‘Tis the season to eat, drink and be merry, but it doesn’t have to mean blowing your diet and forgetting about health and fitness, says our Dietitian Olivia Warnes.

In fact, with a little bit of planning, Warnes said you can enjoy yourself this busy Christmas season and maintain a reasonably healthy food and drink regime.

“The more people stress about food and worry about calories and putting on weight, the more challenges they have in managing their weight,” she said.

“If people relax and prepare themselves and know they are going to have those special days they can enjoy them.

“Just be smart around what you eat and how you manage yourself leading into those social occasions. Some people tend to not eat, or eat very little, knowing they are going to indulge at night with alcohol or food and end up going way over the top.”

One of Warnes’ key Christmas season nutrition tips is to eat a healthy snack before you attend a party or other social occasion.

“Have a healthy, high-fibre nutrition rich snack before and you will then be less likely to over indulge,” she said.

“If you know you are going to go out for a big meal at dinner, you might have a nice bowl of salad with tuna and beans for lunch.

“Don’t skip meals because that’s a trap. Ensure you have a good breakfast to start the day.”

Exercise should also remain top of the list for people during Christmas because it can help with stress and mental health.

“Do your best to continue your usual exercise routine to maintain good health,” Warnes added.

“Organise to exercise with friends if your usual team training sessions break over the Christmas period.”

Warnes’ other key nutrition tips for Christmas include:

  • Limit alcohol to the main celebratory days of Christmas and choose lower-energy alcoholic drinks, such as a spirit with soda water and fresh lime. Include a large glass of water between each alcoholic beverage
  • Eat slowly and enjoy every mouthful of delicious festive food
  • Avoid the temptation to pile your plate sky-high with food. Aim for half a plate filled with vegetables and salad, one quarter with meat or meat alternatives and one quarter with cereals and grains
  • Try not to get too stressed. Stress can impact sleep and lead to poor food choices.

Having the right attitude after Christmas can ensure you don’t start the New Year feeling unhealthy.

“It’s a mindset thing, to be honest,” Warnes said.

“Stopping and thinking about what you were doing before Christmas with your diet and exercise can help you get back on track.

“With Christmas leftovers, share them with friends and family and think about making healthy meals with them. For example, use leftover ham to pack out salads or add meat to an omelette.”

She also recommends staying hydrated by drinking primarily energy-free fluids such as water, soda water and tea.

Overall, Warnes said Christmas is a great time to enjoy the social and cultural aspects of food.

“It’s not about restricting things. There might be a couple of days in a row where people enjoy themselves and they find it hard to get back on track,” she said.

“It’s about being mindful and not letting the celebrations spiral out of control.”

Olivia consults at our Stepney Healthcare Hub. To make an appointment or enquiry, contact 08 8362 8111 or email medical@sportsmed.com.au.

You can also visit Olivia’s nutrition consultant website at livwellnutrition.com.au.