Christmas is a time to be around friends, family, and of course, food. But many of our treats and dishes can often be high in calories but low in the nutrients and vitamins our bodies need.
One way to resist unhealthy sweets and foods this festive season is to incorporate more protein into every meal whilst cutting back on carbs and fat. You’ll feel fuller, so you’ll eat less and cut down on snacking.
The Role of Protein
Protein is important because it helps you build and maintain lean muscle mass. It’s the foundation for bones, muscles, skin, blood, and connective tissue.
Protein-rich foods such as meat, poultry, eggs, legumes, and seeds also supply B vitamins, vitamin E, iron, zinc, and magnesium. So, when you’re adding protein whilst cutting back on empty calories, you’re getting the benefit of extra nutrients your body needs.
How to Resist Overeating During the Festive Period
Here are some ways to swap in protein as you navigate all the Christmas temptations:
Have a Healthy, Protein-Rich Breakfast
Start the day with a high-protein breakfast – about 25 grams should do it. Instead of cereal, try a meal replacement shake or oats with protein powder blended in. Studies suggest this not only helps keep you full until lunch but may even help curb your intake over the course of the day.
Incorporate Healthy Snacking
Try not to head to a Christmas event with an empty stomach. Have a substantial snack prior, such as plain Greek yogurt or non-fat cottage cheese with fruit, or a protein-rich snack bar before you leave.
You can also bring some portable high-protein snacks with you, such as a handful of unsalted almonds or a protein bar.
Be Selective About Food
Cut out the starchy sides, such as white rice, bread, mashed potatoes, and white-flour pasta. Instead, double up on legumes, quinoa, lean meats, black bean pasta and soy alternatives to meat.
As a main course, try a salad with a protein boost from lean chicken or seafood with edamame, tofu or beans as a topper.
You don’t have to completely avoid your favourite festive foods. One trick is to skip the foods you can eat year-round, like chocolate chip cookies, and instead, taste the special treats you can only get this time of year, like gingerbread.
And don’t forget to keep up (or begin!) your exercise routine – you’ll not only feel better, but you’ll look great in your Christmas best.
By Susan Bowerman
M.S., RD, CSSD, CSOWM, FAND – Sr. Director, Worldwide Nutrition Education and Training