucumber soldiers. You may think you are eating more, but you will probably find that you eat less overall.”
“A large wine glass (250ml) has about 220 kcals, and a pint of beer around 240kcals – that’s similar to a doughnut.
“Opt for fizz at 80 kcals per glass or clear spirits (vodka, gin) at around 50 kcals. Be mindful of sugary mixers adding 7g of sugar. Try vodka, soda, and lime for a low calorie option.
“For non-alcoholic choices, a Gunner cocktail mixes ginger ale, soda water, lime and Angostura’s bitters. Or go sugar and calorie-free with soda water, lime and pomegranate. For calorie free, choose sparkling water with a twist of lime and pomegranate.”
We often forget to drink enough water especially when we are out of our normal routine.
“Drinking enough water is great for the liver and kidneys and stops us feeling so sluggish,” says Dominique.
“Water helps improve digestion and prevent headaches too.
“Make sure you have a glass in between each alcoholic drink to stave off hangovers – and the urge to eat badly the next day while you deal with one.”
Change the narrative
Don’t make the mistake of thinking one bad night out means you might as well fall off the health eating wagon entirely.
“One indulgent meal does not make you unhealthy any more than one salad makes you healthy,” says Dominique.
“There are plenty of other meals you will eat in a week. Just make sure your next meal, usually breakfast, is a healthy one. A healthy body is resilient to the odd night off.”
Walk it off
Walking after a meal can have the effect of lowering blood sugar.
“After a meal, our blood sugar levels rise as the carbohydrates and sugars from our meal are absorbed into our bloodstream,” explains Dominique.
“Walking helps use up some of this free glucose, which can lower the overall blood sugar spike created by our last meal.
“This is better for our metabolism as well as our weight because some of this glucose will be used by the muscles for fuel, rather than stored as body fat. Just 20 minutes can offer benefits.”
“Clever choices can make all the difference and could mean that you go into January with some healthy New Year resolutions that don’t include weight loss.”