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11 easy ways to eat healthy this Christmas

Eat, drink and be merry with these science-backed tips and tricks.

1. Stay hydrated

If your body misinterprets your thirst as hunger, that tin of chocolate biscuits will own you! According to a study in the journal Physiology and Behaviour, thirst can prompt us to consume more calories than we need, so whether you’re at home or out and about, carry a water bottle and sip generously.

2. Eat slowly

Instead of wolfing food down like the Cookie Monster, eat more slowly and savour your meals. According to a study from the Journal of Epidemiology, eating slowly gives your body a chance to tell your mind that it’s full, preventing you from overeating.

3. Be picky

Those canapés and chocolates lurking at every turn soon add up, so limit yourself to three of your favourites or opt for a protein-packed treat. Your waistline thank you, and you’ll have much better energy levels. In studies from the journal Nutrition Reviews, carbohydrate-rich, protein-poor foods triggered greater fatigue in participants due to the increase in sleep-inducing tryptophan.

4. Let there be light

We’re all for mood lighting, but that candle lit dinner could lead to overindulgence, according to researchers from Cornell University. Diners in well-lit rooms were about 16-24% less likely to overeat - and more likely to eat healthily than those in dimly lit rooms.

5. Make healthy food swaps

If you’re the designated chef, consider substituting ingredients for healthy rewards. Making mash? Try turnips instead of potatoes. With just a third of the calories, and more calcium and vitamin C per serving, turnips make for a healthier choice. They also have a lower glycaemic load (glucose release) to prevent those blood sugar spikes. Now that’s a turnip for the books!

6. Heat up

Because eating can make us feel warmer, we often reach for food when we're cold, according to research from the US Institute of Medicine. So try reaching for an extra sweater before heading for the kitchen.

7. Sip Smartly

You don’t need to go teetotal to avoid festive weight gain. A study in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that women who drank moderately were less likely to pile on the pounds than women who avoided alcohol completely. Opt for a single shot of vodka, gin or rum mixed with soda water and a squeeze of lime, which will see you consuming far less sugar (and fewer calories) than that eye-pleasing cocktail.

8. Just beet it

If your energy levels take a nose-dive, try a beetroot drink. A study from Kansas State University found that taking a shot of beetroot juice can help to boost energy and maintain stamina levels.

9. Snack strategically

Don't turn up at that Christmas buffet with an empty stomach - according to a study from Cornell University, you'll be likely to succumb to dietary temptations.“Try having a selection of healthy snacks on hand such as nuts, seeds and pieces of fruit,” suggests nutritionist Dr. Marilyn Glenville. This will make it easier to avoid munching on empty calories!

10. Practice portion control

Research has shown repeatedly that we frequently overestimate serving size and underestimate calorie content. If you’re struggling to nail your portion sizes, trying modifying your utensils. Studies from the Cornell University and the University of Utah have found that using smaller plates or larger forks help diners to avoid over-eating.

11. Remedy the situation

If you’ve pigged-out, employ some damage limitation. Liquorice tea has been shown to increase fat loss and lower cholesterol. Other herbal helpers include stomach-calming peppermint tea, while antioxidant-rich sage or nettle may ease hangovers.

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