Top 10 tips for staying on track during the Festive period

Madeleine Hawkes, Weight Loss Expert

PGCert Obesity & Weight Management

BSc (Hons) Nutrition and Dietetics,

BSc (Hons) Psychology

1 Read the menu in advance.

Christmas is full of occasions to eat out, socialise and enjoy the company of everyone around you. Socialising and conversation can often distract from your food choices. If you’re picking from a menu, think about your food choices before your dinner out so you can choose with your goals in mind.

2 Try not to skip meals to store up calories for one big meal.

It’s a common misconception that hoarding calories, for a specific big meal, will allow you to control your overall intake. However, this often backfires and results in us being overly hungry by the time your long awaited meal comes along, leading us to choose more caloric foods and larger portions than normal.

It is better to keep to your regular schedule of well rounded meals throughout the days and hours prior to your Christmas dinner or festive meals out. This way we continue to fuel our body with a variety of foods across the day. This is also relevant after increased consumption, treat the next day as a normal day. Do not try to reduce your intake or food or increase your exercise excessively to counterbalance yesterday’s meal, just return to your normal routine.

3 Enjoy alcohol in moderation.

Not only are many alcoholic drinks high in calories, we can also lose sight of our goals after a few drinks. Not to mention the late night snacking and the hangover breakfasts. Alcohol is quite dense in calories and this can often be forgotten during the festive period. Try to be mindful about how many alcoholic drinks you are consuming, for example you could swap out every other drink with a non alcoholic alternative or low alcohol versions of your favourite drinks. 

Alcohol can also be quite dehydrating so if you do choose to have alcohol make sure to have a glass of water filled up nearby to counteract this. 

4 Try to keep an eye on mindless snacking.

Festive goodies are often lying around prompting us to graze without really thinking about it. We have all been known to sit with a box of celebrations on our lap picking out our favourites until all that’s left are the Bounties and the Milky Ways. Instead, try to take a portion which you feel is suitable and aligned with your goals and then leave the box in another room. Christmas buffets present a similar challenge. To overcome this, serve yourself one balanced plate from the offerings on the table and try to avoid returning for seconds.

5 Try to keep those fruits and vegetables in mind. 

The calories consumed on Christmas day can easily reach into the thousands. You can go some way to limit this by thinking about what’s on your plate at dinner time. Aim for balance: ¼ of the plate protein (this may be your turkey or plant based substitute), ¼ of the plate carbohydrates (this includes roast potatoes, other root vegetables, peas and yorkshire pudding) and ½ the plate non-starchy vegetables. 

6 Keep moving. 

Try to get out for a half an hour walk everyday or mix it up with some at home stretches over the Christmas period. Everyone feels like the cold and dark are drawing in around Christmas time, but getting out and moving is so important for every part of our health.

Think about being mindful with your down time. Could you do some stretches while you watch a movie? 

7 Get outside and be aware of SAD.

SAD stands for Seasonal Affective Disorder. This is a form of low mood or depression associated with the change of seasons. This can affect our appetite and have knock-on effects on our weight regulation. To try to prevent this NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) suggests that we get morning sunlight (which is easier said than done in the UK) but can be replaced with a sun lamp. Other treatment options include talking therapies and medication. It is also very important to take Vitamin D supplements to compensate for the reduced sun exposure during this time of year. This supports our bones, muscles and teeth when taken alongside a healthy diet containing calcium and phosphorus.

8 Take time to be mindful about portions. 

With all the festivities it can be easy to get distracted from focusing on the  food we are eating. When you are eating, try to be present with the food and your internal fullness signals. Take small bites, chew the food well, put the cutlery down between mouthfuls and don’t pick them up again until you’re fully ready for the next mouthful. Continuously check in with the levels of fullness you are experiencing as you move through the meal and stop at the first sign of fullness. Remember that that feeling of fullness grows even after you finish eating, overdoing it might mean you feel quite unwell after the meal is finished! 

9 Don’t let any indulgence de-rail you.

Often, the weeks over the winter months and the festive period can lead to over-indulging which may affect how we feel about ourselves. During the festive period it’s inevitable that your progress or routine will be affected in some way and this is normal and to be expected. Be kind to yourself and don’t feel that this has ruined your ability to reach your goals. Be realistic and don’t forget to enjoy yourself! This is a time for rest and fun and to be with loved ones. The last thing you should be doing is having a miserable time because you feel that you cannot enjoy the wonderful foods around these festivities. 

10 Be mindful of other people’s decisions throughout the Christmas period.

Everyone has their own relationship with food, alcohol and these festivities. For some this period of time can be very stressful and overwhelming. Avoid commenting on other people’s decisions around their food and drink consumption and remind yourself to be kind when judging your own actions. 

While we've ensured that everything you read on the Health Centre is medically reviewed and approved, information presented here is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns, please talk to your doctor.