A dietitian’s tips for staying healthy(ish) over Christmas

Christmas is coming: cue the Mariah Carey Christmas playlists on repeat, twinkling Christmas lights and the flurry of end of year festivities. 

Thankfully, once we get through the busyness, most of us get to kick back and relax and spend time with friends and family, usually over some delicious (and sometimes decadent) food. 

Our dietitians at Sanitarium are all for maximum enjoyment and relaxation but know the abundance of holiday treats can bring feelings of stress, guilt and concern about the impact indulging can have on your health goals, particularly if you are trying to manage a chronic condition like diabetes or hypertension. If this is you, completely blowing out your diet, even just for one day, simply isn’t an option.  

Happily, there’s no need to avoid decadent foods altogether and stressing over what you ‘should’ and ‘shouldn’t’ eat. We chatted to our dietitians who suggested a few simple things to make the Christmas season that little bit healthier – no scrooges around here!   

Here are our dietitian’s top 7 tips for staying healthy(ish) this Christmas – yes, we said ‘ish’!:   

1. Make it active 

When you’re making plans to catch up with friends and family, why not make it active, rather than it being focused only on food. Think a swim and play at the beach, a scenic bush walk or some backyard cricket. 

2. Listen to your body

Tuning into your hunger and fullness cues is really important, especially at this time of year. If you are feeling full from Christmas lunch, don’t feel like you have to squeeze in a big dinner or say yes to dessert just to keep your hosts happy. It is OK to ask for a smaller portion or choose the lighter options from the meal. Aim to be satisfied, not overly full so you avoid those fatigued feelings from a food coma.

3. Bring a plate

If you’re heading out to a BBQ or potluck event, choose something delicious but also nutritious to contribute. That way you will be guaranteed a healthy option to fill most of your plate. Other guests will thank you too!     

4. Start with plants

Look for the veggie and salad dishes and try to fill half your plate with these options before you go any further. If you’re hosting, think about adding some extra veggie friendly dishes and help make it easy for people to meet their 5 serves of veggies for the day. We love this roast vegetable and white bean salad. It’s a delicious warm salad that is high in fibre and perfect for BBQs and gatherings. 

5. Simplify the stress

Try not to stress too much about food. Being preoccupied with ‘trying to be good’ or what you ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’ eat can mean you miss out on the enjoyment and social connection that comes with Christmas. Remember that all foods can be enjoyed as part of a healthy diet and avoiding these yummy foods can often lead to feelings of deprivation and increase cravings. Instead try to enjoy all foods mindfully. 

6. Start strong

 If your days are full of back-to-back decadent lunches and dinners, try to pack as much nutrition into your first meal of the day. As well as making sure you’re nourishing your body, you will feel energised and ready for a big day of socialising. Aim to include wholegrains, protein, fruit and veggies. Think wholegrain cereal with yoghurt and berries, a green smoothie bowl or beans, avo and tomato on wholegrain toast.  

7. Water is your friend

When you’re busy socialising, it can be easy to forget to drink water. Try taking your water bottle with you wherever you go, so that you don’t have to rely on others to top you up. Drinking lots of water throughout the day can also help with digesting all that delicious food. If you struggle to drink plain water, try adding some fresh fruit, or making some homemade iced tea.  

Most importantly, remember that the Christmas season is a time to relax and rejuvenate at the end of a busy year. So be kind to yourself and enjoy that serve of Christmas pudding.