The dieter's Christmas survival guide

Emma Brown | 01 Oct, 2018

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.

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 blinis.

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

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 nearly 1,000 calories if you take them all on board – the same as 24 pigs in blankets!

Christmas-survival-scramble

1

SWAP

Bacon sarnie at breakfast
420 kcals

FOR

Scrambled egg on wholemeal toast
320 kcals

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

Christmas-survival-fruit-an

2

SWAP

4 chocolates from a tin
236 kcals

FOR

Small handful of mixed nuts and dried fruit (25g)
127 kcals

Just 4 chocolates (which is too easy when passing the tin) contains almost twice as many calories as a small handful of dried fruit and nuts. You'll also be more likely to crave more chocolates, whereas the nuts will be more satiating.

Christmas-survival-crisps

3

SWAP

Packet of premium brand Kettle Chips
205 kcals

FOR

A 'lighter' option such as the Guilt-free Snacking range from M&S
90 kcals

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

Christmas-survival-plate

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 and 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.

Frylight

5

SWAP

200g potatoes roasted in goose fat
346 kcals

FOR

200g potatoes roasted in half oil/half Frylight
267 kcals

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!

Christmas-survival-turkey

6

SWAP

Turkey thigh meat with skin on
236 kcals

FOR

White breast meat, no skin
153 kcals

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.

Christmas-survival-pudding

7

SWAP

Double cream or thick and creamy custard
233 kcals

FOR

A 'light' version
62 kcals

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.

Christmas-survival-eton-mes

8

SWAP

Traditional trifle
230 kcals

FOR

A healthier version of Eton Mess
139 kcals

Crush a meringue nest into an individual glass dish; mix with 30ml lighter squirty cream and top with 100g mixed berries. Very quick to make and a much lighter way to end the meal.

Christmas-survival-cheddar

9

SWAP

50g cheddar on your cheese board
208 kcals

FOR

50g lighter cheddar
166 kcals

After a calorie laden meal, ask yourself do you really need it at all? A small chunk of cheddar (50g) adds an extra 208 calories and 17g fat. Swap that for 50g reduced fat cheddar or better still, 50g Camembert.

Christmas-survival-walk

10

SWAP

Slumping in front of the T.V.
0 kcals burnt

FOR

A 30 min walk with the family
106 kcals burnt

30 minutes brisk walking burns at least 100 calories – that's 2 Quality Streets OR a glass of prosecco! 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.