Functional nutritionist Vinka Wong on a more mindful way to enjoy the festivities.

Yes, Cuisine is for people who really love food. We will never apologise for presenting the most magnificent recipes and tastes of New Zealand to you in the hope that you will be hungry for more. But is there a way to take a more mindful approach to the endless rounds of festivities ahead? I asked functional nutritionist Vinka Wong to weigh in… Kel

Summer is here and this time of year is always busy with social events, work functions and catching up with friends. Often a huge part of this involves glorious, indulgent foods, treats and drinks. But there are ways to navigate through the temptations and stay happy and healthy.

‘How?’ you say. Well to start with, ditch the calorie- and carb-counting or thinking of food as either ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Rather, start thinking of how you want to feel at the end of your meal. Consider carefully what foods look good, what will taste good and what will make you feel good. Once you have consciously chosen what you want to eat, honour your right to enjoy it. A more meaningful approach will allow for a happier and healthier you.

Like all sound protocols, a multi-pronged approach will assist your success. So, I also encourage you to try some intermittent fasting (IF). Intermittent fasting is a pattern of eating that allows you to schedule meals to gain the most benefit from them.

The science shows that IF has many health-promoting benefits, such as increasing human growth hormone, which regulates body composition, muscle growth, and sugar and fat metabolism. IF also improves energy, moods and focus. It has been well researched, with many reports claiming a reduction of inflammatory markers in chronic disease. It’s also great at resetting our appetite control.

Essentially, fasting puts the body under mild stress, which makes our cells adapt by enhancing their ability to cope. In other words, they become stronger.

Perhaps most importantly, IF is one of the simplest strategies we have as it requires very little behaviour change. This is a very good thing because it means intermittent fasting falls into the category of ‘simple enough that you’ll do it, but meaningful enough that it will actually make a difference’.

If you are in tune with your body and have stress under control, then IF is the perfect match for you. I wouldn’t recommend IF for pregnant or breastfeeding women, anyone with a history of eating disorders, anyone on pharmaceutical medication without consulting a healthcare practitioner, or anyone with a diagnosed health condition without consulting a practitioner.


If you are new to fasting, start with a 13–15-hour fast. For example, eat dinner at 7pm and refrain from eating until between 8am and 10am the next day. As you become more experienced, push your first meal out another hour, until you reach 17 hours of fasting. At 17 hours you reach autophagy fasting, which is a type of fasting that allows you to gain the extra benefits of cellular detoxification, cellular repair and improved immune function.

When you are ready to eat, the question of how much to eat or which foods you should choose depends on what you are trying to achieve with fasting, how long you are fasting for and other health factors.

When it’s time to break your fast, my favourite way to do so is with a whole avocado (yes, a whole one), kimchi and hemp seeds. These three foods provide a huge variety of nutrients and probiotics (good gut bugs), as well as good sources of protein, fats and carbs. A perfect combo.

If you want to add in some exercise while fasting, ensure you eat some protein half an hour after you do. This will stop you breaking down your muscle tissue and promote muscle growth instead.

Fasting allows you to reconnect your relationship to food. Simply put, when you go without something for a period, it suddenly allows you to see your attachment more clearly, and that can be super-interesting and empowering.


Whether you’ve decided to fast or it’s just another day, here are some great hacks for keeping your hunger in check.

First let me tell you my favourite: I love MCT oil. This is a supplement made from a type of fat called medium-chain triglycerides. It is phenomenal for staving off your hunger. If you are a coffee or tea drinker, you can add 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon into your morning drink. Or you can have it straight if you don’t drink coffee or tea.

My next favourite is to consume foods that contain inulin. This is a fibre in the gut that helps manage blood sugar and stabilise hunger. Foods high in inulin include asparagus, bananas, garlic, onion, Jerusalem artichokes and leeks. Dandelion root tea is also another great source, or you can take this prebiotic in supplement form. The great thing is, it tastes like sherbet.

Lastly, the oldie but goodie is to drink water. It really works. I like to take it to the next level by making it bubbly water with lemon and ginger, or chilled herbal teas (I love hibiscus tea for this).

Christmas holidays are such a special time of the year. They should be cherished, enjoyed and shared. Love yourself and love your food.

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