How can I cut back on alcohol and food in the New Year?

Glass of water

I feel like I overdid it in December by eating and drinking too much. How can I cut back on alcohol and unhealthy food?

BHF dietitian Victoria Taylor says:

Many people feel this way after the festive period, so January tends to be the month of extreme diets and quick fixes. However, making small changes to your diet is a more sustainable approach that will lead to longer-lasting results and ensure you don’t miss out on essential nutrients.

Even if you’re trying to eat less, it’s important that your diet is balanced and contains plenty of fruits, vegetables, wholegrain bread, pasta and rice, and potatoes. Some low-fat milk and dairy foods, lean meat, fish, eggs and beans are also important parts of a healthy diet.

If you swap alcoholic for non-alcoholic drinks, watch out for sugar content

Small amounts of high-fat and sugary foods and drinks are still fine too, but this will probably be where you need to cut back, especially after Christmas overindulgence.

Where possible, choose foods that are lower in saturated fat, salt and sugar. Swapping red meat for fish or leaner meats such as chicken and turkey will lower your saturated fat and energy intake. Swapping high-energy snacks for fruits and vegetables will help you to reach the recommended 5-a-day of fruit and vegetables.

After the Christmas period, many of us aim to cut back on alcohol. Alcohol is high in sugar and calories, and drinking more than the recommended amount can have a harmful effect on your heart and general health.

Total abstinence works for some, but reducing the number of days a week on which you consume alcohol could be a more realistic longterm option. If you swap alcoholic for non-alcoholic drinks, watch out for the sugar content – even in fruit juices. You can get sugar-free versions of squashes and fizzy drinks to cut calories, but water is the best option. Make it more appealing with a slice of cucumber or lemon, a sprig of mint or some ice cubes.

Keeping a diary of all the foods and drinks you consume each day will make you aware of what you are eating and will help identify where changes can be made.

Planning your meals and snacks in advance and writing lists before you go food shopping will help keep you focused on eating healthily, while saving time and money. Eating at regular meal times will help you to adopt good habits and avoid extra snacks too. 

Victoria Taylor Meet the expert

Victoria Taylor is a registered dietitian with more than ten years’ experience. Her work for the NHS focused on weight management and community programmes for the prevention of cardiovascular disease. At the BHF she advises on diet and nutrition.

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