For many places of work, what to do for the annual Christmas party might not even be a topic up for debate: a meal out in a restaurant followed by a few drinks on the town might be the default option.

However, as we’ve written previously, there’s no shortage of indulgence for many of us in December. It’s a month where we might go out and eat with family and friends with much more frequency than at other times of the year.

So, when it comes to the work Christmas party, foregoing a calorific meal and drinks out in favour of a healthier alternative can be an opportunity to do something different; there’ll be plenty of other chances throughout the month to eat a roast turkey dinner or enjoy a glass of mulled wine.

Christmas isn’t far off, and many places of work will undoubtedly already have concrete plans in place.

But if you haven’t managed to get round to organising yours yet, and you’re looking for a healthier alternative to the traditional meal and drinks out, hopefully this post will provide you with the inspiration you need:

Keep the meal out, but choose a healthier restaurant

We’ve written about the risks of binge drinking and holiday heart syndrome before. The average number of calories in Christmas dinners from around the world is another subject we’ve examined.

But with health foods continuing to rise in popularity, and more and more younger people choosing to abstain from alcohol, could traditions be set to change? In the future, perhaps; but for now at least, pastries and roast dinners are still firm Christmas favourites, and alcohol remains an integral fixture during the festive season.

Christmas is of course a time for celebration, and the occasional treat is something we should all afford ourselves from time to time.

But for those organising a Christmas meal and looking for something different, healthier alternatives to the traditional carvery are available.

Instead, a meal in a vegetarian restaurant or a sushi bar might be something your colleagues haven’t tried before; particularly at Christmas. Even restaurants specialising in Mediterranean food (Spanish, Greek, or Italian) might offer dishes which are a healthier take on the normal Christmas fare.

Opting for a lunch date instead of an evening meal might also help encourage people to make lighter choices from the menu, and to keep their alcohol consumption within sensible limits.

If you’re getting caterers in for your event (we’ll cover this in more detail later on) then choose a company which is able to provide a selection of healthy alternatives.

Organise a quiz

Having a quiz can help your team to bond, but it can also provide mental stimulation (and of course, be fun). Light-hearted competition can contribute to a boost in morale and even increase productivity levels, employee retention and job satisfaction. A quiz can also be a great way to take people’s minds off work, by getting your colleagues to think about other topics.

You can even try incorporating other ideas, such as video rounds, drawing or physical performance elements into the quiz, if you’re concerned that a straightforward sit-down question answer session will cause people to become restless.

If the idea of a quiz sounds too formal, a board games afternoon can provide just as much brain stimulation and fun for everyone.

Go for team building activities

An evening of drinks on the town might be the go-to option for many offices, but some people may feel put off by the idea of alcohol, or need to leave early to make the last train, so this kind of social isn’t always the most inclusive.

Instead, engaging in a team building exercise during work time gives everyone a chance to enjoy the event.

For example, you might try splitting off into teams and participating in an escape room, or going on a murder mystery experience.

If you want to get more physical, festive treasure hunt events and countryside activities can combine physical and mental prowess to keep your colleagues brains and bodies engaged.

Try out a winter sport

Encourage staff members to get in the festive mood by booking an event at a ski slope or an ice skating rink. This type of event can provide the perfect snow-covered backdrop to your festivities, whilst getting everyone involved in an enjoyable physical activity. Artificial ski slopes and temporary ice rinks mean that access to these suitably wintery activities is possible throughout the UK.

From an activity perspective, skiing and ice skating require good balance, engaging core muscles and offering a full body workout, and both activities can burn a significant number of calories. Using the MET value formula, published in the 2011 Compendium of Physical Activities, it’s estimated that a person who weighs 70 kg would burn approximately 385 calories after ice skating for 60 minutes. The same person would burn approximately 490 calories skiing for an hour.

Put on a healthy office buffet

Employees short on time during the run-up to Christmas might feel compelled to make hasty choices when contributing to an office buffet. As such, multipacks of crisps and other beige offerings, such as sausage rolls, may often result.

Organising a health food potluck party can help you to avoid this, and encourage your staff to partake in some healthier options.

Select a range of healthy pre-approved party foods, write each item of food or drink onto a piece of paper and put them into a hat. Each member of staff then picks out an option which they need to make or bring along to the party.

This means that you get a good range of foods which everyone will enjoy, and steer clear of the beige brigade.