When the last fairy lights have been switched off and the tinsel remnants hoovered up, sometimes all that remains after a jolly Christmas season are some great memories and a distinct wobbly belly.
Facing into grim dietary choices in the cold light of January doesn’t bear thinking about and in actual fact, doesn’t have to be. You can enjoy a great Christmas and still maintain your weight, more or less, by keeping these points in mind:
1. Enjoy what you love and avoid the rest
Your Mum’s Christmas cake, Butler’s dark chocolate truffles, turkey and stuffing sandwiches with cranberry sauce….. There may be certain foods that we only have at Christmas and look forward to for the entire year.
You can indulge in your fantasy foods, as long as you avoid all the other calorific snacks that you simply don’t care for, or particularly want. If roasted nuts, mini mince pies or sausage rolls aren’t on your top five list, just don’t bother and save your calories for something you really love.
Being selective, especially if you’re not actually hungry, means you can really savour the treats you were looking forward to. Have an emergency stash of raw, unpeeled nuts, or fruit in your bag, just in case!
2. Christmas is for sharing
Most of us eat too much of everything over the Christmas period. Have the treats you look forward to, but watch your portion size. Share a dessert or a slice of cake and savour your treat nice and slowly.
3. To drink or not to drink; that is the question
You don’t have to indulge in alcohol at every single party you go to over Christmas. A radical concept, I know! Alcohol is full of empty calories and can easily lead to a snack binge at 2am. The sugar low and dehydration from a hangover the next day can make it difficult to eat sensibly. While such a binge can be absorbed as a one-off during the rest of the year, there are so many events on over Christmas that it can all just blend into one big eating and drinking blur.
Choose the parties you’re really looking forward to and enjoy them, but consider going alcohol-free at other events in between. Try sparkling water with a splash of grapefruit juice or even a white wine spritzer with plenty of sparkling water. Your head and body will thank you for it.
When having a few drinks, bear in mind that alcoholic drinks contain by-products of fermentation called congeners. Found in higher levels in red wine and darker spirits such as dark rum, whiskey and tequila, these toxins can increase the frequency and severity of hangovers. Congeners from different drinks can react with each other and make you feel even worse. Stick to one type of drink throughout the night and drink white wine or clear spirits such as vodka, gin and white rum. Mix with water or juice and have one or two glasses of water for every alcoholic drink. Our bodies can only detoxify about one drink per hour, so pace yourself – slowly.
4. Be prepared!
On days you are going out, fuel yourself properly throughout the day. Start with a good breakfast and lunch, including some protein and complex carbohydrate. Don’t drink on an empty stomach. Within five minutes of having a drink, there is a measurable amount of alcohol in your blood, and absorption is increased if your stomach is empty. An hour before you hit the town, have a meal or at least a snack containing some fat. Fat takes longer to digest, staying in the stomach and slowing down the rate at which alcohol hits the blood stream. Try a wholegrain cheese or peanut butter sandwich, a full fat natural yoghurt with some fruit, or some oat cakes with hummus or guacamole for a healthy dose of fat.
5. Temptation is just too…….tempting
For most of us, if it’s in the house, it will be eaten. Simple as that. We all tend to buy boxes of biscuits, mince pies and sweets before Christmas, as it is an unwritten law that we must offer visitors a Christmas treat, just in case they haven’t had one yet. However it’s very easy to get into the habit of finishing off the leftovers once your guests have gone.
To avoid this, try buying mini mince pies or share some good quality dark chocolate or roasted spiced nuts instead. Freeze any left over mince pies when guests leave, and store other goodies well out of sight, or consider making a healthier Christmas treat. Click here for some healthy Christmas recipes to try. 
Christmas is a time to eat, drink and be merry…..but maybe by being a little bit more selective, we can all do that AND avoid the bulge in January!
Festive food – the calorie count
  • Average mince pie: 350+ calories (= four-mile run).
  • Small slice of Christmas pudding: 250 calories. Add custard and brandy butter and it shoots up to 550+ calories.
  • Mini sausage roll: 240 calories. A large one can have as much as 850.
  • Dried roasted peanuts: 50g serving size contains c. 300 calories. A 300g packet has almost 1800 – that’s a day’s allowance for many of us.
  • Turkey sandwich with stuffing: from 350 to 600 calories.
  • A bottle of wine contains around 750 calories.
Nutritional Therapist