Christmas Survival Guide: 12 top tips for eating well over Christmas

There are twelve days of Christmas (traditionally anyway!) and so here are my 12 top tips for eating well over Christmas.  Not rules or restrictions – just some friendly guidelines that you can use to gently support you through this time.

Christmas should be about fun, connection, making memories, caring, tradition.  Not worrying about food.  So many people struggle with this time of year and common struggles include,

  • Feeling you can’t be trusted around certain foods
  • Feeling guilt for eating ‘bad’ foods
  • An all or nothing approach of ‘screw it, it’s Christmas’, which leads to them eating more than makes them feel good and then having to deal with regret and discomfort.

So, how can you take a more balanced approach that means you enjoy the food and respect your body and health all at the same time?  Well, here are some ideas.

  1. Remove the All or Nothing

So often people think if they are eating differently at Christmas then the rest of how they eat may as well be forgotten, but this is throwing the baby out with the bath water.

This is what we call black and white thinking– it is either all healthy OR all unhealthy- we will see this again in January, but in reverse! 

Why do we need to be at these extremes, both of which don’t make us feel that good, when there are lots of shades of grey in between? 

Eating well over Christmas isn’t Black and White, we can have Christmas foods AND eat nutritious foods too- just like the rest of the year where we mix it up; Christmas doesn’t need to be any different.

Try not to think of Christmas foods as now or never as this can also be a reason to overeat them- they are around for a month and lots of them, like chocolates are around all year and so there is no mad rush to get as much as you can before they are gone.  If you give yourself permission to eat these sorts of foods all year round it takes the need to ‘go mad’ at Christmas.

2. Remove the morality from foods

Foods aren’t inherently good or bad and you are not good or bad for eating them.   If you eat too much of anything whether that be mince pies or sprouts you won’t be left feeling good.

Try not to label foods in this way through things like ‘cheat days’, or ‘being naughty’ as this sends subconscious messages back to yourself that you should feel guilty or you must earn these foods and this can be really damaging to the way you relate to these foods, which can have longer term consequences. 

By calling foods by their name, a sprout is a sprout and chocolate is chocolate, it removes the morality- it’s not a reward, a treat, a cheat, a sin, it’s just food. 

3. Try not to skip meals

It can be tempting to skip meals when you know you have a meal out coming later in the day, but this can often backfire.  This is particularly important if you struggle with emotional eating, overeating or binge like tendencies.  Skipping meals is only likely to make this situation worse.

By staying nourished and eating regularly rather than ‘saving calories’ you are probably going to eat less overall and regardless of this, you will be better able to manage moods, concentration and energy levels- why should you feel hungry all day because you are eating out later?!

Leaving too long between eating often leads to us being overly hungry, where we will eat anything and lots of it or we may find bodies craving food later as it is trying to catch up on what it has missed earlier- this is going to make you feel out of control and not able to take charge of your food choices.

Also, it is about respecting our bodies- if we are hungry, it is important to honour that hunger and provide the body with the fuel that it needs.  Your body doesn’t know you are going out later and food is a basic human need, so to deny yourself this is denying yourself your needs and respect and care.

4. Knowing it is ok to say yes to the mince pie (or choccies if you are not a mince pie lover!)

When we think about health and a ‘balanced diet’, this does not mean including only foods that we traditionally think of as healthy.  Foods are more than fuel- they bring us joy, pleasure, memories, connection with others, celebration. 

You may have physical health goals and you can keep these in mind when making choices but sometimes the pie is exactly what you need and want and if so, eat it and enjoy it- connect to the eating so that you experience that food, rather than it be eaten without you really noticing.  This way you get more enjoyment from the food, and you can be more aware when you are satisfied and had enough. 

A top tip here could be, rather than eating these foods in secret, or eating them with urgency- take the food onto a plate and make space to sit down and savour the food- really notice the taste, smell, textures, how it makes you feel- slow down the eating and make it a nice experience that you are choosing to do, rather than it just ‘happening to you’. 

5. Knowing it is ok to say no to the mince pie

Equally, we do not need to eat when we don’t really want to- so often my clients say, well I felt I should, or I ate because it was there, because it’s Christmas, because everyone else was, but haven’t stopped to think what do I want in this moment? Eating well over Christmas is for YOU, nobody else!

Saying no because it genuinely isn’t what you feel you need or want in that moment is completely legitimate.  This is different to saying no because you are ‘not allowed’ it in the made-up rules that have come from years of being conditioned that these foods are naughty, and you are bad for eating them.

Saying no because you are taking charge of your food choices and in that moment it isn’t what you are feeling, or you know you have already had several foods for pleasure this week and want to focus on nourishing yourself today or whatever the reason, (you don’t need to give one), is ok.

Think about how you will feel physically and mentally afterwards and what your intentions for eating are before you decide yes or no. 


Maybe before you know if you want to say yes or no to the food, you may find it helpful to stop, breathe and think.

Pause for a few minutes, take a few breaths to calm your mind and then make an informed choice.

Habit may mean you keep reaching for more chocolates, even though you feel a bit sick- by pausing and checking in with yourself you can consider if more is more or if stopping there would feel better.

You can skip the foods that you don’t enjoy that much and enjoy the ones you love, rather than a blanket approach to Christmas eating.

7. Focus on what you can add, rather than what you need to take away

Christmas is a time of giving- try not to think about what you should restrict, but rather add in fruits veggies, healthy protein sources, healthy fats and starchy carbohydrates to meals and snacks.  This will leave you feeling fuller for longer and feeling nourished.

By continuing to focus on supporting your bodies needs over the festive period with well-rounded meals this can help you to feel at your best, have the energy you need, and to make logical choices, rather than emotional reactions.

8. Focus on your week as a whole

Try not to overly focus on individual meals or snacks, but rather how you have eaten as a whole over the week. The 80/20 rule can be a helpful guide for some, but just considering that one less balanced meal doesn’t mean you have ‘fallen off the wagon’. 

Very often, clients tell me there has been nothing good in their week, but this is because they only remember the couple of ‘bad’ things they ate and forget about all the healthy balanced meals they have had.  This negative bias can create a feeling of healthy eating being unreachable or too difficult, but when you allow for a proportion of your foods to be less healthy, then it no longer feels like a problem and can allow you more energy to focus on making sure you also fit in plenty of nourishing foods too.

9. Guilt is a dish best served…

NEVERguilt is a feeling you get when you have done something wrong- it is never wrong to eat.

Even if you have overeaten, this is not the end of the world and by removing the judgement from this, you are actually less likely to do this in the future as you aren’t led into a spiral of shame and hopelessness.

There are tools and strategies to reduce this if it is something that happens to you on a regular basis, but remember overeating is something we all do at times- it’s perfectly normal when we are really enjoying a food to sometimes eat more than we needed. 

You can intentionally choose to overeat, or it may happen unintentionally, but either way, it is not something that need to feel like you have ‘failed’, ‘fallen off the wagon’ or that you need to make up for by not eating enough tomorrow- just accept this has happened and move on.

10. Food is not the only way to enjoy Christmas

Of course, food is a big part of Christmas, and one of my personal favourite parts, but it is not all about food.  We can also get enjoyment from other things, so just remind yourself of what Christmas really means to you and all the ways you can embrace the festive spirit so that food isn’t feeling such a big deal and the be all and end all of Christmas.

11. Get familiar with your values

When we become clear on our values we can use these to guide our behaviours.  This can be a really useful tool when making choices around the way that we eat.  If you have a value of respect for example, then you can consider how you will show yourself and your body respect during the festive period.  Behaviours for this could include not criticising yourself for overeating, ensuring you get movement in to help manage your stress, not overeating on Christmas foods every day to respect your body physical needs, not completely restricting Christmas foods to respect your social and psychological needs, getting enough sleep etc.

This means choices will look different on different days depending and this gives you a flexible approach that can fit into your life, rather than a set of rules that have to be followed in the same way every day, no matter what, like on a diet- of course this isn’t possible and why it becomes a self-defeating project!

When we choose behaviours that align with our values, we are living a life that is meaningful and purposeful to us and this makes it much easier to make choices that help us to flourish rather than flounder.

12. Reach out for help if you need it

I know this can all be so much easier said than done, and for many they may struggle to implement this without professional support  and further information, but hopefully it gives some ‘food for thought’ on the topic.  If this is you, know you are not alone, this is such a common thing to struggle with, but there are things you can do to improve this and by asking for help and getting the right support, this can move you towards food freedom.

If you are struggling with any of these issues then read more about how a nutritionist could help you and please do get in touch to arrange a free, no obligation discovery call.

Merry Christmas 🎄