Wednesday, May 22, 2024
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Sweet celebrations and smart choices

Hari Raya Aidilfitri brings with it a delightful array of sweet delicacies, festive cakes, and the warm hospitality of open houses.

And while this season is a time to celebrate, for those of us on a journey towards better health or weight loss, the abundance of tempting treats can pose a unique challenge.

In Brunei Darussalam, attending an open house and not indulging in the spread of lovingly catered or homemade dishes is almost a social faux pas.

Even during regular Raya visits, bypassing the traditional Raya snacks, cakes and the array of canned drinks offered could seriously risk offending the host. You certainly wouldn’t want to cast a shadow over the festive cheer of Raya by strictly adhering to your diet.

 Nevertheless, when it comes to navigating your consumption this Raya season it is possible to strike a balance between maintaining health goals and partaking in the festivities with some thoughtful strategies.

First and foremost, it’s essential to approach Hari Raya with a mindset that embraces flexibility and moderation.

Remember, health and fitness journeys are marathons, not sprints and they certainly can accommodate festive seasons like Raya.

Depriving yourself completely isn’t only unsustainable but can also dampen the festive spirit for you and those around you. Instead, let’s focus on how you can enjoy the celebrations while keeping your health goals in check.

Guests enjoying a meal during Hari Raya. PHOTO: PG DIANA

Planning ahead

Every year, Brunei is abuzz with open house invitations and they are as numerous as the array of traditional cakes and snacks served during the season.

It’s not uncommon to receive upwards of three, or even more than five, open house invitations a day throughout this month, especially when you consider work-related gatherings.

Navigating this sea of tempting carbs, fats and sugars can be challenging. However, if you find yourself in this situation, it’s essential to plan ahead.

While it may seem logical to fast before the first home, it’s not the best approach. Instead, before heading to an open house or Raya gathering, consider having a light, nutritious snack.

This can help curb your hunger and reduce the temptation to overindulge when faced with a spread of irresistible treats. Opt for foods high in protein or fibre, as they can be particularly effective in keeping you satisfied.


Portion control

This is key and I understand – it’s a real challenge to manage your intake when surrounded by such delicious food. It’s all too easy to overindulge.

But consider allowing yourself to sample different foods but in smaller quantities. Consider focusing on the essentials: a bit of protein, a bit of carbs and a bit of veggies can satisfy your cravings without overdoing it.

And when faced with a tempting feast, it’s important to stay mindful. Instead of thinking you must have everything in front of you, adopt a mindset of enjoying treats at different houses.

For example, you could have appetisers at one house, a main meal at the next and desserts later on.

Another approach is to gamify your eating experience; consider playing open house bingo across several houses instead of just one.

These are just some of the strategies that will allow you to enjoy the festive feasts without feeling guilty. Remember, it’s not about abstaining or starving yourself; it’s about being conscious of what you consume.

Using a smaller plate can also help you eat less without feeling deprived. So, if you see someone with a smaller plate, respect their choice – it might just be their way of enjoying the festivities while staying mindful of their health.


Balancing the sweets

Sweets are an integral part of Hari Raya celebrations and avoiding them altogether might indeed come off as unsociable or offend the host.

However, baking enough cakes for the Hari Raya season can be a labourious chore, and buying ready-made Raya cakes can definitely leave a hole in your wallet, so it’s understandable to want to show appreciation during this season of thanks.

A good strategy is to balance out the sweets with healthier options if available, such as fruits or nuts. It’s also okay to be upfront when you’re really conscious of your sugar intake; diabetes is no joke.

The International Diabetes Federation reported that 11.1 per cent of diabetes cases in the Sultanate are among adults aged 20 to 75, exceeding the global average of 9.1 per cent.

If there are serious concerns about offending, you can be a little upfront about your health journey. Let’s not forget to practice empathy and understanding with everyone’s individual circumstances.

Alternatively, consider sharing a dessert with someone so you can still taste what’s on offer without consuming a whole serving.


Mindful eating

Raya gatherings are a delightful blend of socialising and indulging in delicious treats. Beyond the food, they are about connecting with others and celebrating the spirit of the season.

Engaging in meaningful conversations can enhance your experience and help you appreciate the effort put into organising the open house. As you enjoy the spread of delicacies, take the time to savour each bite. Discussing the food can also deepen your appreciation for the flavours and the thoughtfulness behind each dish.

Conversations can also serve as a natural break between portions, allowing you to gauge your hunger levels. This awareness can help you recognise when you are full, reducing the tendency to overeat.


Staying active

Staying active can play a crucial role in maintaining a healthy balance during Hari Raya celebrations. It’s not just about burning off excess calories; it’s also about enjoying the festive season in a way that’s beneficial for both your body and mind.

With family gatherings being a central part of Hari Raya, why not suggest some fun activities that get everyone moving?

A leisurely post-meal stroll or a friendly game can not only help burn off some of those extra calories but also create wonderful memories with your loved ones.

Ultimately, Hari Raya is a time to celebrate. It’s okay to indulge a bit during these special days. So, enjoy the delicious treats and festive meals, but try to balance them out with healthier choices and stay active.

What’s most important is not to let a few days of indulgence derail your overall health goals. Once the festivities are over, make an effort to get back on track with your healthy habits.

By approaching Hari Raya with a mindful attitude towards both food and activity, you can enjoy the celebrations to the fullest while still taking care of your health. – WARDI WASIL