Come December and all those resolutions to eat better, get fitter fade as party-time approaches. You may not want to abandon caution this year, given that the threat of covid-19 is still very real, but that doesn’t mean you have to eschew party invitations altogether or subsist on bottled water and cut carrots to stay healthy. You can have your cake and eat it too if you follow a few basic rules. Our experts tell you how.
Before and after
A study published in 2016 in The New England Journal Of Medicine followed 2,924 adults in the US, Germany and Japan and concluded that participants had gained about 0.5% weight 10 days after Christmas. Nutrition coach Eshanka Wahi, who divides her time between Dubai and Delhi, says, “People end up eating out a lot and gain some kilos.” Part of this is also due to the weather, of course—the cold makes you crave heavy, rich food. And not all of it is real weight, for late-night eating, sleepless nights and too much alcohol can lead to water retention and bloating that leaves you sluggish and uncomfortable.
Wahi is a firm believer in the 80/20 rule: 80% of your nutrition should come from whole, clean foods, while 20% can be from indulgences. So if you are going for a party, the best thing to do is eat clean at home a couple of days before and after it. “I try to focus on a lot of vegetables and proteins at home,” says Wahi.
If you plan to party every other day, rethink your eating pattern. Chennai-based clinical nutritionist Varsha Easwaran says intermittent fasting is worth trying if you don’t have medical issues. “If you are going to sleep very late and wake up late, you won’t feel hungry,” she says. Finish your workout as soon as you wake up and head straight for brunch. “Make sure you eat mindfully.”
Yes, there are pakoras, samosas, nuts, cheese and dips at the party. No, you don’t have to try it all before a sumptuous dinner. Padmini BV, senior clinical dietitian at Apollo Hospital, Seshadripuram, Bengaluru, recommends the healthier options at cocktails—baked, steamed or air-fried snacks. “Focus on protein-rich snacks.” Tikkas made of paneer, fish or chicken are a great option. So are vegetables and dip, a piece or two of cheese or fruits. And if you are prone to overeating when ravenous, ensure you are not too hungry before a party. Easwaran recommends a healthy meal with protein and vegetables before you leave home.
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
Ensure you stay hydrated, for thirst can lead to bad food choices. Don’t treat thirst as an indicator of dehydration either. “By the time the brain gets the signal you are dehydrated, you are already dehydrated,” says Bala Krishna Reddy Dabbedi, co-founder and director of the online fitness and nutrition community Fittr. On average, you need around three litres of water a day; this is especially important if you are drinking alcohol since it is a diuretic that strips your body of fluids. “If you want to drink, always space it out with at least three glasses of water in between,” says Wahi. “Also, make small, not large drinks.... Drink a lot of water all through the day.” Drinks made with turmeric and black pepper or herbal teas help too: The boost of antioxidants offers immunity, says Wahi.
Also read: A worrying visit to the doctor