6 ways to stay healthy over the festive period

Mince pie with your afternoon cuppa? Oh, go on then.

A few cheeky Quality Street while wrapping presents…what’s the harm in that?

Prosecco and canapes after work? It would be rude not to.

Sound familiar? Yep, it’s officially silly season. I don’t know about you, but my life admin list seems to quadruple in size in December. Presents to buy, Christmas cooking and related food shopping to plan, a hundred and one school related things to remember (nativity costumes to wash and mend, lines to learn (kids, not me), nativity plays to attend, teachers’ collections, Christmas jumper day, school closing early on the last day of term) and sorting out the spare room for the in-laws’ visit (that box of items to Ebay will have to wait till the New Year). And all these tasks get squished into small pockets of time, usually late at night, as is the case for busy parents everywhere.

It’s a lovely time of year, but it can feel like we are caught in a whirlwind of activity. All too often thoughts about keeping healthy go out the window. That’s what January’s for, right?

January is typically the busiest time of year for new gym memberships, with waiting lists for spin and body pump classes and queues for the cardio equipment being all too common.  And yes, it’s the time of the year when I get most enquiries and sometimes desperate pleas for help. The indulgences over Christmas can start to feel rather uncomfortable once all the chocolates and sausage rolls are eaten.  And the fact that your recycling bin contains more empty Prosecco bottles than any other type of recyclable makes you worry almost as much about what the bin men will think as the harm done to your liver.

But 1 January doesn’t have to be laden with guilt. You can stay fairly healthy during December without depriving yourself of festive treats. Here’s how you do it….


  • Be realistic about your #gymgains


Unless you are super committed, December is probably not the month when you are going to smash out your #fitnessgoals.  Nor is it likely to be the month where you consistently get your 7+ veg a day in and finally nail that high protein, low carb diet that everyone swears is the answer to #flatabs.  And that’s ok, to an extent. You can definitely cut yourself some slack in December (it is about celebrating, after all) but you don’t want to go too far the other way.


  • Quality over quantity


Instead of diving into cheap supermarket mince pies, buy a box of good quality artisan type mince pies from your local market or bakery – or even better, make your own! Enjoy your treat and really notice and savour the flavours. Appreciate the time and skill it takes to make a beautiful festive pastry.

Try the same approach with chocolates. Instead of munching on the cheap chocs that come in those massive plastic tubs or your kids’ chocolate coins, buy yourself a box of beautiful chocolates. They are exclusively yours to enjoy, so tell your hubby/partner and kids to keep their hands off! Stick to just one or two chocolates at a time and enjoy that little bit of decadence.

And my top tip for going out for drinks is to buy your own wine or bubbly by the glass. Steer clear of buying rounds as you inevitably end up drinking and spending more than you want to. Give yourself a “budget” of 2 drinks and treat yourself to something a bit special, like real champagne, rather than cheap sparkling wine.


  • Be a green grazer


It’s very easy to rack up several hundred unhealthy calories just by grazing on festive snacks. And let’s be honest, there’s not a lot of good nutrition in a shop-bought sausage roll. Skip the beige snacks (crisps, roasted nuts, cheese, crackers and sausage rolls) and stick to vegetable based snacks like olives or raw vegetables and dips such as hummus and guacamole. If you are going to an evening drinks event, make sure you eat something healthy before you go. This will take the edge off your appetite and should also stop you from getting sozzled too quickly.  


  • Aim for 80/20


If you aim to eat healthily 80% of the time, you can then be more relaxed for the remaining 20%. For me, this means keeping my main meals nice and healthy (lots of vegetables, with some lean protein, wholegrain carbs and  healthy fat), allowing myself a couple of festive goodies throughout the week (a mince pie with my morning cup of tea, a cheeky mid-week glass of wine and possibly a decadent hot chocolate on a chilly afternoon) and then having one meal a week when I eat whatever I feel like. If I have a big lunch or dinner, I just make my other meals that day really light so my overall calorie consumption isn’t through the roof.

  • Exercise for headspace and fun

Going to the gym 5 times a week can feel like a chore at any time of the year (unless you are super motivated), but when December rolls around, exercise can become downright unappealing – especially if you live in the northern hemisphere and it’s cold, grey and dark outside. Plus all the social activities can means it’s almost impossible to find the time to do it.  But as we all know, regular exercise has so many benefits, so it’s important to keep it up, even if it feels a bit half-hearted.

Try taking your focus off exercising for fitness or weight loss for a few weeks. Instead think about exercise as a good way to get some headspace and time out from your To Do list. Make yourself a fab playlist and get outside for a good old powerwalk. Add some hills into the mix and you’ve got yourself a really good interval workout! Aim to do some exercise at least every second day – it doesn’t matter what you do, just move that bod and get your heart rate up for 20-30 minutes.


  • Don’t let your sleep suffer


It is so much harder to eat healthily and stay motivated to exercise when you are tired (and/or hungover). Try to get between 7 and 8 hours sleep each night. If you do have a late night, a short nap during the day can work wonders for boosting your energy. I know that’s not so easy if you are stuck in an office all day, so the next best thing is to get out for some fresh air. So use your lunch break for a brisk walk outside – if you work in a city or town, it’s a good chance to do some window shopping.

Then eat, drink and be merry on the big day!

When Christmas Day finally rolls around, the presents are all wrapped and the kids’ excitement levels are through the roof, you can eat, drink and be merry. Enjoy the day and everything it brings. Be thankful for family, friends and good health. At the end of the day, those are the things that matter the most.

Emily x

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