Christmas is about family, sharing and relaxing but can also be a time where health goals are put on hold. The average Australian gains between 0.5 and 2.5 kg over the festive season. Here are our tips for a healthy, enjoyable festive season. 

1. Don't forget the basics of five vegetables and two pieces of fruit, put them on your plate first and fill up with healthy food, leaving less room for calorie dense and nutrient lacking sweets and pastries. A large American study demonstrated the foods associated with weight gain included potato chips, potatoes, sugar-sweetened drinks and unprocessed and processed red meats. Foods associated with lower weight gain included vegetables, whole grains, fruit, nuts and yoghurt.

2. Fill up before going out. Party food is usually high in fat, salt and sugar and it is difficult to keep track of how much party food we eat. Decide what to eat before leaving the house, if having a small amount of food is harder than having none, consider eating at home first or making a low fat, sugar free yoghurt and fruit smoothie and skipping the party food.

3. Exercise is a great way to burn extra calories and keep mind and body fit. Walk , try dancing at the party or catch up with friend by arranging to go on a walk together.

4. Be drink aware. Cocktails are calorie dense and have high alcohol content. Try alternating a glass of water or low calorie soft drink, add berries, cucumber or mint to still or sparkling water to make a refreshing and healthy summer drink. Add ice cubes or soda water to reduce the amount of alcohol drunk.

5. If you are entertaining guests, provide healthy snacks, healthy dips such as hummus and salsa and fruit platters. Chose roasted nuts over potato chips, turkey breast over salami, seafood over sausages

6. Sleeping less than six or more than eight hours daily has been linked to weight gain.

7. Take care of portion sizes particularly when eating out or at the buffet. Aim to fill your half the plate with vegetables and chose smaller plates. Avoid going back for seconds. Put a smaller variety of foods on your smaller plate. A large variety of foods is associated with sensory-specific satiety, causing you to eat more. 

8  Give non-food gifts. A house laden with leftover confectionary, snacks and cakes can be very high risk for significant blow-outs in a healthy diet. Consider giving non-food gifts such as plants, flowers, magazines and puzzles.

9. Don't skip breakfast

10. Enjoy the Festive treats mindfully. Savour the taste, smell and texture of the food, enjoy it and move on. Resist mindless  snacking on everything that comes along. Try to pay attention to your hunger and fullness. If you have indulged on Christmas pudding seconds on Christmas Day, keep it in perspective, it is unlikely to be a long term problem and get back to your usual balanced exercise and eating routine.

Eat, drink, enjoy and be merry with loved ones and  friends,   but don't put your health goals on hold this Christmas.

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