Our lives are packed with reasons to gather together throughout the seasons of the year. With a little know-how, we can enjoy all the events the calendar brings without spoiling our hard earned weight-loss progress.
In the UK, the seasons bring us a wonderful variety of foods and there’s a number of benefits to eating local, seasonal food.
- It’s often cheaper as it’s not travelled so far – it’s common for fruit and veg to travel halfway around the world to get to our plates.
- It tends to be fresher, making it tastier and more nutritious.
- It supports the local economy.
- It helps us to reconnect with nature’s cycles, as one food goes out of season, another delicious one comes into season, offering us different nutrients and benefits.
Eating well all year long
When we embrace a healthy-eating mindset and look at food through the lens of our health and wellbeing, it gets easier to navigate events that crop up throughout the year. Some foods and social occasions can serve as triggers for us to engage in destructive eating or drinking behaviours and it’s good to be aware of this. Of course, there’s times when you’ll decide to join others in sharing celebratory treats and meals, and that’s ok. For those occasions when you want to choose to avoid the cakes and champagne, here’s our top tips to keep your mindset focused:
- Remember your ‘why’. This is your reason for wanting to make changes to your lifestyle. It’s your primary motivation, keep it in mind.
- Be a fan of a plan. You’ll be one step closer to meeting your goals if you plan ahead and anticipate times that healthy choices might be tricky. Having a plan can give you a sense of control which eliminates anxiety and leaves you able to enjoy yourself. Consider things like:
- Bringing a healthy snack to munch on and a low alcohol or non alcoholic drink to share.
- Having statements up your sleeve to avoid feeling embarrassed if you’re challenged on your choices – not drinking for example.
- Bringing a dish with you to introduce your social circle to delicious, healthy food and ensuring there’s something you know you can enjoy too.
- Avoiding some situations altogether if you’re feeling worried or uncomfortable. This is absolutely ok to do, your wellbeing is your priority.
Different dishes and food types are associated with the seasons. There’s a time for mulled wine and mince pies at Christmas, Pimms and picnics in the park during the summer and more. Here’s a few tips to stay on track and still be able to savour the occasion:
- Whatever you eat or drink, be fully present when you do. Pay attention to the tastes, textures and aromas. Being mindful helps us to enjoy our food more and register when we’re full too.
- If a buffet’s involved, take the time to look at all the dishes. Decide what foods you really want. Take a plate and make one trip to the table, fill up on undressed salads and veg and lean proteins like chicken or fish. Try to avoid heavily processed foods and refined carbohydrates which will cause a spike and slump in your blood sugar levels. Serve less nutritious foods in moderation.
- Get to grips with portions. Often the size of plates and bowls vary across homes and restaurants which can make knowing how much you’re eating quite hard. It’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with portion sizes by using your hand as a guide.
- Offer to bring a dish or two with you. Not only does it ensure you have something you’re happy to eat, you can showcase just how tasty healthy eating can be.
- If you’re worried you’ll be tempted to overeat, make sure you’re hydrated and consider filling yourself up beforehand with a nutritious soup so you’re not starving when you arrive.
Enjoy warming vegetable soups, roasted pumpkin curry and an alternative to a toffee apple – pop an apple on a stick, drizzle it with dark chocolate and sprinkle it with some nuts and seeds, crunchy, delicious and packed with antioxidants.
Ah, spring. Cauliflower, purple sprouting broccoli, spring greens, new potatoes and rhubarb are some of this season’s stars. Enjoy them roasted, steamed or griddled. Spring lamb is a good source of iron and B vitamins. If you’re having a roast, pile the veggies high and eat fattier meats and potatoes in moderation.
When it comes to Easter eggs, you needn’t avoid them altogether. Dark chocolate is a great source of antioxidants and can be enjoyed in moderation.
Who doesn’t love the picky foods at a picnic? Bite-sized or hand held foods are fab and easy to eat. Try to fill your plate once, just like you would at a buffet, or at least keep in mind how much you’re eating as it’s easy to munch away without realising. Load up on salads, lean proteins, veggie sticks and hummus and leave the pork pies and scotch eggs for others. Fresh fruit like strawberries, grapes and melon are great options to satisfy your sweet tooth.
Some events are harder to practice damage limitation than others and this is one of those times. With trays piled high with refined, high sugar and fat foods like scones, cakes and decadent sandwiches, afternoon tea can cause alarm in the heart of many a person trying to eat well. Commonly attended as part of a special occasion, it’s likely you should treat it as one. Enjoy and savour the foods you choose and know that one or two rich sandwiches or cakes won’t derail your progress on the odd occasion. If you can:
- Don’t arrive hungry as you’re more likely to eat more than intended.
- Choose brown bread and avoid creamy fillings if you can, favouring lean protein like chicken or fish.
- Snack on salad garnishes and fresh fruit which will boost your fibre and vitamin intake.
- Turn down offers of extra cream on cakes and scones and steer clear of hot chocolate if you can to avoid excess calories.
It’s cold, windy, wet and miserable in winter. It’s no wonder that we all gravitate to comfort food during this season. The good news is that there’s plenty of nutritious, delicious alternatives to traditional choices like pies and crumble. Soups, stews and casseroles are all easily made in a slow cooker or oven proof dish using seasonal veg like swede, carrot, parsnip, potatoes and leeks alongside a protein like turkey which is readily available around Chritsmas time.
- Lean beef mince can be used in chilli or bolognese and served with brown rice or wholemeal pasta for a protein rich, slow energy release meal, vegetarians can replace the meat with beans and pulses.
- Herbal teas can keep chills at bay, ensure we’re hydrated and boost our intake of antioxidants.
- Stew seasonal apples and pears with a little water and some warming spices like cinnamon and nutmeg for a nutrient packed pudding. Add some greek yoghurt for a protein punch.
Firstly, if it’s your birthday, it’s fine to celebrate and have a worry-free day. Of course, if you don’t want to feast on cake, that’s ok too. Even if someone has kindly made you one, you don’t have to eat it if you don’t want to, sharing it with others will bring as much joy. Equally, you could make a healthier cake using vegetables like carrot or courgette to add moisture and fibre, or construct one from fresh fruits. Take the time to try out a new recipe or go to a restaurant with healthier options. Get active with your friends to celebrate your day and take the focus away from food.
Social occasions are scattered across the year and are often focused around eating and drinking together. The foods on offer are more decadent and different from our day to day diet, making them tempting indeed. Don’t despair, by keeping your positive, healthy eating mindset, you can cope with anything your diary throws at you. The choices you make are for your health and wellbeing in the long term. Small changes make a big difference and we’re with you every step of the way.