Maintaining a healthy diet during the Christmas season is a challenge for many persons, including those with non-communicable diseases (NCDs) who may want to partake in the festivities without compromising their health.
Speaking with the Jamaica Information Service, regional dietitian for the Western Regional Health Authority (WRHA), Rosalee Brown, said that while some persons will choose to “feast or fast” this is not recommended.
She said maintaining a healthy balance is best as the feasting and unrestrained eating often results in weight gain, regret and guilt.
Brown, who is a Caribbean certified diabetes educator, certified health and well-being coach, as well as a behaviour health professional, provided some tips and advice to help persons navigate the holiday season.
First, she said they should take preventative action by planning ahead and sticking to their healthy eating routines.
It is important for individuals with NCDs such as hypertension to ensure that they are taking their medication and resting for seven to eight hours nightly.
She recommended that persons indulge in salads, particularly with dark green, leafy vegetables, and avoid starchy pastas.
“Control your intake of animal protein. It is traditional to have five meat dishes this time of year, but it taxes the digestive system,” she pointed out.
Also, she advised persons to reduce their food portions and have their meals on smaller plates.
“Do not overdo it,” she urged.
For those with special dietary requirements, Brown said they should bring this to the awareness of the host or family member who is preparing the meal.
Those with hypertension should avoid high-sodium meals and alcohol. As it relates to desserts, the dietitian recommended utilising high-fibre ingredients when making cakes and cookies, for example, using oatmeal instead of baking flour.
She said there are also high-fibre/low-sugar cakes that persons can order for their table or offer to take along when they are invited to dinner.
“Give your taste buds a chance. Use the season to acquire the sugar-free taste. Try having unsweetened sorrel, sugar-less teas and unsalted raw nuts,” Brown further suggested.
For those who are emotional eaters, the dietitian advised that they should be mindful of eating triggers.
“Sad experiences tend to resurface at this time of year; the passing or absence of a loved one can trigger unhealthy snacking and binging,” she pointed out.
She is also imploring persons not to hesitate to visit the emergency room if they do not feel well.
Brown is encouraging persons not to be overwhelmed but to focus on making gradual lifestyle changes. She saidthey should approach the holiday season in a positive way.
“Don’t be negative by saying, ‘Oh, I can’t eat this or that’. Say, ‘I am choosing to eat healthy, and I am enjoying the new taste I have acquired’,” she said.