That’s no way to celebrate Christmas! Instead, follow our expert tips and get into the party spirit the healthier way
‘We take in about 500 extra calories a day over Christmas,’ says HFG expert Helen Bond. ‘And when you think a mince pie has about 230 calories and a small chocolate about 50 calories, it’s easy to see how the nibbles tot up.’
1. Go easy at Christmas breakfast
‘Skip the croissants and buck’s fizz,’ advises HFG expert and chair of the National Obesity Forum Professor David Haslam. ‘Instead, have smoked salmon and scrambled eggs with a small glass of orange juice. It’s a healthier treat – and will give you more energy if you need to manage excitable children, too.’
2 Avoid grazing
Once you’ve selected your food from the buffet, step away. When food is within easy reach, we’re prone to mindlessly graze. ‘My party rule is: don’t eat standing up,’ says HFG expert Dr Dawn Harper. ‘If you promise yourself you’ll only eat sitting at a table, you’ll be amazed by how many excess calories you save on endless canapés, crisps and nuts.’
3 Scan before you serve
Faced with a buffet, resist the temptation to start filling your plate at one end of the table and continuing to add to it until you reach the other. ‘Portion control at a buffet can be difficult for even the most determined healthy eater,’ says Helen. So before you pick up a plate, pause for a moment to look at all that’s on offer. Decide on three things you’re going to enjoy most, then help yourself to these – and only these.
4 Don’t skip meals
‘If you’re going to a party straight after work, don’t ditch lunch for fear of overdoing your daily calorie intake,’ warns Helen. ‘You’ll be famished – and hungry people make bad food decisions. Eat a light lunch, then shortly before you head out have a snack such as a yogurt or a couple of pieces of fresh fruit to take the edge off your hunger and stop you gorging.’
5 Keep healthy snacks in your bag
If you’re a post-Christmas bargain hunter, head to the sales armed with dried or fresh fruit, or a small packet of unsalted nuts and seeds. ‘Keeping healthier snacks to hand means you won’t lean towards fat-laden coffee shop options when you need a mid- shop energy boost,’ says HFG expert Bridget Benelam of the British Nutrition Foundation.
6 Clear the decks
Dinner with family and friends often means we spend longer sitting around the table. ‘But the longer we linger, the more likely we are to keep eating – even if we’ve had enough,’ says Juliette. ‘Instead, clear the table when everyone has finished eating and move into another room to continue the conversation. Or suggest a board game – it’s a great alternative to cheese and biscuits.’
7 Cut down on carbs
‘Avoid overloading on starchy carbs by replacing roast spuds with parsnips, celeriac or sweet potatoes,’ says David.
8 Be mindful
‘Don’t lose touch with your internal appetite regulators,’ says Bridget. ‘Listen to your body and give it a chance to feel hungry before you eat. I try to make sure I really savour the indulgent things and eat them slowly and mindfully so I don’t go overboard.’
9 Earn your treats
‘Exercise will help you to maintain your weight during the season of excess,’ says David. ‘Instead of sitting in front of the TV, go out for a walk with the family, hit the golfing range with friends, go for a swim or, if it snows, build a snowman.’
10 Factor in the drinks
Alcohol is packed with empty calories, warns Helen. ‘A 125ml glass of 13% ABV fizz has 94 calories. Research shows alcohol not only increases our appetite, but it can weaken our willpower, too, meaning we’re even more likely to overindulge on festive nibbles.’
Get our tips for easy alcohol swaps.
11 Treat sweets as treats
‘If you have a tin of chocolates, avoid hoovering up the whole lot while watching Morecambe and Wise re-runs. Put a small handful in a bowl – and the rest out of sight,’ says Juliette. ‘Making it an occasional treat means you’ll enjoy it more.’
12 Pace yourself
‘Look at the day before and after in your diary before accepting an invitation – it’s so easy to cram in too much and then wonder why you’re feeling so frazzled,’ says Dawn. And burning the candle at both ends also affects your waistline*. ‘Too little sleep causes leptin levels to drop and trigger hunger, while levels of ghrelin increase, telling the brain we need to eat,’ says Helen.
*Weight-loss results will vary and are down to your individual circumstances and the amount of weight you have to lose.