Should you curtail your Christmas cheer?

December 21, 2020

Our guide to keeping healthy over the Christmas period

We are heading into that ‘most wonderful time of the year’, if you recall the famous Christmas song. And there is reason to celebrate surviving and farewelling a year that has been hard for most of us.

But Christmas and the New Year season are notorious for overindulgence in Australia. So—before you stuff your stocking full of chocolate and other goodies—digest our top tips for a healthy Christmas.

Moderate your intake

Please be assured that there is no need to feel guilty about having treats on Christmas Day. It is only one day, and you can always make some healthier choices throughout the rest of the silly season.

But, if you’re up for a little bit of moderation for the sake of your health, here are some tips for food and drink.

Food

  • Rather than inhaling all before you: sit down and slow down. It can take up to 20 minutes for your brain to register that your stomach is full.
  • Simplify – there’s no need to have a turkey AND a ham AND a roast. One type of lean meat or fish will do. Pair with some delicious, interesting side dishes and you’ll have a simpler and less stressful meal.
  • Have a small quantity of meat and then fill your plate with vegetables and salads, making the most of seasonal fruit and vegetables.
  • You can use fruit and veg to bulk out desserts and snacks as well. For example, chocolate-dipped strawberries or cherries. You get your chocolate treat in a much healthier package.
  • Skim off the fat from meat juices before you make gravy.
  • Have ice cream OR cream, but not both. You could also try sorbets or Greek/frozen yoghurt as alternatives.
  • You can get around ‘Christmas party over-indulgence’ by eating something healthy before you go. You won’t be as tempted by the rich cheeses, savouries and chips – foods that are easy to over-eat when you are hungry.

Food Safety

Food poisoning cases increase during summertime. And the biggest risks with the backyard BBQ are:

  • undercooked meat
  • germs from raw meat spreading onto food that’s ready to eat.

Raw or undercooked meat can contain germs such as salmonella, E. coli, campylobacter and listeria, which can cause food poisoning.

You can kill these germs by cooking meat until it is thoroughly heated. Make sure you keep raw meat separate from cooked meat (e.g. use different plates/tongs/containers).

It’s also important to keep some foods cool to prevent germs from multiplying. Foods to keep cool include:

  • salads
  • dips
  • milk, cream, yoghurt
  • desserts and cream cakes
  • sandwiches
  • ham and other cooked meats
  • cooked rice, including rice salads.

A bit about alcohol

Alcohol-related illnesses and injuries spike over Christmas time, so it’s wise to keep a handle on your alcohol consumption. The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) now advise that it’s safest to limit your intake to:

  • no more than 4 standard drinks per day and
  • no more than 10 per week.

You can try alternating alcoholic drinks with water or diet soft drinks. This can keep you hydrated and reduce your risk of drinking too much.

Safety first!

There is often a surge in hospital presentations over Christmas and New Year. Most often these relate to:

  • Trauma: accidents relating to activities such as dirt-biking, swimming in pools and water-skiing, as well as motor vehicle accidents.
  • Heat-Related Illness: more common amongst older Australians and people with chronic health conditions
  • Cardiac Issues: stress and/or over-eating may worsen cardiac conditions.
  • Alcohol-Related Illness and Injuries:  alcohol-related ambulance callouts double over Christmas.
  • Bites from Snakes, Spiders and Insects: summer is commonly regarded as spider and snake season. 
  • Mental Health: some Australians find the Christmas holidays really difficult. Symptoms of depression and anxiety can spike. Seeking help is critical.

It’s important not to neglect your regular GP visits during the summer holidays. And get in touch with a healthcare professional when you’re not feeling well.

To speak with an InstantScripts GP:

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‘Forewarned is forearmed’ they say. Knowing the potential risks involved in the Christmas and summer holiday season could help you avoid some of the pitfalls of ‘this most wonderful time of the year’.

Wishing you a safe and happy holiday.

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