Hurray! The festive season is here – such a great time of year when we can all hopefully enjoy a bit of time out and some quality time with friends and family.

It’s so easy however, with drinks flowing plus cheese and chips everywhere you look, to put on a few unwanted kilos and for healthy habits to fall by the wayside – but, they don’t have to! Here are a few tips to help you keep healthy and fit over the festive season while still having fun.

1) Start the day well

Always start the day well with a healthy breakfast – a nutrition packed breakfast can be a good way to avoid the morning munchies. Some great nutrient packed ideas include poached eggs on wholegrain toast with spinach and avocado, wholegrain cereal with milk and yoghurt or maybe even a smoothie with blueberries, spinach, milk and yoghurt!

2) Lead by example

On all social occasions over the festive season and on Christmas day, if you’re asked to bring a plate, take something healthy. Be creative with fruit and make fruit kebabs or a fruit platter. A side salad is also a great way to get veggies in where you can – lettuce salads, red cabbage coleslaw, couscous salad and roast veggie salads are great ideas.

Below are a few links to healthy recipes.

Lebanese brown rice salad
Rainbow power salad
Barbequed baby vegetables with parsley yoghurt dip

3) Avoid overloading your plate

This can be a real trap over the festive season when there are lots of shared meals! It is so tempting to dig into everything and pile your plate high but instead, try to fill your plate first with veggies or salads (and that means not just the creamy potato salad!) and then opt for one or two other things rather than having to have everything.

If you feel under pressure to eat more than you need, remember it is your body, your health and wellbeing so it might be time for you to start practising how to politely say ‘no thanks’ which can be hard at first, but gets easier with practice.

4) Snack smart

If there are snacks why not plan in advance and bring a healthy plate of veggie sticks and hummus or homemade salsa and wholegrain crackers instead of the standard chips and dip. Once you start eating chips and dip it can be hard to stop and we often end up eating a lot more kilojoules than we realise. Remember snacks are snacks and can be deceiving, so keep the snacking to a minimum, as you don’t want to spoil your main meal.

The classic chips and dip is deceivingly energy dense

50 g of chippies (a big handful) and 3 tbsp of a creamy dip = 1300 kJ, 21 g fat (4 tbsp of fat) – fat wise, that equates to the same amount as in a rounded tablespoon of butter!

5) Give healthy gifts

Why not get creative this festive season and swap the standard box of chocolates for one of these healthy gift ideas, you will be sure to impress. Also, if people ask you what you want, ask for something which will help you keep healthy – maybe a yoga class concession card, some new gym shorts or a water bottle!

6) Enjoy alcohol free drinks

Alcohol contains a lot of energy (calories) so if you are having alcohol, you could try alternating drinks with alcohol free options such as water or diet soft drink.

7) Be active over the festive season

Walking with family and friends, playing a game of backyard cricket or swimming in the ocean are great ways to stay active!

8) Avoid “just in case”

Don’t buy things “just in case”, rest assured there will be plenty of food for everyone. Enjoy one or two mince pies and the odd slice of cake, but don’t buy or make a massive pie or cake if you are the only one going to end up eating it.

9) Remember to have fun and enjoy the day!

Focus on spending time with your friends and family, rather than focusing on food.

By AUT Millennium Nutritionist Claire Turnbull and Student Dietitian Rachel Goodger

For more about Claire and her work check out