MANILA, Philippines–Look at what’s on the buffet table before piling up food on your plate. Eat slowly and socialize between bites, and ditch the snacks while waiting for the next holiday banquet.
A registered nutritionist-dietician dispensed these smart-eating strategies to help merrymakers survive partying and binge-eating throughout the Christmas season without a trip to the hospital and an unwanted belly fat.
Nutrition expert Harrell Wong, whose tips were posted on the Department of Health’s (DOH) website and on Facebook, said one need not pass up on comfort foods laid out on the holiday dinner table but he must settle for a single serving.
It’s OK to try a little of everything in the buffet spread but portions must be kept small, Wong said.
Need for moderation
“Don’t drown yourself in a single dish that’s bound to show next time you step on your bathroom scale. Moderation is key,” he stressed.
He also advised revelers to survey the dishes being served during holiday parties so they could fill their plates with the healthiest food, such as salad and fish.
“Eat until you no longer feel hungry, not until your belly’s about to burst,” Wong said.
To consume less and still feel satisfied, one must eat at a slower pace and socialize in between mouthfuls of food, he added.
According to bodies of research, it takes roughly 20 minutes from the time one starts to eat for the brain to send out signals of satiation. Eating at leisure gives the body enough time to send the signal of fullness to the brain.
A study by Texas Christian University published online on the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics also shows that slow eating increases one’s water intake and stomach swelling, affecting the biological process that regulates food consumption.
Wong also advised revelers to avoid eating snacks during the holiday season—which Filipinos celebrate by eating too much—to give enough space for more delicious meals during get-togethers and parties.
Go for fruits
“Snacks are usually laden with sodium and fat—things you should definitely avoid. If you really can’t resist munching on something while waiting for the next handaan (party), go for low-calorie snacks or fruits,” he suggested.
Wong also reminded merrymakers to observe their exercise routine throughout the holidays to help shed the excess fats ingested from all the partying.
“Being active will not only help you keep fit. It will help increase your body’s metabolism—essential in digesting all the holiday food that you will eat,” he said.
Take it easy
During the Christmas season, celebrated the longest in the Philippines, the DOH cautioned Filipinos to take it easy on their food intake and to choose healthier foods to avoid getting sick with a noncommunicable or lifestyle-related disease, such as heart attack, diabetes and stroke.
These diseases—which are linked to the most common risk factors, such as smoking, unhealthy diet, lack of physical activity and drinking alcohol—are the top leading causes of death in the country.
At a recent health forum, endocrinologist Dr. Sheryl Tugna suggested that revelers keep tabs of their calorie intake so that they can maintain a healthy weight during the holiday season.
Obesity is also a risk factor for noncommunicable diseases, she pointed out.
Cookie or pizza?
According to Tugna, a person who is 152 centimeters (5 feet) tall is allowed to take 1,600 to 1,700 calories per day while a person who stands 163 cm (5 feet 4 inches) tall can consume 1,900 to 2,000 calories a day.
Those who are 167 cm (5 feet 6 inches) tall can take 2,100 to 2,200 calories per day.
To give merrymakers a glimpse of their food intake during the holidays, a hundred grams of lechon pack 250 calories without the gravy, while a cup of spaghetti has 250 to 300 calories.
A chocolate chip cookie contains 190 to 200 calories while a slice of pepperoni pizza has 260 calories, she said.
Puto bumbong (a sticky rice delicacy steamed in wooden tubes) and bibingka (rice cake)—native delicacies linked to the “Simbang Gabi” (Christmas dawn Masses)—also carry 252 and 320 calories, respectively, Tugna said.
“Healthy food options that have less calories include salad with vinaigrette, fish and fruits,” she said.