Stay in shape this summer

So the holidays are finally here. I’m sure a lot of you are already relaxing on the beach or by a pool. If not, hopefully you soon will be.

Our bodies can take a beating at this time of year. We mistreat them, and by the time January rolls around, we regret not being a little more careful. Over last the last few weeks I’ve picked the brains of the best body experts in the industry. So this week you’ll see 5 posts aimed at summer survival. You’ll learn how to keep your skin, hair and make-up heat proof and healthy.

First up is Cape Town based Dietician, Emily Innes (nee Ryan). I’ve been seeing Emily for a few months now, and she’s whipped my diet into shape. I understand what I should be eating, when. I have more energy and my skin is glowing. Her biggest achievement is making me hungry for breakfast. I’ve never eaten breakfast. Ever. Coffee was all I used to have in the mornings. But now I’m a grumpy cow until I have my whole wheat ProNutro with blueberries.

I think that these tips are the most important because if your insides are unhealthy, nothing you do to the outside will help. Here are Emily’s tips for a happy and healthy holiday season:

This is the time of the year when people usually pick up a few extra kilograms over the festive season. But, it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are some ‘do’s and don’ts’ to help you enjoy this holiday season without compromising on your health.


  • Watch your portion sizes. Around this time of year a lot of the foods that are offered at social occasions are higher in fat and sugar, as everyone is having an extra little Christmas treat. If you can’t resist the mince pies, Christmas cake, Quality Streets and Christmas pudding being offered to you, then at least watch your portions sizes. Eat smaller portions than what you usually would, and then savour every mouth full.
  • Drink lots of water. We should be getting in 6-8 glasses of water per day. Make sure that you stick to this during the holiday season, even though you may not be in your usual routine. Often when we think that we are hungry and we start nibbling on something, we are actually thirsty. So, make sure that you stay well hydrated. If you are drinking alcohol, you need to especially ensure that you drink enough water, as alcohol is a dehydrating agent.
  • Be active. Many people complain that they don’t have time to exercise. The holidays are a great opportunity for you to focus on being more active. The summer holidays are especially nice for being active as it is light until later in the evenings, it is easier to wake up in the mornings, and the weather is usually great for some outdoor activity. Go for walks, hikes, swims, and be as active as you can be. Don’t see exercise as a punishment. Rather find a form of exercise that you enjoy, and then engage in it regularly.
  • Focus on fibre. High fibre foods have a high volume and are satisfying, but they are lower in calories, which makes them helpful in maintaining a healthy weight. Include lots of fruits, vegetables and whole grains throughout your day.
  • Bring a healthy dish to a party.  If you are invited out to someone’s house, offer to bring a dish to the party, and then choose a tasty but healthy dish to bring. Socialising doesn’t have to include unhealthy, high fat foods, it can include yummy healthy options too.
  • Always have a light snack before arriving at a party.  If you arrive at a party or to a restaurant starving, then you are more likely to go straight for the high fat, high sugar foods. You are also more likely to overeat if you are too hungry. Rather have a healthy snack 1-2 hours before your social event, so that you can make wise choices and not over indulge at the event.
  • Eat breakfast.  Research studies have shown that people who eat breakfast consume fewer calories throughout the day. Don’t starve yourself the whole day if you know that you have a party on in the evening. Rather eat healthy, low fat, low GI meals with healthy snack in between.


  • Don’t shop hungry.  At this time of year there are many delicious treats beautifully packed and presented to us in the shops, luring us into buying them. To help you resist the temptation of buying too many unhealthy foods, make sure that you eat something before you go shopping. When you are hungry, you are more likely to buy high fat and high sugar food items.
  • Don’t stock up on Christmas treats too soon. Resist the urge to start stocking up on Christmas treats now, because you will probably then start eating them earlier, and then buy more. Or, if you buy too many Christmas treats, you may be left with loads of goodies afterwards which you will then continue to consume after Christmas.
  • Don’t nibble while preparing food. It can be tempting, so chew on some sugar free gum to help you avoid the temptation.
  • Don’t hover near the food table at social events.  If you do this, you will end up constantly nibbling and picking at all the tasty food, and you will forget how much you have eaten. Rather fill your plate up once and then move away from the food and focus on the socialising.
  • Don’t drink too much.  Alcohol can easily contribute to weight gain as it contains a lot of kilojoules per gram (alcohol = 29kJ/g, fat = 38kJ/g, protein and carbs = 17kJ/g); it interferes with your metabolism which can result in increased fat storage; and drinks can contain a lot of sugar. If you drink alcohol, drink in moderation, and make wise choices to avoid weight gain.  Mix spirits with a low calorie mixer such as Coke Lite or Coke Zero, rather than opting for the normal Coke which is loaded with sugar. Watch out for beer and ciders as these are loaded with calories. Remember that the higher the alcohol content of a drink, the more calories it contains. If you drink cocktails, avoid ones made with cream, coconut milk or syrupy juices.
  • Don’t use too much fat when preparing Christmas meals.  There is nothing like a good Christmas roast with potatoes and vegetables. These meals can be healthy, or they can be a fat trap.                                                                                                                              Make sure that you prepare your meals using as little fat as possible. Turkey is a great lean option. Whatever kind of meat you choose, always choose a lean cut, remove all fat and skin before cooking, and cook with minimal added fat. When making a veggie bake, don’t drench it in oil, rather use a pastry brush to lightly add a little olive oil to the vegetables. Don’t add butter to your vegetables.  Use less fat when roasting potatoes. Parboil them first and then lightly brush them with oil. Pop them in the oven, and soon you will have delicious, crispy roast potatoes that aren’t loaded with oil. Keep the pieces of potato large, as this will reduce the amount of fat that the potato absorbs. If you are going to use meat juices to make a gravy then drain the fat off first.
  • Don’t deprive yourself of all treats.  Having an ‘all or nothing approach’ is not healthy. If you try to restrict certain food items too hectically, you can possibly end up craving that food more and then eventually giving in and eat too much of it. Enjoy sweet and rich treats in moderation. But, then when you do eat them, savour them and really enjoy them.

Here’s to a happy and healthy Christmas and holiday season!

If you’d like to see Emily in person, she has her private practice in Pinelands in Cape Town. Visit her website to get hold of her:

Comments Off on Stay in shape this summer