By Dr. Muffaddal Shokat, Physician, The Nairobi West Hospital

  • Wondering how to stay healthy during festive seasons when you are surrounded by delicious food? Here are some tips for you and your family.

Kenya is a nation known for its melting pot of cultures and traditions. Festive seasons are celebrated throughout the year, namely, Easter holidays, Ramadan, Diwali, National holidays,  Christmas and New Year holidays.

Family reunions are almost a ‘must,’ and it is always accompanied by lots of food.  This just  describes how much we love food, especially during celebrations.

Although we show our love and appreciation for our loved ones through food, too much can result in health issues. ‘I put on 5kg in one week!’ is a common complaint we hear after festive seasons.

Health is compromised during festive seasons

In addition to excessive food consumption and binge eating during festive seasons, there are a few other reasons health is compromised. Sedentary routines become a norm during the holidays. Unhealthy food, inadequate rest, disrupted routines, and inactivity and no exercise during the holidays, can take a toll on our health if no intentional steps are taken to stay in shape.

A 2017 study on the effect of the holiday season and weight gain found that adults gained 0.4 to 0.9 kg during the Christmas holidays, measured from the last week of November to the first week of January. Although this study pertains to the United States, it could likely be applied to Kenyans too. After all, most, if not all, of our festivities tend to centre around food and, quite often, unhealthy food.

So, how can we stay healthy during the festive seasons? We have got some tips; trust us, it is possible.

Eating healthily during the festive season

With so much food readily available during the festive seasons, it can be challenging to monitor how much we eat. So here are some tips to help you maintain your waistline.

1. Look for healthy food alternatives

We all love festive season snacks and confectionaries. However, most snacks are high in fat and sugar, contributing to increased weight and health issues.

Instead of the usual snacks, healthier alternatives are available. For example, nuts, dates, trail mixes, and dried food are perfect if you love to munch. Additionally, honey can be used as a substitute for sugar, brown rice for white rice etc.

2. Practice healthy cooking

We are well aware that oily, fatty foods are unhealthy. However, a lot of food tends to be fried during the festive season. Sugar and salt are also often added to enhance the flavours.

Healthy cooking methods such as baking, roasting, grilling, and steaming are good alternatives to frying.

3. Be aware of your food portion

We may forget how much we are eating when we are feeling festive and end up binge eating during the festive seasons.

To avoid overeating, be aware of your food portion.

4. Make your own treats

Commercial festive treats often contain high quantities of refined sugar, flour, and fat, which make them extremely unhealthy. One way to combat this is to make your own cakes, cookies, and treats at home as you can control the amount of sugar in the recipe. Additionally, you will also be able to use better-quality ingredients.

5. Stay hydrated

Drinking lots of water keeps you hydrated. It will also help remove toxins from your body. Besides this, sometimes festive foods contain lots of salt, and thus, adequate water intake is a must.

6. Avoid eating very late at night

We often stay up late during festivals; this usually means that the eating continues past our usual dinner time. Supper and midnight snacks are a norm during these celebrations. However, our metabolism tends to slow down at night, causing unhealthy weight gain.

7. Limit consumption of alcohol & sweet beverages

Alcohol and sweet fizzy drinks are high in calories. Our bodies turn these excess calories into fat if they are not burnt off. Thus, it is best to limit or, even better, avoid alcohol and soda.

Choose healthy alternatives such as fresh juices without added sugar, unsweetened coconut water, or green tea.

Set aside time for daily exercise

Another way to stay healthy during the festivities is to stay active. Exercise helps you burn off the extra calories from all the festive food and help you stay in shape. In addition, it flushes out toxins from your body, improves blood circulation, builds immunity against germs and viruses, and releases feel-good endorphins.

1. Workout at home

2. Go for a walk with family

3. Have a sporting match with friends and family

Make sure to get adequate sleep

Although we are likely to stay up late enjoying the festivities during the holidays, our bodies must get enough rest and adequate sleep. The benefits of sufficient sleep include:

1. Stronger immune systems

2. Maintaining a healthy weight

3. Reduces the risk of health issues such as heart disease

4. Improves decision-making – thus, avoiding accidents and injuries.

5. Think better and clearer

6. Improves mood

Take your daily medications, if applicable

With all the food, fun, busyness, and excitement, it can be easy to forget about medication. However, if you have health issues and take daily medication, you must continue to monitor your health during the festivities. Set an alarm as a reminder and place your medication somewhere you can see (for example, bedside table) so you do not miss any doses.

Go for your routine health screenings

Besides being mindful of your diet, staying active, getting adequate rest, and taking your medications, another intentional step one can take to stay healthy is to go for routine health screenings at least once a year.

Make an appointment at The Nairobi West Hospital

Health is a commodity that should be appreciated and taken care of. Thus, it is important that intentional steps, such as eating moderately and exercising, are taken to ensure our bodies are as healthy as possible.

Remember to go for your annual health screenings at The Nairobi West Hospital to ensure your general well-being. To make an appointment for health screening, please contact the health screening centre at The Nairobi West Hospital along Gandhi Avenue in Nairobi West

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