8 tips for a healthy Christmas season

The summer holidays and Christmas celebrations come all at once for us in New Zealand. It can be busy and maybe a bit stressful. We have 8 tips to keep healthy while enjoying 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 important 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 the way you manage stress, all have a positive or negative affect on how you feel. 

We've put together 8 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 like 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 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".

Clean

  • 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.

Cook

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

Chill

  • 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 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.

Make sure you're hydrated before you start drinking alcohol, especially in warmer weather. Alternate alcohol with non-alcoholic drinks to moderate how much you're drinking at any one 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 important for a healthy heart.

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

Exercise supports both your physical and mental health and even a walk with a friend, or on your own with some music or a podcast will help keep you balanced.

family on bikes in park

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 the food we eat and our mental health. Preparing food in advance means you don’t have to make those extra decisions around what to eat when the days are busy. Taking one to two hours each week to do some meal prep is a good place to start.

As we get closer to Christmas, we’ve prepared a full Christmas menu that serves 8 and should help make cooking easier on Christmas Day.

7. Prioritise sleep

There's more than enough to manage during December and January with celebrations, kids finishing up 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, 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

One thing 2020 has taught us is the power, and importance, of social connection. It's been a big year for everyone. With all the uncertainty, everyone needs some time to rest and relax.

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

Family relaxing at home

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
Try our Christmas menu
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.