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How to beat the bulge this Christmas

'TIS the season for festive food, celebratory bubbles and parties aplenty....and a few extra kilos not on your Christmas wishlist.

Many Aussies notice their waistbands are snugger after the holiday period and that Christmas weight gain can be hard to budge.

Maria Packard, accredited practising dietitian and spokeswoman for the Dietitians Association of Australia, says the festive season is a common time for people to overindulge.

"At this time of the year many people tend to relax their healthy eating routine and think it's okay to have a splurge," Ms Packard says.

"The problem we're seeing is the Christmas or festive season is getting a little longer so it's not just the one day of Christmas."

Here are her top tips to avoid derailing your diet during the silly season.

Snack smart

Avoid going to parties hungry.

"It you're going to a party make sure you have a nutritious snack beforehand to take the edge off your appetite," Ms Packard says.

"If you go there hungry you're more likely to fill up on those chips and pastries before you even get to the main meals."

She suggests fruit or a handful of almonds as a pre-party snack.

Pick and choose

When faced with a smorgasbord of options at a party or family gathering, be selective and watch your portion sizes.

"Rather than trying all the foods on offer, enjoy small amounts of your favourites," she says.

"Focus on top three or four favourite dishes and pace yourself.

"Try to start with smaller portions rather than filling up your plate too much."

Beat the booze trap

"Alcohol intake is a big one to consider," Ms Packard says.

"There's lot of energy in alcoholic drinks so it's a good idea to stretch them out - try and have a glass of water in between."

She suggests offering guests mineral water with lemon or water infused with strawberries and mint or orange and cucumber for a refreshing twist.

"Try to quench your thirst rather than just relying on the alcohol."

Mindful menu

"Really try and put vegetables at front and centre of your meal - loading your plate up with colourful salads before bread and meat," she says.

"They look great too - the more colour a meal has the more inviting it is."

When planning your Christmas menu, consider seafood and salads as a healthy crowd-pleaser.

"We're lucky to have the best seafood in Australia so instead of looking for processed meat, go for seafood on the menu," Ms Packard says.

For desserts, she suggests opting for a fruit-based dish with nuts.

Healthy habits

"Planning your exercise is also important - try to include an activity every day to try and counteract the extra kilojoules you might be having," she says.

She also encourages choosing gifts for family and friends that are not full of empty kilojoules.

"People get more chocolate over Christmas than they do at Easter so look at alternative healthy gifts."

HEALTHY HOLIDAY SWAPS

* Instead of chocolate TRY a bowl of cherries

* Instead of a creamy pasta salad TRY Thai salad with vinaigrette

* Instead of plum pudding TRY blueberries and yoghurt

* Instead of softdrink TRY sparkling water with lemon

* Instead of deep-fried canapes TRY vegie sticks with hummus

* Instead of sausage rolls TRY grilled prawns

ARM NEWSDESK



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