The festive season is well and truly upon us with the abundance of social activities filling up our schedules. From work Christmas parties to family gatherings to eating out a lot more simply because we now have the freedom to do so!  Whilst it’s completely fine to enjoy meals out and have a few more of the more indulgent foods/drinks this time of year, for some this may not align with current goals or others may simply not want to completely overdo it over the festive season.  

So, if you’re wanting to enjoy the foods and drinks you love this festive season but still be conscious of making healthier choices, here are our top tips.

Enjoy a satisfying snack before you go out

If you’re anything like us, rocking up to a Christmas party starving with decadent grazing boards at your fingertips is not an ideal combo.  If you attend an event ravenous, chances are you will overeat and end up feeling uncomfortably full, or filling up on the more energy dense foods like cheese/chips/cured meats.  A great way to manage this is by including a snack high in protein and fibre before you go out.  This way you’ll arrive still hungry enough to enjoy some delicious food, but not completely hangry.  Some good options to include are a high protein yoghurt with fruit, veggie sticks with hummus or cottage cheese, vitaweets with tuna or boiled egg, or a fruit smoothie.

Plate up your snacks

Cheese boards and grazing boards are wonderful things to enjoy with loved ones, but it’s very easy to mindlessly munch your way through them (often leaving you feeling stuffed before even getting to the proper meal).  One key way to minimise this mindless snacking is by plating up your portion of food and walking away to enjoy it whilst chatting, rather than standing at the food constantly picking.  If available include some nutrient rich options on your plate such as wholegrain crackers, veggie sticks, hummus/tzatziki and olives whilst still enjoying some of the other favourites like cheese and quince paste.

Include plenty of water

It’s almost a given in Australia that alcohol intake will increase around the festive season.  If you choose to drink, aim to alternate each alcoholic beverage with a big glass of water.  This will help to minimise dehydration due to alcohol and also prevent you from mistaking thirst from hunger (your head will also probably thank you the next day).  If you want to reduce alcohol intake try including infused mineral water or soda water with some fresh fruit and mint as a refreshing drink option.

Portions are key

By all means enjoy the delicious foods at Christmas that you may not have on a regular basis – it is a time for celebration after all.  Managing portions is a great way to still enjoy the foods you love without compromising health goals or feeling unwell (Christmas lunch food coma anyone?).  Use the magic formula of aiming for ½ plate of vegetables (such as roast veggies or salad), ¼ plate protein (such as ham, turkey, egg, tofu, legumes, chicken, beef or lamb), ¼ plate carbohydrate (such as potato, corn, bread, rice, pasta, cous cous), a serve of healthy fats (such as nuts, avocado, extra virgin olive oil, seeds) and a bit of flavour (such as condiments, cheese, or stuffing).

Avoid the all-or-nothing mindset

It is very common this time of year to have an all-or-nothing mindset.  Think the typical “I have all these social events + Christmas + New Years so I’ll wait until January to start working on my health goals”.  This mindset typically leads individuals to significantly overindulge because they have in their head that once January hits they need to restrict and can’t enjoy any of these foods again for a while.  This is the mindset we want to avoid, any time of the year.  You can absolutely enjoy your favourite foods at Christmas without overdoing it (see tips above) and STILL maintain some healthy habits that make you feel good.  Continue to implement strategies that make your body feel good such as exercise, getting enough sleep, drinking plenty of water and including plenty of plant foods.  Allow some flexibility in your food and drink choices over the festive season, but don’t write off all your other healthy habits.  There will always be an upcoming social event or occasion that means you’ll be including more indulgent foods.  Finding ways to incorporate these occasions where we can enjoy food without compromising health is a key part of leading a healthy and balanced lifestyle.

What are your key strategies to maintaining balance during the festive season? Let us know, we’d love to hear from you!

Want a hand with your healthy habits? Get our FREE meal plan and shopping list templates below!