How not to gain weight during the holidays

Tips by clinical dietician Bara’a Al-Ries

It’s easy to indulge in creamy meals and chocolate desserts round the festive season, when everyone around you is doing so too. But Bara'a Al-Ries, clinical dietician at Burjeel Hospital Abu Dhabi, promises small changes to your diet can keep your waistline in check. Here are her tips:

1. Eat two to three snacks every day. Having small, healthy snacks in between your meals will keep your metabolism working and ensure you burn calories. Examples of snacks are fresh fruits, vegetable slices, unsalted raw nuts and some dairy products such as yoghurt.

2. Sleep well at night. Lack of sleep may cause hormone changes, which push you to eat larger quantities of food and consequently gain weight.

3. Use a smaller sized plate. If you replace your plate with a smaller sized one, you will not notice the difference in feeling full, or in the amount of food. Fill half the plate with carbohydrate-free veggies, a quarter with protein-rich food, such as fish, meat, chicken or beans, and the final quarter with carbs, such as rice, pasta, potatoes or bread.

4. Do not go out on an empty stomach. Before going out, make sure you eat a fulfilling plate of fruit salad or sliced vegetables to avoid eating fast food. Leaving the house hungry will cause you to increase your intake of calories, which you should avoid.

5. Eat your food slowly. Take your time and enjoy your food. Make sure you eat a small amount and chew it well and slowly. The brain takes around 15-20 minutes to realise that the stomach is full, which means that when it’s time for desserts, your stomach will have become full already.

6. Plan wisely. When you invite guests to your place, do not plan a menu that includes fatty sauces or high calorie meals. Instead of fried chicken, go for a roasted chicken, cooked with vegetables in a healthy manner.

7. Control the food you eat when dining out. Share meals with friends or opt for healthy options such as salads with protein. Always ask for the sauce on the side and choose low-calorie options such as olive oil with vinegar or mustard.

8. Shop smart. When buying your food for the holidays, always choose fresh fruits and vegetables instead of canned food. For desserts, use natural sweeteners that taste like refined and processed sweeteners. Low-fat dairy products and whole grains are also good alternatives.

9. Add vegetables to your meals. Try starting your meal with a bowl of low-calorie vegetable soup, which will make you feel fuller faster. Always add vegetables to your plate or sandwich so to increase the size of your meal and feel full without having to consume more calories.

10. Do not listen to false hunger pangs. Eat when you are really hungry and stop eating once you feel full. Do not forget to drink water regularly. In most cases, feeling thirsty can be why you are feeling hungry.

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