FOR MANY people, Christmas is a time not just to share, but also to indulge — and numerous parties and feasts are often occasions of sin.

But excessive and mindless eating during the holidays often leads to health problems — hypertension, heart attack, and stroke.

According to experts in food nutrition and dietetics, people can avoid overeating by having the proper mindset and attitude toward their holiday appetites.

For Assoc. Prof. Zenaida Velasco, professor and psychologist from the College of Education’s nutrition and dietetics department, the way people think affects the way they eat.

“Most people expect to gain weight during the Christmas season; and since they project this mindset, they eat a lot,” Velasco said in an interview. “It is the work of mind over matter, and having the wrong attitude towards food.”

“Pressured” pleasure

During the noche buena or media noche, most people tend to put all kinds of food on their plates, disregarding nutritional and calorie contents, and munching until they become satisfied.

According to Velasco, it is not bad to grab and eat any food, provided that one does not eat in excess.

“There is no good and bad food—just diet. You can eat anything provided that you eat in moderation,” she said.

Aside from moderation in eating, meals should start with clear soup, and food should be taken slowly, even during Christmas feasts, she said.

“It takes approximately 20 minutes before the brain recognizes that the body is taking in food, so if a person is eating fast, the probability of taking in more food is high,” Velasco told the Varsitarian. “The brain does not readily identify if the food is enough for the body’s consumption.”

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Colorful Yuletide diet

With the different types of food served during the Holidays, one may have a hard time choosing what should be consumed and what should be avoided. Torn between guilty cravings and healthy options, one should just think of the word “variety.”

“There is no single perfect food. The more types of food a person eats, the greater the chance of meeting the body’s required nutrients,” Velasco said. “It is also important to add colors to your food such as green, orange, and yellow because they contain fibers which aid in proper digestion,” she added, referring to fruits and vegetables.

Velasco, a registered nutritionist-dietician, said a healthy plate should be half-filled with vegetables and fruits. A quarter should contain rice, pasta or grain products, and the other quarter, meat, fish and poultry.

Filipinos should always be on a lookout, especially those with heart disorders and diabetes, Velasco said.

“Servings of vegetables and fruits are always a must. Those who have high-blood pressure should go slow on hams, salty and fatty foods. And for the diabetics, control your sugar intake,” Velasco said.

Approximate amounts of calories among “resident” Christmas food usually range from 250 to 800 calories.

“A piece of ensaymada contains 410 calories, a slice of morcon is 237 calories, one small leg of crispy pata is 812 calories, a stick of pork barbecue is 184 calories, and one whole bibingka is already 886 calories,” Velasco said. “So, we should always consider the calories.”

According to the Department of Health website, a Filipino adult typically needs 2,000 calories a day. Individual metabolism determines how much and how fast the human body burns calories from food intake.

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To achieve a desired weight, the calorie intake must be adjusted according to one’s calorie output, or the calories people burn in their daily activities and physical exercise.

“The activities in December should also be non-food related. Your food intake should be proportionate to the physical demands of your daily activities. If you cannot do it, find a way to work out,” Velasco said. “When you are able to balance your food and your physical activity, that is wellness.” Francis James B. Gatdula and Arian Anderson R. Rabino

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