It’s that time of year when the holiday festivities ramp up our social lives and warm sunny days get us out and about a lot more. It’s a wonderful time of year that most of us really enjoy, but it can take its toll on our health if we’re not careful. So here are five of my top tips to enjoying the festive season while keeping health on track.

1.    Keep up your exercise

With more later nights and parties, it can be hard to motivate yourself to get to the gym, out for your walk or whatever your chosen regular exercise is. Staying at home on the sofa is undoubtedly more appealing when you’re tired. But don’t let that happen. Tell yourself that it’s even more important that you get your body moving to counter the extra food and/or drinks you had the night before. You might need to alter the intensity of the exercise if you really don’t feel great, and if you were drinking the night before do remember that you are likely to be dehydrated – rehydrate with plenty of water before, during and after your workout.

2.    Choose your drinks wisely

Not all drinks are equal in terms of their effect on your health. Cocktails are almost always the worst offenders as they tend to have more than one shot of a spirit so have a higher alcohol content, the mixers tend to be high in sugar whether from a soft drink, syrups or fruit juice, and the combination of those two factors means the kilojoule count can be off the charts.

An espresso martini for example has approximately 1200kJ – compare that to 430kJ in a glass of champagne or 570kJ for a bottle of beer. The lowest kilojoule options are lighter beers – don’t be fooled by the whole low carb beer thing, it’s the alcohol that delivers the kilojoules so the lower the alcohol the lower the kilojoules. Or try a white wine spritzer – wine topped up with soda water. Finally don’t forget the old rule of one glass of water for every alcoholic drink. Your body will thank you the next morning!

3.    Get enough sleep

Too many late nights will take their toll. You’ll likely start skipping workouts, eating the wrong foods in an attempt to pick up your energy levels, and your immune system will be compromised so you’ll be at risk of catching every bug going around. Counter late nights with an early night, or grab an afternoon nap (it’s not a nana nap but a siesta – sounds much better don’t you think?) so that you don’t run yourself ragged.

4.    Protect your skin

More time outdoors means greater exposure of your skin to the sun. While a little sunshine is good for us as it lifts our spirits and most importantly stimulates the production of vitamin D in the skin, we need only a little before we tip over into damage. Too much sun ages your skin and you’ve seen the ads – it increases the risk of skin cancer. So how best to protect your skin but still gain the benefits?

Always wear a hat and don’t forget this when you’re at BBQs and social gatherings outdoors. Wear an SPF+30 on your face every day and if you’ll be in the sun for more than 20 minutes slather it regularly onto exposed skin. You can now purchase a sun cream that allows vitamin D production while protecting your skin from damage – look for Solar D in your local pharmacy.

Your diet also has a key role to play in protecting your skin. Extra virgin olive oil contains a phytochemical called squalene that concentrates in the skin and is thought to play a role in protecting form UV damage. Eating loads of different vegetables and fruit is also key so your body has a broad array of protective antioxidants.

5.    Eat breakfast

With late nights and perhaps not feeling so fresh in the mornings, it’s easy to let this meal slip. But don’t let this happen. Having a healthy breakfast is like getting out of bed on the right side. It sets you up for the day and if you make smart food choices you’ll then find it easier to eat more healthily for the rest of the day too. Those who skip breakfast usually find themselves overeating later, often on the wrong things.

You’re essentially looking for a good source of protein, slow release energy giving carbs with plenty of fibre, good fats and a good dose of nutrient and antioxidant rich fruit or veg. Try a bowl of Freedom Foods Toasted Muesli, Crafted Blends or Active Balance cereal with berries, red grapefruit, a handful of nuts (allergy allowing), milk and Greek yoghurt (or dairy alternatives). Alternatively boil, poach or scramble eggs and serve with vegies such as spinach, kale, tomato, mushroom or asparagus and wholegrain toast topped with avocado.