The festive season is a time when we usually get together with family and friends and have more social gatherings than usual. Often, getting together more involves eating more, and consuming more of unhealthy foods.

Many of the foods served at festive season parties (e.g. chips, salted nuts, cakes) are unhealthy when consumed in larger quantities and more regularly. Dinners served at restaurants usually have higher quantities of fat and salt than those prepared at home. Most restaurants serve large portion sizes (think value for money meals), meaning more calories. We tend to also drink more alcohol over this period which contributes significantly to our daily calorie intake.

The festive season is, therefore, a time of year when there are challenges to maintaining a healthy weight & eating plan. There are however guidelines to help us make wiser choices and keep unwanted weight at bay. With a bit of effort, we can incorporate more healthy food into our daily eating during the ‘silly’ season.

How much should we eat day to day?

To maintain our weight, we should be having the same amount of energy (calories) from food and drink as we use up to perform bodily functions and perform exercise. So, if we’re eating and drinking more calories than we are using, we will put on weight. Eventually, this can lead to more serious problems and unwanted weight gain come January.

The festive season is also busier for most so people tend to skip exercise and rather sleep in to save energy for busier days. Therefore it’s often at this time that people can gain weight due to less activity.

It is important that you have balanced nutrition, rich in vitamins and minerals and including each food group in appropriate proportions. Fats and sugars should be eaten in small quantities and occasionally, not every day.

Here are some of our TOP TIPS for maintaining a healthy weight & eating plan over the festive period;

• Have fruit and vegetables DAILY

• Serve vegetables with every meal, including the traditional Christmas meal

• Serve vegetable sticks & toasted wholewheat bread with dip, instead of chips and crackers at social gatherings and on Christmas day

• Prepare healthy dips from fruits and vegetables (e.g. tomatoes, avocado, chickpeas) and low-fat yoghurt.

• Eat a variety of vegetables of different colours (e.g. leafy greens, root vegetables)

• Add fruits to a cheese platter, salad, or couscous

• Serve fruit salad for dessert on Christmas day (or other days), instead of the traditional pudding.

• Avoid unhealthy snacks like chips, sweets, cakes & salted nuts. They are unhealthy because they have high fat, salt, and sugar content. Eating these foods can contribute substantially to your daily calorie intake, creating a risk for gaining weight.

• On Christmas day, eat a breakfast that fills you up so you are less likely to snack on unhealthy foods later in the day

• Stop eating when you begin to feel full, do this by eating slowly to get a better sense of when you are satiated

• Be aware of portion sizes in restaurants, choose light meals & starters or share a main meal with a friend

• Drink sparkling water rather than sugary drinks & alcohol

• When cooking at home, cut potatoes and vegetables into large chunks for roasting. This will absorb less fat and ultimately contain fewer calories when cooked.

• Exercise daily to burn additional calories you may consume daily. Take a 30min walk after eating, or get some exercise playing with the kids and their new Christmas toys.

To summarize, be conscious of what you are eating. You are now equipped with knowledge about what you should be putting in your body. Trust your judgment and feel good in your skin this festive season.