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Surviving a Buffet: Your guide to Christmas parties

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It’s the time of year when weekends are filled with Christmas related events: Family things, work Christmas parties, kids Christmas parties and Christmas events with friends. Sadly this also means huge amounts of unhealthy food. Generally Christmas means chips, dips, sausage rolls, sweets, pastries, meat, desserts, pudding, and all the trimmings. Nutritionally – not so great for our health. I recently went to my partners work Christmas party, and it turned out to be my worst nightmare – a seafood buffet. Firstly, I have a huge aversion to seafood (due to a bad bout of food poisoning from some bad seafood a few years ago) and secondly, buffets are crazy.

Our brains are designed to eat for survival, so when we are presented with huge piles of food (such as at Christmas time or at Buffets) our brain tells us we have to eat as much as possible. Back a few thousand years ago this would have been fine, as food was scarce, and we may never have known where the next meal was coming from. However, today food is abundant, most people never have to worry about the next meal, so when presented with large quantities of food, we are trying to override our brain’s natural instinct to eat as much as possible.

So, how, when it’s our natural instinct to eat as much as possible, do you survive Christmas? Here are a few ways you can attempt to override your brain during the silly season.

1. Fill HALF your plate with veggies and salad.
Your brain is going to want to pile your plate with as much food as possible (especially at buffets), by creating the illusion of a full plate, you tell your brain “there is plenty on my plate”. It can help to eat less of the high fat, high sugar and energy dense foods, by replacing them with the nutrient dense veggies.

2. Grab a smaller plate.
This one’s easy-Smaller plate = Less food. This only works if you grab one plate of food, so if you go back for seconds and thirds its void. However, same as number 1, if you trick your brain into thinking “my plate is full” then it can help to eat less of the rich food, and more of the good stuff. So even if you do end up with almost a whole plate of unhealthy food, at least the plate is smaller.

3. Eat slowly.
Christmas is a time for celebrating and spending time with friends and family, so take the time to enjoy the meal, the food and the company, and be mindful of what you are eating, and appreciate every mouthful. It’s a blessing to live with so much abundance, take the time to really make the most of being in a happy place with the people you love.

4. Save room for dessert.
An easy mistake to make is to eat the main course until you are full, then try to stuff more in during dessert. Not only is this uncomfortable, but really unhealthy to overstuff your stomach full of food. It will be playing havoc with your body’s ability to digest, as well as sky-rocketing your blood sugar. So, keep the mains small, save room for dessert!

5. Choose dessert wisely.
Instead of instantly running to the trifle and Christmas pudding, spend some time getting to know the fruit. Grab a bag handful of fruit first, then if you are still wanting something sweet either grab a very small portion of each dessert, or choose your favourite. It’s not great to be so full after eating that you can’t move.

On a final note, Christmas is a time for celebration, so don’t be completely hard on yourself and only go for the salads, give yourself the space to enjoy food that you might not normally eat, be happy, and most of all relax.

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