Live Better

Healthy eating: A party season survival guide

How to relish the odd festive indulgence – without too much regret.

Mulled wine at Christmas time.

Sharon Curtain, Accredited Practising Dietitian 

We’re well into the swing of this busy, social and tinselly time of year. Between end of year parties, catch ups and work finishing up, there’s not much time to think about whether your life is in balance. If your calendar is looking fuller than Santa’s sleigh, it’s not surprising if your exercise time has been replaced with festive preparations and a usually healthy fridge is now bursting with wine and cheese.

One reason ‘get healthy’ and ‘lose weight’ are such popular New Year’s resolutions is the festivities that begin in November and continue right through into January. It’s so easy to over-consume calories (shortbread, mince pies, boxes of chocolates – and that’s before you’ve even left the office), under-consume nutrients (Christmas cake might be the closest we get to a piece of fruit), and to not even think about opening the drawer that our active wear sits in.

But weight gain, feeling sluggish, and struggling to get out of bed in the morning don’t have to be your reality over the festive season. Be prepared by starting each day with the question: ‘What do I have on today?’ Then consider some of the following strategies.

1. Be ready for a busy day

If you’re rushing between commitments, don’t resort to devouring a packet of nuts (a healthy choice, but portion control is the calorie issue), rice crackers or lollies to keep your energy up. Instead, pack yourself a lunchbox with healthy and filling foods like fruit, carrot, cucumber or celery sticks and some protein (roast chicken, ham, turkey, boiled eggs). Or, plan what you can grab while you’re out – stop for sushi, go past that place that makes a delicious salad, or pick up a meat and salad roll.

2. Never go to a party hungry

If you do, chances are your willpower will be at home curled up in front of the TV when the fried food and pastries wander past. For the healthiest party choices, try to stick to the fresh fruit, protein (meatballs, salmon, and antipasto platter) and crudités – a fancy word for cut up raw vegetables.

3. Be alcohol aware

We’re all here to celebrate, but those glasses of champagne or refreshing cold beer quickly add up. If you guestimate 500 kilojoules (125 calories) per glass of beer, wine, champagne or freehand poured spirits, drinking four glasses over a few hours easily adds 2000 kilojoules (500 calories) to your day. Mixers loaded with sugar (tonic, coke, lemonade) and premix spirits are also adding plenty of extra kilojoules. Try topping up with sparkling mineral water between drinks.

4. Limit office treats

If your office is full of Christmas cheer (that is, Christmas food), it’s a given that you’ll enjoy a shortbread, mince pie, or cute Christmas cupcake with your cup of tea. Little indulgences are good – just keep track of how many small treats you’re having. Keeping a food diary (on paper or a phone app) helps you keep track of the extras, and increases your awareness of how often you’re snacking.

5. Be a healthy host

If you’re the one throwing a party or hosting an event, great! Make healthy choices easier for everyone by providing plenty of lighter party food, like cut up vegetables and dip, big salads, a fresh fruit platter and meat options such as kebabs or lean meats, or fish.

6. Most importantly, be mindful

Try to take a moment to be aware of what you’re eating. Before you bite into that sausage roll, fried calamari or chocolate Santa, pause and ask yourself:

  • Am I hungry?
  • Do I want to eat this?
  • Do I even like the way it tastes?

Then you can decide if you want to eat all of it. We had it drilled into us as kids that we had to finish everything on our plates, but as adults, we have a choice to take a few bites and leave it if that’s all we really want. You might be surprised how often we only taste the first bite!

Latest Articles

Healthy Living

How a lack of sleep affects your mental health

Getting enough sleep is crucial for your mental wellbeing.

Read more
Healthy Living

How to conquer your fear of the dentist

Dr Merrilyn Hooley's tips for a less stressful appointment.

Read more
Healthy Living

Are you a cyberchondriac?

Dr Google could be making you anxious.

Read more
Healthy Living

Can you reduce the effects of PMS?

Up to 30% of women experience severe premenstrual syndrome.

Read more
Healthy Living

How to have a conversation about suicide

Reaching out to someone you care about could save their life.

Read more

Can social media ruin your social life?

What’s social media doing to your mental state?

Read more
Health Insights

When should you worry about your teen?

Teenage angst or depression? How to tell the difference.

Read more
youtubeui-checkbox-tickui-checkbox-emptyui-checkbox-crosstwitterui-checkbox-tickWellbeing and mindfulness 1Physical Health 1Positive psychology 101 1Wellbeing and mindfulness 4All about gut health 1Understanding Genetics 4Planning for Pregnancy 2During Pregnancy 3The mind-gut connection 4The mind-gut connection 1New Parents 3Page 1Group 10During Pregnancy 2Page 1Physical Health 2Planning for Pregnancy 1Positive psychology 101 1Positive psychology 101 4Planning for Pregnancy 4Understanding Genetics 1Physical Health 4Planning for Pregnancy 3Nutrition 4New Parents 1New Parents 3 CopyMovement for your mind 4Wellbeing and mindfulness 2Nutrition 2sob-icon__mind-bodysob-icon__man-with-laptopAll about gut health 2Positive psychology 101 3Positive psychology 101 2Physical Health 3Wellbeing and mindfulness 3All about gut health 3genetics-changing-what-your-givenUnderstanding Genetics 2During Pregnancy 1Movement for your mind 2Movement for your mind 1Movement for your mind 3During Pregnancy 4