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Responsible indulgence during the festive season

Average read time: 4 minutes

Everyone looks forward to the festive season in South Africa – it’s that special time when we can relax in the sun after a long year, and enjoy wonderful summer feasts with family and friends.

Responsible indulgence

But over-indulging in rich food (not to mention too many celebratory drinks) can take its toll on our wellbeing.

If you’d like to avoid overdoing it this year, read on for our top tips. We have some great ideas about how to strike a good balance between enjoying the festive foods you love, and eating sensibly so you don’t end up regretting your choices when January rolls around and the party’s over.

Make every meal count

Aiming for quality over quantity and plenty of variety will go a long way towards keeping you in optimal health.

Fill up on veggies

Health experts agree that we should eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables per day, and this still applies during December! Make a conscious choice to prioritise plant foods at meals – go ahead and pile your plate high with all the salads and veggies on offer. They’re not only jam-packed with essential vitamins and minerals but are also packed with fibre, which helps make you feel fuller for longer and keeps your digestive system in good working order.

Pick good protein sources

It’s important to include enough protein in your diet to build and maintain healthy cells, tissues, muscles and bones. Traditional festive treats such as turkey, chicken, gammon, beef, fish and shellfish are all excellent sources of protein, as are eggs, dairy products, nuts, legumes and beans.

Keep an eye on the carbs

No one’s saying you shouldn’t enjoy pastries, cakes, chocolates and ice cream in December – these are part and parcel of so many festive spreads. But you’ll be doing your health a favour if you eat them in moderation, and fill up on fibre-rich complex carbs that will keep your energy up and help lessen any cravings for sugary snacks. Skin-on potatoes, mielies, peas, lentils, brown rice, quinoa, oats and wholegrain bread are all great choices.

Portions matter

Managing the portions you eat is a key part of staying in tip-top form over the festive season.


It’s tempting to reach for a second or third mince pie or vetkoek after you’ve devoured the first one, but all the festive snacks you eat between meals can add many extra ‘empty’ calories to your daily intake. Try to stick to one biscuit or slice of fruitcake, and save the calories for your main meal of the day.

Main meals

Overloaded plates are to be expected at the main festive family meal in December, and everyone can be forgiven for diving in for second or even third helpings. But this needn’t be the case for every braai, lunch or picnic you attend during the holidays. Try helping yourself to a moderate amount of food – about the same as you’d normally eat at any other time of the year. Using a smaller plate may also help you feel satiated after eating. If you’re still hungry after one plate, have a glass of water and wait 10 minutes – you may find that the urge for an extra helping passes!

Seasonings, sauces and dressings

Highly seasoned foods, lavish dressings and rich gravies are par for the course at festive feasts, but often they contain a lot of salt, butter and oil. Taste your food before you add extra salt, and go easy on fatty sauces. For salad dressings, stick to healthy monounsaturated fats such as olive oil, canola oil and avocado oil, or try low-fat dressings made with plain yoghurt as a base.

Festive drinks

It’s surprisingly easy to overdo it when you’re celebrating with friends and family. Moderate consumption of alcohol is okay but guard against the temptation to binge during the festive season. Try alternating between alcoholic drinks and non-alcoholic options such as sparkling water or lime & soda: this will also keep you well hydrated. Diluting drinks with soda water and ice can also help.

Try our healthier festive recipes

Here’s a list of light and lovely recipes that are perfect for sunny December days, and won’t leave you and your guests feeling as stuffed as a turkey at the end of a meal!

Snacks and starters

Salads and sides


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