Research shows we can all expect to gain at least 1-2lbs during the festive season, but it’s not just the Christmas holidays at home that are a danger zone – our workplaces are full of temptation throughout December. Between team lunches, the endless supply of chocolate, and the office Christmas party, the festive period can be a challenging time to eat well.
The British Nutrition Foundation (BNF)’s team of nutrition scientists have compiled their best advice for how to enjoy Christmas in the workplace, while steering clear of some of the nutritional pit-falls of the season and, hopefully, avoiding the January guilt-trip.
Snack attack: Results from the BNF’s Healthy Eating Week 2018 workplace survey reveal that almost one third (29 per cent) of adults say that having too many unhealthy snacks available in the workplace makes it difficult to have a healthy lifestyle. When the office is flooded with treats around Christmas, having healthier alternatives to hand is a good way to avoid some of the temptation – stock up on healthy options like tangerines, unsalted nuts, plain popcorn, wholegrain crisp breads, low fat cream cheese or dips and vegetable sticks. You could try limiting more indulgent snacks to just one a day to avoid constant grazing every time you head to the tea room.
Client and corporate lunches: We all know that Christmas dinner is going to be a big, indulgent meal, however, even before the big day, you might eat several of these ‘Christmas dinners’ – whether that is during an end of year meeting, Christmas lunch in the work canteen, or a three course Christmas party meal. If you’re going for a traditional Christmas dinner, then you’ll be pleased to know that many foods included are rich in essential nutrients. Love them or hate them, Brussel sprouts are full of folate, fibre and vitamin C, and remove the skin from turkey for a lower-fat, high-protein festive feast that is brimming with B vitamins. If you’d rather avoid turkey ahead of Christmas day, you could try a fish or vegetarian main instead. You could also try sharing a starter or a dessert with a colleague so you can both have a three course meal without such a big volume of food.
Party planning: The work Christmas ‘do’ is one of the highlights of the corporate calendar. However, with alcohol and canapés a-plenty, many additional calories may be consumed – it is very easy to eat the equivalent calories of a full meal just from all the food and drinks provided! So, if you’re going to a party straight after work, have a small healthy snack, like a bowl of low-sugar wholegrain cereal, oatcakes with peanut butter, or a yogurt before you go, so you don’t arrive hungry and dive straight into the nibbles. Studies show that the greater the choice of food on offer, the more calories we tend to consume. So, rather than trying a little of everything, stick to a few smart choices – if you select the healthier items first, it can be easier to say no to higher calorie options later. Go for things like vegetable sticks, olives, and breadsticks and steer clear of too many choices with pastry or breadcrumbs. When it comes to drinks, choose sugar-free mixers, go for smaller glasses of wine and beer where possible and try including non-alcoholic drinks too.
Get up and go: Keeping active throughout the festive season can help to burn of some of the extra calories, help keep your fitness up and may also help improve sleep and reduce stress. Even small amounts of activity, like a 10 minute brisk walk, can be beneficial for health and it is possible to fit this in at lunch time or on your journey to or from work. Two ten minute walks a day can burn about 160 calories – over 800 calories a week if you did this Monday to Friday.