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Festive season advice for residents in UAE

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Mindless eating slows the digestion process, making organs work harder to process all that food.

With Christmas parties left and right - and more New Year get-togethers coming up - it's official, the festive season is here. And revellers find themselves surrounded with sumptuous buffets, tasty appetisers, sugar-laiden pies, free-flowing drinks, you name it. Now here's a word of caution: A few days of overindulgence can overtax your digestive system and make you prone to heartburn, nutritionists have said.

To understand the ill effects of overeating, it's important to know what it mean means to overeat. Ruba Elhourani, senior and head dietitian at RAK Hospital, explained: "Overeating is the state of reaching fullness but yet continuing to eat. Sometimes, a person eats more than what his/her body needs, causing the stomach to expand beyond its normal size.

"No gatherings are complete without rich food or at least snacking on some sweets or desserts. Often, people end up eating all sorts of highly caloric and sugary foods - and at wrong times, such as late at night. Since such food items are unavoidable in such gatherings, portion control is highly advised."

Mindless eating slows the digestion process, making organs work harder to process all that food. This causes people to get that bloated feeling after a big meal, said experts.

In addition, eating more would mean the body has to produce more acid. Some of it makes its way up the food pipe, thus resulting in heartburn.

Common mistakes

Some people starve themselves during the day to build their appetite for evening parties, and this is a big mistake, according to dietitian Archana Arora.

"By the time they reach the party, not only are they super hungry but, psychologically, they also feel that they have the liberty to hog and fulfil their cravings. Hence they end up overeating, especially desserts, and eating huge portions," she said.

"Another common mistake people make is consuming a lot of liquor at parties without realising that they are having empty calories, which means calories without nutrients. Also, many mix alcohol with sugary drinks or fruit juices, which will add more calories.

Another issue with having alcohol is that it dehydrates, and many mistake thirst for hunger and hence end up overeating," Arora said.

Giving her piece of advice, Arora said one must practise mindfulness while eating, especially during gatherings. "Pay attention to what you put on your plate, enjoy what you eat, eat slowly, and follow the rule of moderation."

Elhourani added that whenever possible, opt for healthy food options.

"Include a variety of seasonal vegetables and fruits in the menu and boost it with lean protein on the side. Also, have some physical activity in the daily routine even during the festive season," she said.

Enjoy the party, but remember...

>Do not go to a gathering with an empty stomach

>Eat slowly and try to sit and eat

>Stay hydrated, even between your drinks

>Avoid mindless eating. Watch what you put on your plate and focus on what you eat

>Eat and drink in moderation

>Try to keep up with your regular exercise routine