Do they follow special rules for festive parties? Three dietitians unwrap their strategies for staying on track.
Dietitian Matt O'Neill runs Metabolic Jumpstart, providing weight-loss and health coaching to both men and women.
"A rule of mine, which I share with other people, is to delay getting into the party season for as long as possible. I only switch into Christmas mode the week before it, not at the beginning of December. Then, it’s not a month-long feeding frenzy. That sometimes means picking and choosing between parties.
I always head off to a party with a drinking plan. That doesn’t mean planning to drink. But be aware of what your target limit of drinks is before you go, and then have some strategies up your sleeve to avoid being hijacked by your mates: sip slowly, always have a drink in your hand — even if it’s empty, and be prepared to say ‘I’m OK for the moment’.
My mate Kingo brings his own light beer to drink. Our other mate Jeffo sips on the same beer for hours. And drive — that’s an easy way to limit yourself.
If you’re hosting a barbecue, serve up fresh seafood instead of prehistoric-sized steaks. It’s harder to overeat prawns. And don’t load up on bread.
There’s no better way to get a guy to eat vegies than serving a salad at a barbecue. And instead of lavish desserts, have fruit like watermelon, or prepare fruit skewers.
I advise people to fit in as much good eating and fitness before Christmas and then take a ‘day pass’ on Christmas Day. If you’ve worked hard to build healthy habits all year, you can relax and enjoy Christmas Day.
Because I’m active for 364 days a year, I can spend Christmas Day enjoying all the traditions and not putting any limits on what I eat.
For us, it’s a normal breakfast of muesli and fruit. Then at lunchtime, we’ll have baked ham with a honey mustard glaze, roast carrots and parsnips, baked cauliflower cheese and Yorkshire puddings with gravy. Then there’s Christmas pudding with what my dad calls ‘gluggy’ custard. We spend the rest of the day grazing and picking at the leftovers.
But, I don’t then spend the next few weeks finishing off the calorie supply stored in the fridge. My mantra is: better to go in the waste than around the waist.
It’s not Christmas Day that takes its toll. It’s the days and weeks around Christmas that can make all the difference."
Lyndi Cohen, aka The Nude Nutritionist, conquered her own eating issues and managed to shed 20 kilos. She shares her outlook on making the most of parties.
"My first rule is I never deprive myself of anything. Going to a party and saying no to my favourite foods just doesn’t work for me.
When I was overweight, I thought I couldn’t have these foods because people would then judge me. Now I give myself permission to eat them and enjoy them. I’ve got a real sweet tooth and chocolate is my favourite thing. But, before I eat any, I will always ask myself, ‘Do I really feel like it?’
If the answer is yes, I allow myself to eat it as long as I’m enjoying it. Sometimes I might get bored after a few bites. Or if I find I’m eating a lot, I might walk to a different room to take myself away from it.
So, one of my biggest tips is don’t opt out of having your favourite foods, opt in. If you feel you can’t allow yourself to eat something, or you feel deprived, you’re likely to go home and secretly eat. The best time to have treat foods is when you’re surrounded by people you love, not when rummaging through your pantry or in your car.
It’s a time of year when it can be very easy to eat out a lot, so I tend to ask friends if they want to meet up for a walk, do a yoga class, or just have a coffee rather than doing a whole dinner.
And, as well, I make sure I get in 10,000 steps a day at a minimum."
Sally Marchini has a double-whammy of festive challenges: she has both type 1 diabetes and coeliac disease. Her company, Marchini Nutrition, is a dietitian service for those with similar food issues.
"I’ve had type 1 diabetes for 38 years, but I don’t have a sweet tooth, so eating at Christmas is no big drama. In my family, we have two coeliacs. And it is really quite easy to cater for.
Eating before you go to a party is a good option. And you can talk more when you’re not trying to eat at the same time!
Taking a plate to share is also a good idea, so you can at least eat something if you have special dietary needs.
Try not to indulge in the festive treats selling in shops during the lead up to Christmas. You’ll save kilojoules and it will make it more special on the day.
On Christmas Day, we choose some luxury foods, like quality nuts and good cheeses. For the main course, we have a buffet of ham on the bone, turkey, prawns, cold baby potatoes with fresh herbs and olive oil. I also do a quinoa salad and a green salad with avocado, asparagus and fresh parmesan.
One of the gluten-free foods my family makes is pavlova. And last year, we also made a light lemon and ricotta cheesecake. We don’t do Christmas pudding — I personally don’t enjoy it.
You can eat a lot more of the healthier foods than the really energy-dense ones! And if you’re gluten free, it’s easy to have a gluten-free Christmas and still enjoy it."