Hibernating and over-indulging are synonymous with Christmas but if you want to start the new year feeling your best a few changes can make all the difference. Health reporter Kate Liptrot finds out simple ways to avoid festive health pitfalls.

CHRISTMAS is traditionally a time of over-indulgence. With heaving fridges, work parties, drinks with friends and lazy afternoons in front of the television, festive excess means can mean a health nosedive after the festive season.

But with a bit of thought, it is easy to stay healthy and enjoy yourself at Christmas without fearing its repurcussions in January.

Christmas dinner

While many have discomforting flashbacks to Christmas dinner as they step on the scales in January, the meal can actually be quite good for you.

“In itself, Christmas dinner is a healthy option but it has a lot to do with what you are cooking it in,” Sally Duffin, a nutritional therapist, of nutrition in York said.

“Using coconut oil is a great way because it is stable at high temperatures so it doesn’t get chemically altered. A good quality coconut oil doesn’t affect the taste of the turkey or potatoes.”

The components of Christmas dinner themselves can be very healthy. Turkey is lean, low-fat meat which contains tryptophan which causes people to feel sleepy as it's converted into serotonin. It can therefore help you recharge over Christmas and boost your mood, Sally said.

From carrots, to broccoli, to parsnips and red cabbage, you should aim for a “rainbow” of colours of antioxidant-laden vegetables on your plate. Greens such as broccoli or sprouts are particularly beneficial as they are high in fibre and cancer-fighting chemicals, glucosinolates.

Sally said: “Potatoes get a bad press. Sweet potatoes are a good alternative or you can do a mixture of sweet potato and regular potato. Keep your portion lower and make sure you have a selection of vegetables.”

Stress and weight gain

IF you are feeling stressed out over Christmas, it is important to keep things in perspective, Sally said.

“It’s one day and the world doesn’t end if you haven’t sent everyone a Christmas card.”

Recommending delegation and a steady and healthy diet to avoid mood crashes, she said calming supplements such as camomile and passiflora can have a positive effect on the nervous system.

Exercise is key to stress management during the festive season, but it doesn't have to be a chore as the temperatures plummet – ice skating, sledging and walking can all help with relaxation.

Getting out on a bracing walk and appreciating the beauty of the winter countryside – check out ramblers.org.uk and walkit.com – staves off the winter blues, raises the heart rate and will burn a few extra calories.

Even a gentle 15-minute stroll could significantly reduce stress levels in the run-up to Christmas, but if you are really keen to challenge yourself, wrist and ankle weights on a walk will increase resistance.

Eating more than usual for a couple of days won’t make a vast difference to your weight, but over-indulging throughout the month may do.

As well as keeping an eye on snacks and portion size, swapping snacks for alternatives can make a difference.

Swap peanuts for pretzels, Bucks Fizz for white wine and soda and sour cream and chive dips for salsa, for lower-calorie treats.


Waking up with splitting headaches, sickness, dizziness and dehydration are all the side effects of a festive tipple too many.

Of course, the best way to avoid a hangover is not to drink at all, or to stick to recommended limits but there are a few ways to lessen the symptoms if you do over-indulge.

As alcohol is a diuretic and removes fluid from the body, it is important to avoid dehydration by drinking plenty of water throughout the evening and the following day. The best time to rehydrate is before going to sleep.

Don’t drink on an empty stomach – have a meal including carbohydrates before you go out – and think about steering away from dark coloured drinks which can include impurities which make a hangover worse.

The NHS advises eating bouillon soup, a thin vegetable-based broth, as a good source of vitamins and minerals, which can top up depleted resources and is easy to digest. Milk thistle supplements support the liver’s detoxification and aid fat digestion as well as easing an upset stomach, Sally said.

Flu and colds

After Christmas thousands of Brits catch the festive flu, due to our immune system dipping from binge eating and drinking.

Keeping up with your sleep and eating sensibly should help, Sally said, who also recommended a vitamin D supplement, to bolster levels depleted by a lack of sunlight.