10 tips for healthy festive eating

Have your mince pie and eat it too. Accredited Practising Dietitian Simone Austin shares a few tips.

Written by Simone Austin
Group of people with broken Christmas crackers. There is food on the table outdoors in a December Summer. There is Cheese meat and wine. Could be a family. High angle view. You can just see a Santa hat

There's so much to love about the festive season – and not least is all the delicious food.

While it's easy to get caught up in the celebratory spirit and indulge in a mince pie or two (or three, or four…), all those treats can add up fast, leaving you feeling sluggish and unwell by the time the new year rolls around.

Here are a few tips for enjoying all your favourite treats, without going overboard.

1. Save festive treats for the actual holidays

Have whatever you like on Christmas Day, but try to leave the festive cakes, mince pies and other celebratory foods in the shops until close to Christmas. If you haven’t already been eating them for weeks beforehand, these foods will seem special and you’ll really enjoy them.

2. Make a choice

When an array of food is on offer, choose which of these foods you would most desire. Take a serving, eat and really enjoy it! There is nothing to say you must try everything.

3. Plan ahead

What social activities are coming up? When will I enjoy an alcoholic drink and when will I reach for the water? Without a plan, it’s all too easy to end up indulging in more alcohol and food than we meant to. Knowing you have a few functions on in one week, you can pace yourself. Be sure to include plenty of vegetables with lunch, particularly if you know you’ll be eating out in the evening and you suspect the vegetables will be light on.

4. Stick to one plate

Buffet style can be dangerous. By the time you get to the end, the plate is piled, flavours are all mixed and it really is a bit of an epicurean shambles. Go for quality over quantity. Sit down, savour the flavours and stop before the full gauge hits 10. You will feel so much better after for it.

5. Get your veggies

Still aim for five servings of vegetables per day over the holiday break. To make them special for the festive season (which generally is over more than one day and one meal as for one day it wouldn’t matter), go the extra mile with preparation. Roast a variety of carrot types (you can get purple ones!), stuffed capsicums, mushrooms, sweet potato, pumpkin and parsnip with the traditional potatoes using herbs and good quality extra virgin olive oil. Make salads with roasted beetroot, radishes, asparagus, leafy greens, mangos and summer tomatoes fresh in season. There are endless choices. Serve vegetables onto your plate first so they are the feature.

6. Choose nourishing nibbles

Have desserts, pre-dinner nibbles or snacks when people drop in based around seasonal produce. Berries and cherries are beautiful festive treats perfect at this time of year. Fresh nuts, still in their shells also have are good festive fare.

7. Give healthy gifts

Instead of bringing cakes, cookies, lollies and wine when you visit friends and family for the holidays, give gifts of more nourishing, tasty foods they can enjoy, and ask family to do the same for you. Some ideas to try:

  • A quality bottle of balsamic vinegar or extra virgin olive oil
  • A box of cherries, mangoes, grapes, peaches or a combination of these divine fruits
  • Cheeses and olives
  • Chutney, pasta sauces, mustards or preserves – maybe even homemade
  • Ornamental glass jars filled with layers of nuts, seeds, muesli or dried fruits

8. Drink plenty of water

We can confuse thirst with hunger, so keep well hydrated. Have water in jugs out when friends come over. Have a water bottle when out and about with the last minute errands and start with a water when out socialising.

9. Keep an eye on serving sizes

Look at the size of your plates, bowls and glasses. We tend to fill no matter what the size. Keep these smaller so you don’t simply fill them with eyes bigger than your stomach.

10. Go for balance

Enjoy a shortbread and a veggie packed roast dinner too… it is all about feeling well with balance!

Written by Simone Austin

Simone Austin is an Accredited Practising Dietitian and Advanced Sports Dietitian. She is currently President at Sports Dietitians Australia, dietitian of Hawthorn AFL football club and has previously worked with the Australian Men’s Cricket Team, Melbourne Storm Rugby League and Melbourne City A League soccer teams.

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