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Make healthy decisions this Christmas!

Who really decides what you will be eating this Christmas?

We all like to think that we make command decisions over the food and beverages that we swallow.  But with 27% of our adult population in New Zealand now classified as obese we have to be asking ourselves “whose fault is it”? Who really has the last say over what we eat?

Who really has the last say?

Is it the food producers?

Are the growers, manufactures, importers and food standards authorities that govern our food security, supply and legislature responsible?

Is it the environment we now live in?

Are the external forces that influence the cost, the climate, food availability and social factors of jobs and wages that affect our purchasing power having an effect? Or the influence of family, friends and culture that establish traditions, celebrations and eating habits that often govern the types,  combination’s and portion sizes of foods and beverages that we eat?

What about the influence of the media?

Is it the marketing hype when new products are launched, the newspaper and magazine articles and recipes, the television images, the music, the subliminal cues that tie marketing campaigns together to prime us to buy the way we do?

When you consider these pressures that we face each day you start to see the power of real personal choice is constantly under siege. While we may embrace the new technology that helps us to shop and choose foods and takeaway online, this easier access to food can have the potential to also make us fatter.

Eating for survival

We no longer eat just for survival or because the sight or smell of food triggers our hunger.  Our natural instincts are to hunt for more food during times of growth, falling blood sugars or in response to hormonal changes etc. Now we eat as a form of entertainment or just for something to do. So while food can be a source of fun, it is easy to forget that food does have a function to keep us well and to provide the power for our day.

Take back the controls

If you genuinely want to get fitter, lose some weight or make healthier food choices this summer then it is up to you to size up these conflicting forces around you and make the  commitment to be more aware of what you are swallowing. This is a lot easier if you have a plan and are the person who cooks. But what if you don’t have the skills or are living with others?

Delegated decisions can be costly

While it might be more practical to leave the cooking to the person who gets home first at night or to those who like to cook, when food choices are delegated to others then our health becomes dependent on the shopping, cooking skills and assertiveness of the cook.

Collaborative decisions

These are definitely easier when your desire to make healthier food decisions is supported by the whole family or group situation in which you live. This is why more couples and flatmates are now seeking nutritional help than ever before.

With clear nutrition goals and education it is a lot easier to plan interesting meals to save money and reduce food waste. It’s a “greener” approach to eating that can still accommodate personal tastes and nutrient needs.

Misguided decisions

These decisions over dietary regimes constantly confront dietitians. So often we  find that in the pursuit of weight loss, the treatment of allergies, vegetarianism, bowel upsets or cholesterol lowering people will embark on severely restrictive eating regimes that deprive them of key nutrients and energy. This can lead on to increased stress, sleep deprivation and fatigue. Just the last thing you need at the end of a busy year!.

Make healthier decisions this Christmas

If you are motivated to improve your health and fitness this Christmas and into the coming year but are not sure where to start then these ideas might help:

  • Pick a cause by concentrating on what you value. For example if your highest value is the love of your family then eating well sets an example to the young and keeps you well enough to enjoy the special times together. If you value your appearance, want to shape up and look years younger; then set a date and a weight goal right now.
  • Look at your body naked and be grateful to still be alive. If you have gained more fat this year then ask yourself “what are you saving it for”? and resolve to move it along this year.
  • Respect your life, your health and your talents each day by eating well.If you eat enough at the right times and eat “to do” not “to weigh”you will notice that you are seldom hungry or bingeing and a healthy weight loss will follow.
  • Maintain your mobility by factoring in 4-5 hours of exercise into each week
  • Rest your mind and body – resolve to sleep at least 6-8hrs each night.
  • Preserve and strengthen your mental clarity by saying “no” more often to alcohol and keeping alcohol serving sizes small.
  • Circulate energy and fluids around your body by drinking water and trim milk, less alcohol and soft drink.
  • Monitor your fat this Christmas:
    • Keep meat portions small and eat more fish if you can. Buy sliced ham rather than ham on the bone.
    • Make smaller Christmas pies this year and share more of the food gifts (the chocolate, nuts and cakes) you are given with others.
    • Swap the ice cream and cream this year for yoghurt, frozen yoghurt or sorbet.
    • Use trim milk to make the custard for trifles and brandy sauce.
    • Design a Christmas dinner around the use of more seasonal fruit and vegetables.
  • Keep food interesting. It doesn’t have to be boring to be healthy. So freshen up your cookbook library or make a date to see us in the New Year.

If you are unsure about the dietary changes that you need to make to achieve your goal then contact us now.

About the author View all

Lea Stening

Lea is one of New Zealand’s leading paediatric dietitians and also specialises in Sports Nutrition. She has specialised in Paediatric Nutrition for 31 years and in 1985 was the first paediatric dietitian to enter private practice in New Zealand. Lea helps families through her private consultations, public lectures, newspaper and magazine articles as well as television and radio interviews. Read more »

View all posts by Lea Stening »

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  1. Laura

    Merry Christmas Lea! The new website looks amazing, well done 🙂

    » Reply

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