10 Tips to stay healthy over the festive season 

From year-end functions to Christmas lunches and New Year braais, it’s easy to do the ‘over’s’: overeat, overdrink, oversleep, overspend and overthink. With summer approaching, here are some sure-fire ways to keep healthy and maintain your weight this festive season, so that the only ‘over’ you indulge in, is over-laugh, over-give, over-forgive and over-love. 

1. Braaiing or cooking for the family? Tweak your meals to make them healthier

 The festive season in South Africa might as well be braai (barbeque) season, as we need no excuse to get together and light a fire. By making minor adjustments to your recipes, you could be serving up (and eating) healthier, more nutritional meals. The perfect accompaniment to the summer holidays, our popular booklet, Cooking from the Heart: Braai Edition, brings together the best braai recipes and practical healthy eating guidelines, to maintain your weight over the festive season! [Download a copy here.] 

2. Get your game on - pre-event planning

With all the functions coming up over the holidays, go prepared: 

• Have a healthy snack beforehand so that you don’t go to the event hungry, 

• Stand away from the food table so that you’re not tempted to graze the entire time, 

• Watch portion sizes, and 

• Make it about the socialising rather than the food. 

3. Use smaller plates and tall, narrow glasses - The size-contrast illusion

 Visual cues can play an important role in the prevention of overeating, as people generally use their eyes to count calories. These visual cues can lead you to underestimate or overestimate how much you have eaten. Research has shown that people consistently underestimate and overconsume the amount of liquid they pour into short, wide drinking glasses compared to tall, narrow glasses that hold the same volume. Similarly, a size-contrast illusion could lead a person to underestimate and overconsume the amount of food on a large plate, or to overestimate and underconsume the amount of food on a small plate. 

4. Hydrate

Water is the perfect zero-calorie drink. It lubricates the joints, maintains healthy skin, is necessary for proper digestion and helps restore fluids lost through metabolism. If you’re not used to drinking water throughout the day, infuse it with fresh fruit, vegetables or herbs, such as lemon, mint, berries and cucumber. Other low-calorie options include plain coffee and tea, sparkling water and flavoured waters. 

5. Don’t drink your calories

Soft drinks, fruit drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks, sweetened waters and sweetened coffee and tea, contain calories but have little nutritional value. Freshly squeezed fruit juices and smoothies, on the other hand, have nutritional value but are high in calories because of the natural sugars present. If you can’t forgo your drinks, try diluting it with water to wean yourself off the sugar. Alcohol and unsweetened, caffeinated drinks should be drunk in moderation. 

6. Practise mindful eating

Mindful eating refers to being aware of your physical and emotional sensations while eating. The practise has been successful in helping people gain awareness of their bodies, be more in tune to their hunger and satiety, recognise external cues (sight and smell of food) to eat, as well as reduce food cravings and factors associated with problematic eating. A few points to get you started on a mindful eating practise: 

• Take a deep breath before eating. 

• Acknowledge your hunger levels, emotions, thoughts and the eating environment with acceptance and non-judgment. 

• Eat slowly. 

• Eat without distractions, i.e. put away your screens and switch off the TV. 

• Be cognisant of the taste and texture of what you’re eating and drinking. 

7. Get moving – exercise

South Africans are spoilt for choice when it comes to outdoor activities, and with long, warm summer days, we have all the more reason to get active. 

• Go for a walk directly after a meal. Research has shown that walking just after a meal is more effective for weight loss than waiting one hour after eating before walking. Walking at a brisk speed for 30 minutes as soon as possible just after lunch or dinner leads to more weight loss than walking for 30 minutes an hour after having a meal. 

• Track your steps – while your target number of steps depends on your goal, tracking your steps and making incremental increases on a consistent basis is a great motivator to keep exercising. 

• Want to catch up with friends? Instead of a sit-down lunch date, go dancing, explore a new hiking trail or enjoy a swim together. 

• Having a family function? Incorporate some games or movement into the day’s activities. 

• Your hotel room is tiny? There are numerous exercise routines that require no space and no equipment. 

8. Touch the earth

Earthing or grounding refers to getting into contact with the Earth’s surface so that energy is transferred from the ground into the body. This is done by walking barefoot in nature. There is evidence that supports the idea that the Earth’s electrons induce physiological changes including reduced pain, better sleep, a shift from the sympathetic (the “fight and flight” response) to parasympathetic (“rest and digest” response) tone in the autonomic nervous system (ANS), as well as a blood-thinning effect. 

9. Bask in vitamin D

Emerging research supports the possible role of vitamin D against cancer, heart disease, fractures and falls, autoimmune diseases, influenza, type-2 diabetes and depression, so spend some time in the sun or supplement to ensure that you’re getting enough of this sunshine vitamin. 

10. Stick to your sleep schedule

While it may be difficult to always have an early night with friends or family visiting, try to stick 


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