Food & Drinks

‘Tis the season to not stress out

Family flying in? Parties stacking up? Haven’t even started your shopping? Relax, we have all the tips, tricks and solutions so you can enjoy your best, no-stress-fest season yet…

The Problem: Sticking to your diet

The Solution: You’ve spent weeks – or even months! – sticking to a sensible eating and exercise plan that’ll ensure you fit into your slinkiest party frocks, but as soon as December 1 rolls around, the parties start stacking up, your schedule goes crazy and all your hard work goes to waste (or should that be waist?) However, party season needn’t be a food free for all, and with some careful planning, you can end the season as slim as you started. If you have lots of parties coming up, eat a healthy, filling meal before you go as this will stop you overdoing it on canapes or the buffet. Choose beverages carefully and alternate with water throughout the night to fill your tummy. The same goes for all those yummy festive drinks at the coffee shop – they’re packed with sugar and highly calorific so are definitely ones to avoid. The best way to stay healthy through the festive season is to plan ahead, identify nights when you can indulge guilt-free and balance it out with nights when you’ll be more mindful. Also, download an app which lets you keep track of everything you consume on a daily basis, such as the popular My Fitness Pal, so you can stay in control.

The Problem: Family flying in

The Solution: While family coming to stay is a reason to celebrate, it can start to feel a little strange – and strained! – after a few days, especially because you’ve not all lived together for years. But spending the festive season together needn’t result in familial fireworks. For starters, remember that you don’t have to spend 24/7 together. Most visitors enjoy a little structure, so try to plan one thing a day for them, whether it’s an evening walk around the neighbourhood, going out for breakfast, a stroll around Downtown or a visit to Dubai Mall. This way you avoid the dreaded ‘what are we doing today?’ questions and you can usher them out of the house for a few hours under the guise of ‘seeing the city’. Remembering and accepting the quirks and personalities of all your family members will also lessen your stress. For example, your sibling who sits in front of the TV on the sofa all day probably isn’t going to pitch in in the kitchen unsolicited. So, either clearly outline what you would like them to do or manage your expectations of them so you’re not left feeling overworked and resentful.

The Problem: Sticking to a budget

The Solution: Irrespective of the size of your festive season budget, making and sticking to one means no nasty surprises come January when the bills start rolling in. Begin by making a list of all your holiday expenses such as food, gifts, trips, events and charitable donations. Most people only consider the basics such as the presents to be bought, and forget about everything else, so this will help you get a broader view. Then formulate a sensible budget and allocate portions of the money to the different areas in which you need to spend. Budget experts suggest sticking to a cash only system rather than credit cards, which can encourage overspending, as well as making a list before you go to the mall, and not deviating from it. With each purchase, deduct that amount from your budget total, so you always know where you are.

The Problem: Party overload

The Solution: The festive season means parties aplenty – gatherings with friends, colleagues and people you haven’t caught up with for ages. And while you could always RSVP ‘no’ to all the invitations and stay at home wrapped in your duvet watching Netflix, where’s the fun in that? To survive party season, you need to plan meticulously. Have plenty of go-to outfits mentally tried on (and dry cleaned!) so there’s no stressful, last-minute rifling through your wardrobe while claiming to hate everything in there. Also bear in mind that even though it’s a party you don’t have to overindulge on food and drink. Make the focus of the event catching up with friends and colleagues as opposed to consuming as much of the buffet as possible, and if you want to make a quick exit, drive instead of getting a cab. Don’t be afraid to bail early using the kids or work as an excuse – as long as you’ve spent ample time with your host and have worked the room, no one will begrudge you an early bedtime. If you can’t face another dinner, opt to ‘pop by’ instead, telling your host, “I can’t stay for dinner, but I’d love to meet you all for a drink beforehand.” This will ensure you’re back on your sofa recharging and having done your social duty by the time they’re tucking into their starters.

The Problem: Christmas gift shopping

The Solution: Christmas shopping can be great fun, and given the recent proliferation of online shopping options in the UAE, whether you click for your gifts or love to trawl the mall, there are ways to make the experience far less stressful than previous years. Begin by checking in with friends and family about who to buy for. If you have a smaller budget, you might decide to only buy for each other’s children, or do a pot luck or Secret Santa. And although you might prefer to surprise family and friends with their gifts, you can take a lot of stress out of festive shopping by asking what it is they would really like. This is a win-win as they get a gift they actually want, and you can cross their name off your list super-fast. Make a list of who to buy for and stick to it, and if you’re shopping in stores where they offer free gift wrapping take full advantage of it, even if it means sticking around for a little while longer – it saves you time in the long run!