The dieter's Christmas survival guide

Emma Brown | 10 Dec, 2014

Tis the season to be jolly... and over fed! Christmas, or rather December as a whole, is filled with tempting food. A full social diary, meals out, open chocolate tins in the office, more alcohol than we're used to - and that's all before the actual day itself! It's easy to see how the average person gains around 6lbs over the festive season, making January even more blue than it needs to be. But fear not, we're giving you a helping hand this December on how to save calories, and still have fun!

The Christmas build up

Got a party to go to? No problem - just make sure you plan ahead.

Tip!Think 'save' and 'spend' - so plan your calorie allowance over the course of the week to compensate. If you know you've got a big night out on Saturday, save some of your daily calories through the week. This way you can enjoy the big night out and keep your weight loss on track. Use the 'Easy Days' setting in your food diary to help (available on the website only).

Tip!Buffets are par for the course at Christmas parties, but if you're starving when you arrive, you're far more likely to over-indulge. Have a small meal before you get there - if you're full you're more likely to choose the 'lighter' options.

Avoid: samosas, bhajis, sausage rolls, vol au vents, pork pies and spring rolls.

Choose: fresh salads, cold meats / fish, satay chicken, vegetable crudités, breadsticks and smoked salmon bilinis.

Watch out: dips and dressings can be laden with calories. Steer clear of those containing mayo and cream and choose tomato based ones instead.

Tip! Choose lower calorie drinks - there's over 300 calories in a fruit cider, but only 56 in a gin & slimline tonic. Think about what you choose (and how many you have!) to keep the calories in check.

Avoid: Ciders or pints of lager. Bailey's / creamy liquors. Cocktails, especially those made with cream. Sugary alcopops.

Choose: Slimline / diet / soda mixers. single spirits such as gin, vodka, rum and whisky. White wine spritzer's made with soda or diet lemonade. Champagne / sparkling wine.

Tip! Dance dance dance! Did you know that dancing can burn off around 300 calories an hour? Keep it up all night and you'll not just be having fun, but staying on track with your weight loss goal too.

Christmas Day

A few nifty swaps here and there can save hundreds of calories over the day (and people will barely notice!) Here's our top 10, saving up to 1,000 calories if you take them all on board - the same as 24 pigs in blankets!

No 1.

Swap: Bacon sarnie at breakfast (500 calories and 25g fat)
For: Scrambled egg on wholemeal toast (around 350 calories and 19g fat*)

Better still, have fresh fruit with low fat yogurt and a sprinkling of granola - only 250 calories.



No 2.

Swap: pen tins of sweets / chocolates
For:Small bowls of fruit and nuts

Just 4 chocolates (which is too easy when passing the tin) contain around 170 calories, compared to a small handful of dried fruit and nuts which comes in at approx 110 cals and 7.5g fat per 25g serving.



No 3.

Swap: Premium brand Kettle Chips (251 calories for 50g)
For: A 'lighter' option such as the Guilt-free Snacking range from M&S (approx 95 cals per bag)

Other options are Walkers Sunbites, Walkers Pops, Special K Cracker Crisps, any cassava crisps, Walkers squares and Popchips.



No 4.

Swap: Your large dinner plate
For: A smaller one / kids plate

It's natural to fill your plate, so a smaller size means less food so fewer calories consumed. Don't like the idea of a small plate? Remove one of everything. Have one less roast potato, one less roast parsnip, one less pig in blanket and fill up the space on your plate with veggies - brussels, carrots, broccoli, cabbage.

SAVING: Depends how saintly you are!


No. 5

Swap: Goose fat for your potatoes
For: Sunflower oil and Frylight

Use half oil, half Frylight, and leave potatoes as larger sizes rather than cutting into small ones - they have less surface area so soak up less fat - it's a small saving but it all helps!

*Based on 50g goose fat serving 6 people and half sunflower oil / half Frylight


No 6.

Swap: The skin on your turkey
For: White breast meat

Turkey is actually a very lean meat, but eat the skin and you're adding extra fat and calories. Remove the skin on your portion and opt for white breast meat, the best option.

*Based on white breast and leg with skin on


No 7.

Swap: Double cream or thick and creamy custard
For: A 'light' version

Your Christmas pudding will still taste delicious. For an even lighter option, try a dollop of low fat natural yogurt or half fat crème fraiche instead.



No 8.

Swap: Traditional trifle (around 400 cals per serving)
For: A healthier version of Eton Mess

Crush a meringue nest into an individual glass dish; mix with 50ml whipped cream and top with 150g mixed berries. Very quick to make and a much lighter way to end the meal



No 9.

Swap: Cheddar on your cheese board
For: A reduced fat version

After a calorie laden meal, ask yourself do you really need it at all? A small chunk of cheddar (50g) adds an extra 210 calories and 17g fat. Swap that for 50g reduced fat cheddar or better still, 50g Camembert.



No 10.

Swap: Slumping in front of the T.V.
For: A quick walk with the family

30 minutes brisk walking burns around 140 calories - that's 3 Quality Streets OR a glass of wine! Plus you'll feel less tired for the evening.



At the end of the day

It's important to remember that Christmas is just one day. So if you do find that you've over indulged, don't despair!

Having a healthy attitude to food is as significant as healthy eating, so rather than thinking there's no point in carrying on with your diet, pick yourself up and get back on the wagon. You might find your weight loss is a bit slower that week, or you stay the same, but you'll soon be back in the swing of things. And with a New Year around the corner, there's never a better time for a fresh start.

Nutritionist Emma Brown, MSc Human Nutrition is passionate about how food science applies to the human body, and how the nutrients in what we eat affect us and ultimately have an impact on our health.