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8 tips for a healthy Christmas season

For us here in New Zealand, the summer holidays and Christmas celebrations come all at once. It can be busy and sometimes stressful. Despite our best intentions, we don't always make the healthiest choices. We share eight lifestyle tips to keep you healthy during the festive season without compromising the celebrations.

christmas tree made of kiwi fruit

Christmas is only one day, yet by the time we reach December, the social events and work deadlines can take their toll, so it’s essential to keep yourself healthy.

Nutrition is a great place to start, but it’s important to remember that many lifestyle habits are connected. Whether it’s the quality of your sleep or how you manage stress, all have a positive or negative effect on how you feel.

We’ve put together eight top tips focusing on your overall lifestyle to keep yourself well so you can enjoy the holidays with friends and family.

1. Regular fibre-rich meals

Fibre fills us up and keeps our gut nice and healthy. There can be a lot of low-fibre, high-sugar food at Christmas, so it’s important to include some high-fibre food at every meal and snack.

Include lots of fibre in your meals throughout the day, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains such as oats, brown rice and quinoa.

Fill half your plate with colourful, non-starchy vegetables such as leafy greens, carrots, broccoli, beans, tomatoes and capsicum.

2. Avoid going hungry

There can be a tendency to eat less food during the day if you are going out for a Christmas lunch or dinner to prevent overeating. However, this can make it harder for you to moderate what you eat if you let yourself get too hungry.

Aim to eat regular meals and choose lighter meals or smaller portions. Some simple meals to eat on either side of a Christmas lunch/dinner are:

  • a mixed salad with grilled chicken or tuna
  • an egg on toast with spinach and avocado
  • oats, fruit and natural yoghurt
  • fruit salad with nuts and natural yoghurt.

If you don’t feel up for a meal, try some healthy snack options like:

  • fresh fruit
  • chopped vegetables with hummus
  • a handful of nuts and seeds
  • natural yoghurt
  • whole grain bread with tomato.

3. Keep your food safe.

Falling ill from Christmas celebrations is no one’s idea of a good summer holiday. Each year around 100,000 cases of food poisoning occur from food eaten at home.

The risk increases across the summer months as the bugs that make us sick grow faster in warm weather. To avoid getting yourself or your family sick, follow the three “Cs”.


  • Before preparing food, wash your hands, chopping boards and all utensils.
  • Use hot soapy water to kill bacteria, and preferably let them air dry, not with a towel.


  • When cooking food, especially chicken and mince, make sure the juices run clear once cooked.
  • If you reheat food, reheat until it’s steaming.


  • Keep raw and cooked food separate in the fridge.
  • Don’t leave food sitting out on the bench.
  • Put cooked meat in the fridge as soon as possible to stop bacteria from growing.

4. Change up your drink choices

Whether you drink alcohol or not is your personal choice. If you choose to drink alcohol, remember to keep it within the recommended amount. Heavy or binge drinking increases the risk of heart disease, even in people who don’t usually drink much.

Make sure you know what the recommended level of alcohol is to reduce your long-term health risks.

As the weather warms up, it’s a good time to think about the best ways to keep hydrated. Alternate alcohol with non-alcoholic or low-alcohol drinks to moderate how much you’re drinking at any time.

Remember, there’s no requirement to drink alcohol at social events, and it’s ok to choose non-alcoholic.

5. Keep active

Keeping active all year round is vital for a healthy heart.

While the kids are on school holidays, plan to get outside every day. This could be going to the beach or park to throw a ball around, running around the block or dusting off the bikes for a ride.

Exercise supports both your physical and mental health. Even walking with a friend or on your own with music or a podcast will help keep you balanced.

6. Manage the busy days and weeks

Making healthy food choices can be hard when you’re busy. Often what we eat and whether we get in some physical activity are the first things we push to the side when there’s less time.

There’s a strong link between our food and our mental health. Preparing food in advance means you don’t have to make those difficult decisions about what to eat during busy days. Taking one to two hours each week to do some meal prep is an excellent place to start.

7. Prioritise sleep

There’s more than enough to manage during December and January with celebrations, kids finishing school, work winding up for the year and the whānau coming together. Sleep can be one thing we skimp on to fit more into the day.

Sleep helps the body rest, restore and recover. Poor sleep is linked to an increased risk of heart disease which is reason enough to aim for 7-8 hours of sleep a night.

Eating well, doing daily physical activity, moderating alcohol intake and switching off from screens/devices at least an hour before sleeping can help you get good quality sleep.

8. Enjoy the social time

Recent years have taught us the power and importance of social connection. It’s been a big couple of years for everyone. With all the uncertainty, everyone needs some time to rest and relax.

Give yourself time to switch off from the news, social media or extra content online to be present with those around you. Allow yourself to enjoy social time with your friends and whānau.

Being socially connected improves our health and welling and helps us to manage our risk of heart disease.

If you find this time of year difficult and need some support, talk to your GP or a counsellor. They can help you navigate any changes to your stress levels or mood that you experience. 

Need to talk?

  • Free call or text 1737 any time for support from a trained counsellor
  • Lifeline – 0800 543 354 (0800 LIFELINE) or free text 4357 (HELP)
  • Suicide Crisis Helpline – 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
  • Healthline – 0800 611 116
  • Samaritans – 0800 726 666
Nickie Hursthouse, NZRD

Nickie Hursthouse, NZRD

National Nutrition Advisor

As a Registered Dietitian, I know that food gives us so much more than just nutrients. I am driven to simplify nutrition messages, educate on all aspects of food and support Kiwis to develop a love of food that helps them stay healthy throughout their life.