Dietitians tell us how to ‘eat healthy’ over the festive season, so silly season treats don’t trip us up…

We may start the silly season with good intentions – to eat healthily and exercise regularly – but it’s easy to lose sight of those goals.

As soon as we get through the team, company and client lunches and parties, we’re whirling off on holiday.

For some, the lavishness of the holidays is an excuse to let go, despite aspirations to achieve that bikini body. It’s easy to take an ‘everybody’s doing it, I can’t avoid it’ approach and lose your focus.

So how can you avoid making this mistake?

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You are in charge

It’s important to stay mindful of this fact: you are in charge of how the holiday unfolds for you. You have the power to maintain a healthy balance.

Sure, maybe no one can convince grandma to replace the condensed milk with low-fat yoghurt in her classic Christmas Day potato salad, but chances are you can find friends and family members who would also like to start some healthier festive traditions. Find these like-minded companions, and together you can forge your way into a healthier, happier festive season.

Healthy festive season tips

Registered dietitians Retha Booyens and Mbali Mapholi, spokespeople for Association for Dietetics in South Africa (ADSA), share their top tips on healthy eating over the festive season:

1. Avoid eating on autopilot

“Yes, you’re relaxing on the beach with friends and the context is the holidays – but the packet of chips being offered around is just the same as any other time, so stick to your same reactions. If you’re not hungry, or if you would prefer a healthier snack, pass it on,” says Mapholi.

She says that just because it is in front of you, doesn’t mean you have to eat it.

“Be mindful about what you choose to eat. Sometimes, when it comes to food offerings, we go on autopilot and think we need to hoover up everything in sight, just because it is on offer. But, we don’t. It’s just food. There will be more.”

2. Enjoy real occasions

Booyens says that if it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, go for it, but if it’s a holiday habit that just trips you up, let it go.

“If you find yourself in Rome on a rare holiday with the chance to enjoy an Italian gelato alongside the Trevi Fountain – just go right ahead and enjoy it. But if the choice is about yet another helping of mom’s peppermint crisp tart, you can probably skip that this time around.”

3. Be practical about portions

Booyens says that one can avoid the stress that compromises holiday enjoyment by sticking to healthy goals and plans in practical ways.

“Keep your portion sizes in check at every meal. Cut back on the empty calories of alcohol by consciously reducing your intake and also drinking a glass of water between every glass of wine or beer. Never slake your thirst with an alcoholic beverage,” she advises.

As a practical way to eat healthily (and inspire others to do the same), Mapholi recommends taking your favourite healthy dish to the family braais or dinners.

“Keep your eye on portion size and trade the treats you don’t want to miss out on with increased exercise and a more balanced meal before or after.”

Related: Easy peasy portion control – 6 super simple ways to measure portion sizes!

4. Stick to an exercise regime

We know exercise is important, so keep moving over the holidays.

“If you can’t access your usual classes, sessions and activities, then run, walk, ride or play physical games for a minimum of two and a half hours a week,” says Booyens.

Related: 5 Last-minute summer body-toning tips

Make mindful choices

“It’s not the holiday season that is the pitfall but rather our mindless reactions,” says Mapholi, “Step away from the snack table. When you eat; choose well, chew slowly and be aware of what you are eating.”

For more information about ADSA or to find a dietitian in your area, visit www.adsa.org.za

While All4Women endeavours to ensure health articles are based on scientific research, health articles should not be considered as a replacement for professional medical advice. Should you have concerns related to this content, it is advised that you discuss them with your personal healthcare provider.