01/12/2017 14:55 SAST | Updated 01/12/2017 14:55 SAST

Want To Stick To A December Diet? Don't Go To A Party Hungry

And other dietician-approved tips to help you not overdo it this festive season...

Fitness concept, pink sneakers, red apple and bottle of water on wooden background, top view
Dash_med via Getty Images
Fitness concept, pink sneakers, red apple and bottle of water on wooden background, top view

For many of us, December means a lot of food at the endless parties and events. Some have already decided to suspend their diets until "resolution season" –– a.k.a. January.

But it doesn't have to be this way.

"'Health and fitness is an all-year-round project," says Isilda da Costa, fitness expert and nutritionist.

She reckons a few weeks of party fever are not worth throwing away a year's worth of effort.

She, together with dietician Ashley Gibbon gave HuffPost SA some tips on how to indulge within boundaries, so you don't overdo it this December:

1. Don't go to an event or party hungry

A hungry stomach is a dangerous stomach. You may be tempted to try everything at the party, risking over-indulging. Party food is at its most delicious and enticing when you're hungry.

Rather have a small meal at home and water before you go out, advised Da Costa. This will help ensure that you eat only when hungry.

When at the party, instead of creamy sides and dishes with rich sauces, opt for salads and vegetables. The calorie content in the former is normally very high.

2. Mind your portions

"Everything in moderation," advises Gibbon. By dishing yourself up little portions, you can have a bit of everything, but within reason.

"Do not demonise certain foods. No one food will make you fat –– it's a combination of eating poorly as a whole, as opposed to one specific food," Gibbon explains.

READ: Are You An Emotional Eater? Here's How To Know And Where You Can Get Help

3. Cook at home

Dining out can be expensive, especially in December, when there are so many events. In addition, cooking at home is proven to be the healthier option compared to fast food, because you can control both the ingredients in your food and your portion sizes –– and even have leftovers!

Opt for for all-natural and whole foods, and include plenty fruit and vegetables. "The more fresh and close to nature you can keep your meals, the more your body will maintain its natural, healthy balanced weight," said Da Costa.

4. Drink for lots of water

Water is your best friend. It is a calorie-free beverage. Studies have proven that it boosts your metabolism, thus boosting your caloric burn, It cleanses your body of waste and suppresses your appetite. In fact, this study found that if your drink two glasses of water before a meal, it can help you eat less.

5. Ease up on the alcohol

A popular beverage all year round, especially in December, an average alcoholic drink is known to supply almost twice as many calories as some protein and carbs. Additionally, alcohol packs on empty calories, which are devoid of nutrition, and it decreases fat burn in the belly area, hence mkhaba (beer belly). Alcohol can also increase appetite... You get the picture.

Drink a glass of water in between every alcoholic drink, and again: everything in moderation, advises Gibbon.

6. Find and stick to an exercise you enjoy this December

This can be walking at your favourite spots, running, hiking, dancing -- and there can be a lot of that this season. "Whatever it is, make sure you will enjoy it, so you can stick to it," said Da Costa.

Don't underestimate mall walks either. Combing the mall for about two hours can burn up to 300 calories –– however, this won't matter if you're not minding your diet.

7. Get some sleep

Good sleep is not only important for your physical and mental health, it is also important for your weight. Sleep deprivation can throw off your behaviour patterns and your body's response to food. People who are sleep-deprived have been proven to eat more –– especially junk food.

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