It's that time of year again.
The festive season is often called the "silly season" because it's characterised by excesses in eating and drinking. And, if you think about it, it's also kind of silly to starve yourself for months to fit into a bikini, only to pig out at the Christmas buffet and for weeks thereafter.
Then there's the vast amounts of alcohol that many of us consume during December. This not only leads to horrific car accidents, but also affects the liver, causes gout and arthritis, and piles on the kilograms, especially on those "beer boeps".
Here's what you can do to prevent your hard-earned waistline from bulging and your liver from packing up:
Moderation is the key
The most important thing you can do to prevent Christmas excesses is to be moderate in everything you do. Drink moderate amounts of alcohol, eat moderate amounts of food and do some exercise to counteract the ravages of partying. Stick a note that says "moderation" on the fridge, inside the drinks cabinet, and next to the mirror in your bathroom.
How to cheat when dining out
When you dine out in restaurants and at those special dinner parties organised by family and friends, you need a few strategies to help you cheat the kilojoule attack you're going to face.
Eat grilled seafood instead of red meat and skip cream- or butter-laden sauces. Ask for extra lemon and freshly ground pepper instead. A freshly grilled sole with lemon and black pepper tastes divine and will save lots of kilojoules.
Ask for a baked potato instead of chips and go easy on the sour cream.
Head for the salad bar and stock up with fresh lettuce, cucumber, tomato, gherkins, and sliced fruit like spanspek, pawpaw, kiwi fruit and pineapple. Don't drown your salad in mayonnaise or seafood dressing. Just add a touch of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
Have fresh fruit salad or strawberries for dessert without the cream and ice cream. Avoid mince pies, Christmas puddings and brandy butter.
How to cheat on drinking
If you want to avoid the 29kJ per gram that alcohol provides, stick to soda water with a twist of lemon or dilute dry white wine with iced water.
If you are going to drink alcohol, have a glass of water for every glass of wine or spirits you consume. This will not only dilute the kilojoules, but will also make you feel 100% better the next day.
Fruit juices with plenty of ice are also a healthy option to prevent hangovers, but remember that fruit juices are not low in energy if you don't dilute them with water, ice or soda water.
Artificially sweetened cold drinks are also an option, although you shouldn't overdo them either. You may feel bloated from all that gas.
How to repair the damage
If you've had a heavy night and/or a gargantuan meal, repair the damage by eating less for a day or two thereafter. Concentrate on fresh fruit and raw vegetables, low-fat yoghurt, pasta, whole-grain cereals and bread. Have a meat-less, fish-less day.
Drink plenty of liquids like water, diluted fruit juice and diluted Energade to help your liver recover. Take Essentiale or ProHep, or a vitamin and mineral supplement, to boost detoxification, and stick to non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated drinks for 48 hours.
Get active. As soon as that hangover wears off and you can face the light of day, do some exercise. Go to your gym, swim actively, walk briskly or jog. Get the blood flowing to your liver and activate your muscles. Top up on oxygen by breathing deeply, and enjoy the benefits.
Get lots of sleep. Our bodies recover from excesses when we sleep. Over Christmas and New Year, most people are sleep-starved. You can't enjoy life if you feel like a zombie, much less drive 1 000km or be the life and soul of the next party. So make sure that you catch up on missed sleep. Have a glass of low-fat milk before you retire. The high tryptophan content will help to calm your jangled nerves and promote sleep.
Remember, moderation is what it's all about.
- (Dr IV van Heerden, DietDoc, updated April 2011)
Any questions? Ask DietDoc
Eating healthily when dining out
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