by Alison McAleese, LiveLighter Victoria Program Manager and Accredited Practicing Dietitian

A Christmas tree made out of fruit

Every year in the week before Christmas, after a month of parties, I have the same conversation with myself: Next year I’m going to think about Christmas earlier and factor in my health.

But before I know it, the week before Christmas arrives and I find myself saying the same thing again…

So this year I’m getting in early. The thing is, when it comes to our health there’s always an excuse.

In winter it’s too cold to exercise. In summer it’s too hot. In [insert month] it’s my birthday. At Easter there are family events…

And then there is Christmas. While Christmas is technically just one day and it is a great time to celebrate, all the Christmas parties, functions and dining out can often continue for more than a month.

If you’re trying to LiveLighter, don’t let the festive season stop you from reaching your health goals. Here are my tips for avoiding the post-Christmas bulge.

1. Plan what to eat before heading out

Most party food is high in fat, salt and sugar, and it’s hard to keep track of how much finger food we eat. Decide what to eat before you leave the house. If having a small amount of food is harder than having none, have a meal at home first and decide to skip the party food.

2. Bring some healthy snacks

You’re probably not the only one looking for a healthy option at this time of year, so why not help yourself and your friends by bringing some delicious healthy snacks. Healthy dips are always popular, as are fresh fruit platters and bite-sized salad filled sandwiches or wraps. For something hot, try mini frittatas or quick homemade chicken pizza. No time to prepare? Pick up some grapes or strawberries on the way.

3. Eat a healthy breakfast

Eating out can often means a lack of fruit and vegetables and enormous serving sizes. Making sure you eat a healthy breakfast each day can help you reach your two fruit and five vegetables. It will also fill you up so you don’t need to eat so much at lunch.

4. Rethink your drinks

Over the pre-Christmas season alcohol is everywhere. Without some planning we can easily end up drinking every day. Plan in advance which days to drink and which to skip and when you do choose to drink, try not to have more than two standard alcoholic drinks per day. Adding some berries, cucumber or mint to still or sparkling water makes a refreshing and healthy summer drink.

5. Give non-food gifts

If you have a house laden with leftover confectionary, snacks and cakes, Christmas can go on into January. The same is probably true for our families and friends. Think about giving non-food items for Christmas, such as pot plants, flowers, puzzles, magazines and music vouchers.

6. Get active

Walking to the station or a party is a great way to fit in exercise during a very busy period. Call a friend who is also attending and walk there together. If you are organising an event you may be able to plan an activity into it. This could be a picnic at a park including a walk, cycling to a café or restaurant or planning a party with dancing, swimming or even barefoot bowls.

These ideas can bring variety to your festive season and also leave you feeling great in the New Year. There are also more healthy tips on having a LiveLighter Christmas on our website I recommend if you’re like me and want to try and be a little healthier this time of year.

And most important of all, have a safe and happy Christmas!