Your Healthy 12 Days of Christmas

On the first day of Christmas my dietitian said to me….

Plan ahead for the festive season

This time of the year tends to get busy and it’s easy to let good habits slide.  Even if there’s plenty of festive eating over the next few weeks, you can still stay on track by making sure you are eating well the rest of the time and staying active.  Check out our tips for Surviving the Festive Feasting.

On the second day of Christmas my dietitian said to me….

Keep food safe!

Christmas is a time to get together with your family but it can also be a danger time for possible food poisoning.  Hot weather, an overloaded fridge and cooking for more people than we’re used to all add up to make perfect conditions for food poisoning bacteria.  Check out these tips on Christmas and holiday entertaining from the Food Safety Information Council to keep you and your guests safe.

On the third day of Christmas my dietitian said to me….

Give healthy gifts

A healthy cookbook or magazine subscription (such as Healthy Food Guide or Diabetic Living), gym memberships or exercise equipment, a healthy cooking class, massage vouchers, a collection of herbs and spices, veggie seeds or seedling….there are plenty of options.  Check out some of our favourite recommendations.

On the fourth day of Christmas my dietitian said to me….

Eat mindfully

Eating out is a great time to enjoy the company of friends and family so don’t rush through your meal – relax and take your time to eat and enjoy your food, listen to your appetite, and be selective about what you choose.

On the fifth day of Christmas my dietitian said to me….

Don’t overdo the Christmas Cheer!

The end of each year is a time when many people have one (or two) too many when it comes to alcohol.  So what can you do to still enjoy yourself without the negative effects of too much celebratory cheer?  Check out our seven tips to help avoid overindulging.

On the sixth day of Christmas my dietitian said to me….

Go for sustainable seafood

If seafood is on your Christmas menu, then give some thought to choosing species which are not overfished or are farmed using sustainable and low environmental impact practices.  These include Australian wild-caught salmon, crabs, flathead and whiting and Australian farmed barramundi, oysters, prawns and crabs.  Download the free Sustainable Seafood Pocket Guide or app to help you when you shop, and help protect our oceans from overfishing.

On the seventh day of Christmas my dietitian said to me….

Keep active

Don’t let your exercise habits fall apart as you head into the festive season.  Keeping active can help to manage stress and to balance out the effect of those extra eating indulgences. Even if time is short, there are plenty of ways to incorporate more activity and it all adds up.  Catch up with friends for a walk rather than a coffee, organise a game of cricket or touch football with friends and family rather than sitting around after a big lunch, park further from the shops and take the stairs rather than the escalators when shopping, take an evening walk with the kids to see the neighbourhood Christmas lights or put on your favourite music and get a good workout cleaning the house in preparation for visitors.

On the eighth day of Christmas my dietitian said to me….

Beware of nibbles!

It’s often not the main meals that are our undoing at this time of the year, but all the extra snacking that comes along with festive celebrations.  Many snack foods are high in saturated and trans fats, salt and added sugars so serve up some healthier options or offer to take them to a party or gathering.  Some good options include unsalted nuts, roasted chickpeas, vegetable or legume-based dips with vegetable crudites, fresh fruit platters and berries.

On the ninth day of Christmas my dietitian said to me….

Reduce food waste

While we all enjoy sharing a meal with friends and family over the festive season, food waste is particularly rife at this time of year.  Planet Ark’s 12 Do’s of Christmas campaign includes tips for reducing food waste and excess packaging, buying green gifts and recycling.

On the tenth day of Christmas my dietitian said to me….

Make a healthier version

Enjoying the festive fare doesn’t have to mean undoing all your good habits built throughout the year. There are plenty of nutritious tasty options available and many recipes can easily be modified to make them healthier.   Check out the recipes we have hand-picked in this Christmas book or visit our Christmas recipe collection on our new Pinterest page.

On the eleventh of Christmas my dietitian said to me….

Manage stress

Stress isn’t good for our health or our weight so remember to schedule in some relaxation time amongst all the business of Christmas and enjoy the opportunity to catch up with friends and family!  If the stress of the festive season is getting to you, check out this article from Health Direct for Beating Christmas Stress and Anxiety.

And on the twelfth day of Christmas my dietitian said to me…..

Have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New Year!

Healthy Christmas Gift Ideas

Looking for a healthy Christmas gift for that someone special?  Try these ideas…

Magazine Subscription – try the Healthy Food Guide, Diabetic Living, ABC Organic Gardener or Prevention.  All available from

Healthy Cookbook – check out some of our favourites here and our review of Food as Medicine which would make a great gift for the health-conscious cook.

Cookshop Voucher – if you know someone who wants to learn more about healthy cooking consider a voucher for a Cookshop at the Nutrition and Wellbeing Clinic.

Exercise Equipment – weights, resistance bands, fitballs, skipping ropes, exercise bikes….the list is endless.  A great choice for anyone whose New Year’s Resolution is to be more active!  Or consider one of the many fitness trackers now available such as the Fitbit, Jawbone or Garmin.

Personal Training Voucher know someone who needs some motivation to get started with exercise?  A few sessions with a personal trainer or exercise physiologist might get them moving. Visit to find an exercise physiologist in your area.

Massage Voucher – perfect for anyone needing some rest and relaxation over the holiday break!

Herbs and Spicesgreat for anyone who enjoys cooking – for gift packs and hampers or everything you need to make your own ‘spicy’ hamper visit  Or for something more hands-on, consider a gift voucher for a Herbies Spice Essentials workshop.

Earthbox Container Garden Systemfor anyone wanting to grow their own veggies in a small space this system doubles the yield of a conventional garden with less water, less fertilizer and less effort.  See

Chocolate – if you’re going to have chocolate, it needs to be the best!  Try Green & Blacks Organic Dark Chocolate made using only Organic Fairtrade cocoa, or Pana Chocolate which is raw, vegan, organic and fairtrade handmade chocolate and offers Christmas giftpacks and hampers.

Membership to the Diggers Clubfor seasoned or aspiring green thumbs, The Diggers Club is Australia’s largest garden club with the biggest range of heirloom seeds and plants.

Herb and Veggie Seeds – for the gift that keeps giving, even those with limited space can grow a few herbs on the windowsill or balcony. Check out the offerings at The Little Veggie Patch Co.

Stainless Steel Water Bottle – encourage water drinking but avoid plastic with a long-lasting easy to clean stainless steel water bottle. See or

Oxfam Unwrapped – for those who have everything, why not donate to a good cause on their behalf – $10 buys a family in Vanuatu a chicken to lay eggs, $55 buys a vulnerable family seeds and training so they can grow their own veggies and make a living and $135 provides clean water for poor communities in places like Bangladesh.  There are plenty more options to choose from at


Bowel Cancer: Reduce Your Risk

In September, the World Cancer Research Fund, as part of their Continuous Update Project, published a new report on the impact of lifestyle factors on risk of colorectal (bowel) cancer.

While it doesn’t get the same  media exposure as other types of cancer, the fact is that bowel cancer is the third most common type of newly diagnosed cancer in Australia and is Australia’s second biggest cancer killer. The good news is that it can be treated successfully in almost 90% of cases, if detected early.  There’s also a lot we can do to reduce our risk.

The new report reviewed all of the current scientific research available on diet, weight, physical activity and bowel cancer. This included almost 100 studies from around the world, involving more than 29 million adults and over 247,000 cases of colorectal cancer.

So what did they find?

According to the report, there is convincing evidence that:

  • Regular physical activity decreases the risk
  • Being overweight /carrying excess body fat increases the risk
  • Processed meats (those which are smoked, cured, salted or have chemical preservatives added) increase the risk
  • Having more than two alcoholic drinks per day increases the risk

They also found probable evidence that:

  • Eating more wholegrains and high fibre foods decreases the risk
  • Consuming dairy products decreases the risk
  • A higher calcium intake, from food or supplements (up to 1000mg/day), decreases the risk
  • Red meat (beef, pork, lamb and goat from domesticated animals) intake increases the risk

So what can you do to reduce your risk your risk of bowel cancer?

Maintain a healthy weight by eating a healthy diet and staying active.  If you are carrying excess weight, particularly around the middle, losing weight will reduce your risk.

Be active – include some regular planned exercise each day, look for ways to build in more incidental activity and try to reduce sitting time.

Eat a healthy diet based around high fibre plant-foods including minimally processed wholegrains, legumes, fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds.

Limit your intake of red meat and avoid processed meats. Also be careful how you cook your meat as charring increases cancer risk so casseroles, stews and stir-fries are better than BBQs and grills.  Marinating and keeping cooking temperatures low can help to reduce charring.  For some tasty meat-free recipe ideas, check out our Pinterest page.

Make sure you are consuming enough calcium, from diet (including dairy foods) and/or supplements.

If you drink alcohol, limit intake to 2 standard drinks, with a few alcohol-free days per week. See our previous post for tips on cutting down.

Don’t smoke.  Smoking increases the risk of bowel cancer and death from bowel cancer, and increases the chances of reoccurrence of cancer in those who have had surgery to remove bowel cancers.

Join the Bowel Movement!  Understand the risks, spread the word to others and take a bowel cancer screening test, especially if you are at risk.

Are you at risk?

 There are some factors that we can’t change (referred to as non-modifiable) which can increase the risk of bowel cancer. If any of these apply, it’s even more important that you have regular screening and are aware of the symptoms and the steps you can take to reduce your risk. 

  • Age -risk increases from the age of 50 – that’s why regular screening is recommended after your turn 50.
  • A family history of bowel cancer
  • A personal history of cancer of the colon, rectum, ovary, endometrium, or breast
  • A history of polyps in the colon
  • A history of ulcerative colitis (ulcers in the lining of the large intestine) or Crohn’s disease
  • Hereditary conditions, such as Familial Adenomatous Polyposis (FAP) and Hereditary Non-Polyposis Colon Cancer (HNPCC; Lynch Syndrome).

You can download a copy of Bowel Cancer Australia’s Bowel Cancer Risk and Screening Pathway here which helps you to understand your risk, what type of screening you need and how often.

Symptoms of bowel cancer:

These are the most common symptoms of bowel cancer:

  • A persistent change in your bowel habits
  • Blood in your bowel movement or rectal bleeding
  • A change in appearance of your bowel movements
  • Abdominal pain, especially if it is severe
  • Unexplained anaemia (iron deficiency) causing tiredness

While having these symptoms doesn’t mean you have bowel cancer, if you do experience them, it’s important to see your doctor urgently for further investigations. Remember, early detection is the key.

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