It feels as if the Christmas rush of buying and partying has started even earlier than ever this year, doesn't it?

On November 30 I got an email from one retailer offering to help me deal with my 'last minute' Christmas shopping. The Christmas parties seemed to start well before December even ticked over on the calendar.

It can feel at this time of year like a mad sprint to the finish line; get the work done; get the kids to the end of school; get the shopping done and get to all the celebrations.

While fun and exciting, the Christmas craziness can be exhausting. And it's the craziness and the exhaustion, topping off a year of busyness, that can often have us throwing up our hands and saying "what the hell — it's Christmas!" — and healthy eating goes out the window.

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It can feel kind of grinchy to be talking about healthy food at this stage of the year. But I do think it helps us to feel better for the start of the holidays to have a few strategies to get us through this part of the silly season.

They can be really simple things. For example: staying hydrated before and during a party. We can sometimes grab that first drink at a function and down it in record time, simply because we're a bit hot and thirsty and/or a bit stressed. Making sure we've had lots of water during the day and making the first party drink a water can slow the incidental drinking and potentially stave off a hangover later.

It's the same with food. Tempting canapes abound at Christmas functions, and it's easy to tuck in, especially if we're a bit hungry. Eating something nourishing — even if it's just a yoghurt or a bit of fruit — before a party is a good idea that tends to mean we'll be more discerning when the trays are passed around.

I'm not suggesting denying ourselves the delicious goodies -just don't put yourself in a position where you'll hoover down whatever comes past because you're starving. Being able to choose what truly looks delicious feels good.

Finally it's worth remembering that what we do most of the time is what's important — not what we do on special occasions.

So instead of having a big night and deciding you've blown it now, might as well forget about the healthy eating until the new year, it can be worthwhile to try and go back to your baseline good habits when you have a 'down' day with no Christmas celebrations. Make it an alcohol free-day, too, and you'll be a step ahead.

Being healthy doesn't have to be all or nothing; just because you have a blowout doesn't mean all bets are off. And taking a moment to plan our indulgences now can mean less need to fall for the detox diet trap when January rolls around.

Niki Bezzant is editor-at-large for Healthy Food Guide.

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