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Ask a Nutritionist: How to curb festive plumpness?

TheGo asks our local, qualified and respected nutritionists a question that has been puzzling you. With the ‘silly season’ now firmly upon us, we asked what sensible nutrition choices we could make to minimise the festive bulge. Also, welcome to Leanne Scott from Pure Core Nourishment who is a new contributor to our panel.

If you have a food query for our expert panel to answer, please email [email protected].


Mitch Smith – Health Management

The silly season is here and it’s all too easy to put back on those few extra kilos you’ve been working so hard to rid yourself of! As quick as Christmas comes, it goes again. That’s the best thing about it — otherwise we would be broke, alcoholics, overweight and sleep all afternoon every day! (Some people may actually enjoy that).

Think of Christmas as a ‘Christmas day’ and not a ‘Christmas week’. Try to reduce the effect of those few extra delicious treats that Mum’s made by going for a walk or run after all the presents have been opened. Never deny yourself something on Christmas day, but if you can offset those extra calories through extra exercise leading up to and following Christmas, as well as eating almost perfectly for the two weeks before and after this fantastic, but ridiculous, day; you will be all the better for it.

WATCH OUT for those double helpings and don’t fall into the trap of overeating at lunch. Sample all of the yummy food, but don’t overdo it just because your brother has dared you to have three helpings and a drinking contest.

Organise a Christmas day physical activity. It could be a game of basketball at the park, cricket in the backyard or simply coming up with an awesome slippery dip with soap and water.

Have a safe and healthy silly season, but remember your main focus should be to enjoy yourself. Just don’t go over the top and battle your family members to a last-man-standing beer pong match!

About Mitch Smith

Health Management

As an accredited dietitian and accredited sports dietitian; it’s Mitch’s mission to debunk as many nutrition myths as possible. He works with elite professional athletes from a range of sports such as triathlon, body building and football, as well as the Cairns Taipans NBL team (don’t hold that against him!). Mitch has a passion for helping men lose weight and get fit and healthy. He practises what he preaches and translates complicated nutritional jargon into easy-to-understand advice. Mitch has just completed his first Half Ironman in Cairns.

Emily Madden – Compleat Nutrition

Instead of having to punch another hole in your belt buckle after Christmas, adopt some strategies that will prevent that unwanted gain when the New Year rolls around. On average, Australians gain 0.8-1.5kg over the Christmas period and — while this may not seem much — unfortunately this weight gained is rarely lost.

Try some of the following to stay fit over the festive season:

  1. Don’t go to a party hungry: For some of us, when we pass that point of hunger and enter starvation the inner bear comes out and we are more likely to heavily indulge at the Christmas party. Prevent that pesky bear from crashing your party by having a nutritional snack one to two hours prior to event, such as a handful of nuts, wholegrain crackers or piece of fruit.
  2. Set a timeframe and pace yourself for events: Organise and prioritise special events from your run-of-the-mill catch-ups. This way you can indulge when it calls for celebrating and pace yourself for the weeks leading up to Christmas. Also, set yourself a deadline for the celebration to finish — such as January 2 — and get back into your normal exercise or healthy eating routine.
  3. Quality vs. quantity: Look for seafood, quality rich cheese and seasonal fruits over pastries, chips, cheap crackers, lollies and chocolate at functions. Opt for foods that you may not have tried before, rather than eating one of everything.
  4. Keep exercising: A lot of people ditch exercise and/or sporting commitments over the Christmas period, when this is actually the perfect time to be focusing on fitness with no school drop offs or busy work routines.

About Emily Madden

Compleat Nutrition

Emily holds a Bachelor of Nutrition & Dietetics from the University of the Sunshine Coast and is an accredited practising dietitian/nutritionist with the Dietitians Association of Australia. She is currently studying to become a sports dietitian with Sports Dietitians Australia (SDA). Emily says the reason why she loves being a dietitian is simple: “At the end of a day, driving home and knowing that I have assisted someone in improving their long-term health and reducing their risk of chronic disease, is very fulfilling and rewarding to me”.

Leanne Scott – Pure Core Nourishment

My clients always dread this time of year thinking it will be either a massive test of will or a major stumbling block on their health journey. But when they realise that there is a strategy and ‘work-around’ to any potential situation, they feel empowered knowing they have options.

Here are my top five tips for the holiday season:

  1. There’s a swap for everything — preparing holiday feasts at home is a great opportunity to create healthy non-reactive versions of your traditional comfort foods. You can literally Google any gluten free, dairy free or Paleo meal version of a holiday recipe.
  2. Start your day with a nourishing well-balanced breakfast of healthy fats, protein and plant-based carbohydrates for maintaining healthy blood sugar levels. My favourite go-to breakfast is smoked salmon, avocado, grilled mushrooms, and steamed spinach. Yum!
  3. Stay hydrated! Festive alcoholic drinks are all dehydrating to the body (diuretics). Slowly sip water throughout the day and for every cup of diuretic include 1.5 cups of water to replenish hydration.
  4. Eat mindfully — digestion only occurs in a ‘rest and digest’ state. Remember to give thanks for your meals, moments with family and friends, and don’t rush — cherish your experience.
  5. Rome wasn’t built in a day — of course, not every day will go to plan. Use these times to learn from your body. How did you feel the next day? Average, fatigued, bloated, anxious? This wasn’t a fall off the dietary journey — it was an optimal time of experiment and self-realisation!

About Leanne Scott

Pure Core Nourishment

Leanne Scott is a certified nutritional therapy practitioner and founder of Pure Core Nourishment, a functional nutritional therapy service providing root cause resolution strategies to support clients in achieving optimal health. Her team of practitioners offer individual health and nutrition coaching to clients nationally using in-house and laboratory functional testing to investigate the underlying cause of imbalances and dysfunction. Leanne is an instructor for the Nutritional Therapy Association Australia, the only functionally-based nutritional training program in the country.

The information provided is general in nature and should not substitute any health or medical advice. Please consult a qualified professional to assist with any specific conditions or queries. The opinions expressed as those of the individual columnists. You know the drill…

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Carly Lubicz

Carly Lubicz

Carly Lubicz is combining two of her great loves — writing and getting active. Previously working as a journalist, sub-editor, and editor in newspapers and magazines; she is editor and co-founder of TheGo Townsville. She stays active with the staples of road cycling and yoga, but has recently discovered triathlon. And become addicted (apart from the swimming part). She also has a Cert III in Fitness and is passionate about improving mental health through physical activity.

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