Healthy Eating During The Festive Season

Although you may already stick to a healthy diet, it is useful to have a plan during the festive season to help keep your diet on track.

With the upcoming parties, family gatherings and work functions that may be filling up your calendar, now is the time to plan your approach to keeping your healthy eating habits.

Here are 10 practical steps from CSIRO that you can take to ensure that you don't undo all your hard work.
1. Plan your drinks

Alcohol contains a lot of kilojoules, so try setting yourself an alcohol limit before arriving at a party or social function. A good strategy is to alternate alcohol with water, soda water or diet soft drinks. To keep your sugar intake down, switch sugar sweetened drinks for diet options, or better still, water.

2. Eat before the party

It can be a mistake to arrive hungry to a function offering cocktail food. The temptation to overindulge in lots of yummy treats is hard to resist!

The ideal option is to eat a healthy meal beforehand. Aim for plenty of salad or vegetables, some lean protein (meat, chicken or fish) and a small side of wholegrain carbohydrates (for example, half a cup of cooked brown rice). Dietary proteins leave us feeling fuller for longer.

Not all canapés are created the same. If you are eating at the party, look for lean protein-based choices, such as meat balls, prawns, lean meat skewers, sushi, cold rolls or frittata. Avoid fried and pastry-based options.

3. Have a platter strategy

It’s difficult to keep track of how much you’ve eaten when enjoying finger food. If grazing from a platter, go for the vegetable sticks in preference to crackers, and choose hummus and vegetable based dips.

If cheese is your thing, focus on quality rather than quantity, and consciously cut thin slices as cheese is high in kilojoules.

4. Two courses is plenty

Remember, keeping your diet on track doesn't have to mean missing out on delicious meals when eating at a restaurant.

A simple way to prevent kilojoule overload is to limit yourself to one to two courses, for example entrée and a main, mains and a side salad, or main and dessert.

5. Focus on lean protein plus vegetables

Instead of carbohydrate-heavy pasta, pizza and rice-based dishes, select main meals that include lean protein foods, and salads or vegetables.

Burgers can be a good source of protein, and you could just eat one half of the bun if it’s a large serving size.

To avoid unhealthy fats (and too many kilojoules), it’s best to steer away from deep fried offerings such as chips, wedges, battered or crumbed fish or calamari, and schnitzels. Many curries can contain hidden fats and kilojoules too.

6. Pick raw and steamed side dishes

Choose steamed vegetables or salads if you order side dishes and not fried chips, wedges or mashed potatoes. Vegetables contain essential vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, loads of fibre to fill you up and hardly any kilojoules.

Regular vegetable intake is associated with lower risk of cardiovascular disease and certain cancers. So load half your plate with a rainbow of vegetables and/or salads and get munching.

7. Know your weakness!

Most of us have a soft spot for something sweet or salty. Admitting this is important! Whatever your weakness, it might be best to not eat any at all, as stopping after you have had some may be harder than resisting altogether.

So if you don't think you could stop at one peice of cake, choose an alternate option - bonus points if you swap you weakness for a peice of fresh, seasonal fruit!

8. Avoid hidden fats in sausages and other processed meat

Sausages and other processed meats contain saturated fats, salt and preservatives. At BBQs, switch sausages for hamburgers made using lean mince, or lean meat skewers.

9. Dessert is OK, but be smart

If you fancy dessert, offer to share with someone, or look for fruit-based options. Added sugars in foods are a source of “empty kilojoules”; they give our bodies energy but very little in the way of nutrients for health.

10. Snacks – be alert, not alarmed

Be conscious of the number and type of snacks you consume between meals, as it’s easy to lose track.

Instead, make the most of delicious and seasonal summer stone fruits, cherries and berries. Leave rum balls, mince pies, ginger breads and puddings as an indulgence for Christmas day.

Reference: Bowen, Jane 2016. "Festive Season Survivial Tips for Healthy Eating". CSIRO. Accessed via: