It’s that crazy time of year again when you find yourself constantly celebrating another year with Christmas drinks and festive feasts. We are often faced with many challenges and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.

Here’s a taste of our Dietitian’s top 5 tips to not just survive the Christmas season, but to enjoy it.

1. Give yourself permission to eat and enjoy any (and every) food. Yes, as a Dietitian, this is my number one tip!! Remind yourself that most foods (i.e., chips, dips, crackers and chocolates) can be enjoyed all year round.

You can eat them and enjoy them now if you feel like them. However, Christmas isn’t the ONLY opportunity you have to eat such foods. Obviously there are a few special dishes that only make an appearance at Christmas (i.e., Christmas cake and trifle).

As such, make a special effort to enjoy these dishes and savour their delicious flavours without guilt.

Feeling guilty about eating not only takes away the joy otherwise associated with the festive season but research shows that it is linked to disordered eating behaviour (such as binge eating). So, enjoy whatever it is you’re eating.

2. Plan ahead. Christmas is a busy time and consequently, we often find ourselves in situations that we haven’t given much thought to.

If you’re going to an event on an empty stomach where you anticipate only finger foods will be served, it is likely that you will overindulge on foods you wouldn’t otherwise eat in such quantities. In instances such as these, a little bit of prior planning can go a long way.

Taking along some more satisfying foods (e.g., pre-ordered sushi; a platter of meats, pita bread and dips; or home-made rice paper rolls, chicken balls or mini frittatas) to enjoy during the event can make a huge difference.

3. Trust in your hunger and fullness cues. While it is often a common (and almost, traditional) part of Christmas to overeat, no one enjoys feeling more stuffed than the turkey.

Before eating, check in with your hunger cues. Ask yourself “How hungry am I?”, “What do I feel like eating?” and “What/how much will satisfy my hunger?”

Eating intuitively in this way can help you avoid feeling deprived (i.e., by allowing you to enjoy a few handfuls of your favourite nibbles) whilst saving your appetite (and thereby increasing your enjoyment of) the main meal.

4. Practice mindful eating. You actually don’t enjoy food as much as you otherwise would when you’re focusing on what you’ll eat next or feeling guilty about what you’re eating. Rather, try to slow down your eating experience; savour as many flavours and textures of the food as you can; try your best to be aware of and enjoy every mouthful.

This will help you be far more satisfied with what you eat and less likely to mindlessly overeat.

5. Be thankful for the entire occasion; food is just one part of it! Christmas is a time to be thankful for what we have. When you sit down at the table, take a moment to appreciate the appearance of the food served, the beautiful smells coming from the roast turkey, as well as the way in which a meal can bring your loved ones together.

Embrace the happiness and gratitude that comes with this special once-a-year experience!