December’s avalanche of merrymaking is here! HiDoc Pulse welcomes back Ms Suzanne Khor, Principal Dietitian of O&G The Women’s Medical Specialist, Mount Elizabeth Novena, to offer life hacks on how to feast without feeling like a stuffed turkey.
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December’s surfeit of rich meals and dinner parties make it the most wonderful time of the year for many.
Just the smell of turkey roasting, hams baking, freshly creamed mashed potatoes, decadent eggnog and log cakes are enough to set those salivary glands working overtime. But there’s the minutes after we realise that we’ve just gone past the point of eating too much. That regret is further compounded when we step on the weighing scale and it screams silently for mercy.
“It’s pretty clear to everyone that eating in moderation is the way to go. And yet, exercising restraint is hard to accomplish without calling attention to yourself or feeling like you’re depriving yourself of treats,” says Ms Khor. “That’s why indulging in moderation calls for subtle social techniques to manage your food intake. It takes practice, discipline and guidance from qualified healthcare professionals.”
The recommended caloric intake for adult males and females in Singapore is 2,200 and 1,800 kcal respectively. “To put things in perspective, a single 15g candy canes equates to 55 kcal. Imbibing 250ml of Christmas eggnog with rum takes up 300 kcal of your intake allotment. And we haven’t factored in the huge amounts of turkey and ham spooned onto the dinner plate yet!” smiles Ms Khor.
Each bite poses health problems beyond feeling bloated. You could even suffer from heartburn as hydrochloric acid — produced by your overworked stomach to break down the mountain of food ingested — may back up into your esophagus when you overeat.
In fact, Singapore hospitals report a spike in patient numbers at their accident and emergency (A&E) departments after festive periods, mostly for gastrointestinal ailments such as vomiting and diarrhoea. One such department reported seeing an increase of 10–15% in visits during the 2017 holiday period. A potent combination of lack of sleep, fatigue and merrymaking (that no doubt includes copious amounts of food and drink) can result in weaker and compromised immune systems.
So, the next time you tuck into yet another hearty festive meal, follow this handy-dandy checklist to avoid feeling as stuffed as the turkey on your plate!
1. Use smaller plates and tall glasses.
The visual effect of seeing a smaller plate helps us limit our portion sizes. A plate that’s filled with food, no matter the size, satisfies our desire to indulge and reward ourselves at the year end. Tall, thin glasses also limit our drinks to smaller quantities, especially as alcoholic drinks and sugary drinks are often served during the festivities.
2. Load up on vegetables.
If it is a potluck Christmas gathering, offer to bring a vegetable dish that’s delicious and nutritious. You could bring a colourful veggie salad with cherry tomatoes, beetroot, lettuce and corn or steamed broccoli with carrots to accompany the traditional turkey or meat dish.
3. Reach for the chicken instead of the potato salad.
Protein helps you feel full for a longer period, so you will not feel like you need to snack on a lot of other snacks that are high in calories. Also, be sure to limit your intake of ham as its high sodium and nitrate content makes you reach for yet another carbonated or alcoholic beverage to quench your thirst.
4. Imbibe alcohol with moderation.
Men should drink no more than two standard drinks a day, and women, no more than one. A standard alcoholic drink is defined as:
- 1 can (330ml) of beer
- 1/2 glass (100ml) of wine
- 1 shot/ nip (30ml) of spirits / liquor / vodka
Controlling your alcohol intake prevents you from developing a host of health issues such as alcoholic fatty liver disease. While the liver is able to regenerate itself, it needs time to carry out the process properly. As you unwind over the holidays, make sure you’re not overworking that hard-working liver of yours!
5. Opt for fruit salad as a dessert.
Chocolate chip cookies, Christmas pudding and fruit cakes are loaded with calories and sugar. For Christmas gatherings, offer fruit as a dessert instead of cookies and cakes. Unlike the processed sugars puddings and sweet pastries, fruits contain natural sugars. And because they require more effort and time to chew and digest, your liver has more time to metabolize the natural sugars.
It’s also important not to beat yourself up should you give in to temptation and overindulge at the dinner table. Otherwise, this ironically could lead to a vicious cycle of overeating. “You need to keep positive. Eat smaller meals the next day and go out for an extra long walk or up your exercise routine frequency to work off the extra portions of food,” Ms Khor advises.
With that, HiDoc Pulse would like to wish all our readers a merry festive season! Happy holidays!
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