The festive season is a time to eat, drink and be merry. Our social calendar gets a big boost with parties, catch ups, precious time with family and we find ourselves eating and drinking more than we usually would, all while having a jolly good time. The term ‘everything in moderation’ goes flying out the window, and the result? A very guilt-stricken, bloated and over-exhausted start to the new year.As a nutritionist, cook and lover of all things food, I’m very passionate about making sure people enjoy themselves, but without doing too much damage to the body. Here are my top five tips on how to indulge and embrace the party season, while still being kind to yourself! 1. Start off on the right foot.Ensuring you’re well hydrated and that you have something substantial in your stomach before embarking on your indulgent escapade is a great insurance policy. You’re less likely to inhale the canapé platter and scull your first drink like it’s liquid gold. Have two to three litres of water throughout the day and a snack rich in nutrients, good fats and complex carbohydrates before leaving. Try tuna, spinach and avocado on wholegrain crackers, a bowl of good-quality granola with coconut yoghurt or an egg and lettuce sandwich on wholegrain bread. 2. Fill your plate up.I know, I know, what about portion control? Well, there is a catch. Whatever is fresh, pile it up onto your plate first! Salads, vegetables and fresh fruit are a fantastic way to fill that hungry belly without nailing your daily caloric intake in one meal. More importantly, they also provide essential nutrients to help your body metabolise all the naughty stuff! Visualise a pie chart! Stick to a small serve of meat or protein and a verysmall serve of the starchy, fatty, creamy, gooey stuff. I didn’t say don’t have it, just find a tiny spot for it and keep it minimal. Your liver needs assisting, not overloading! 3. Take control over alcohol.If someone offers to top up your glass of wine or fetch you another beer, politely decline. Often we find ourselves being ‘looked after,’ and before you know it you’re shoeless, singing John Farnham and throwing back a shot of tequila. Get yourself another drink when you’re ready, keep track of how many you’ve had and have plenty of water. It’s also a good idea to avoid anything bright and colourful with an exotic name - cocktails are a hangover in disguise. Stick to what you know, stay in control and you will thank yourself in the morning! 4. Bust a move.We all know physical activity does wonders for the body, but accidental exercise is my favourite! Get your booty on the dance floor and dance like no one is watching. You would be surprised how beneficial a good boogie is for your body during a session of indulgence! Aerobic exercise, caloric expenditure, alcohol metabolisation - who knew the nut bush could kill so many birds with one stone? If dancing’s not your thing, get involved in what’s happening around you, whether it be a swim in the pool, or joining in a game of cricket. I guarantee you’ll get those endorphins flowing and it’s the perfect distraction from food and alcohol. 5. Have some down time.Let’s not use this time of year as an excuse to overdo it on a daily basis. You’ve probably been gifted chocolates, homemade baked goods, candy canes, some bubbly, or you’ve been throwing in a few extra treats into the shopping trolley. We’ve all thought, “It’s Christmas! I’ll just eat and drink all of this now and then I’ll start the new year afresh!” Am I right? The truth is, it’s a much better idea to leave the treats alone. They’re not going anywhere! Use the time you have in between celebrating, as a time to be kind to your body. Hydrate, enjoy the fresh produce at this time of year, exercise, swim and most importantly, relax. The end of the calendar year can leave us feeling exhausted. It’s always fun saying cheers to what has been, but it’s also a time to nurture yourself and prepare for what’s to come.