The festive season is upon us once again. For most of us that means excessive eating and drinking. With daily opportunities to eat and drink too much, it’s not surprising that come the New Year, many of us will struggle to fit into our jeans.

But believe it or not, it’s still possible to indulge over Christmas without piling on the pounds!

Party tips!

Buffets have the potential to make or break a diet. On the one hand, there are usually plenty of dishes to choose from, which makes it easier to select nibbles with a lower calorie content. On the other hand, it’s tempting to sample every single item! These tips will help you navigate your way around the buffet table without ruining your diet.

  1. Always have a light snack a few hours before arriving at a party. If you turn up having starved yourself all day, you’re more likely to become a permanent fixture at the buffet table and will almost certainly overindulge when faced with a mountain of delicious food.
  2. Don’t hover, stand or constantly drift towards the buffet table – you’ll end up constantly picking, nibbling or munching on tasty morsels and quickly forget just how much you’ve eaten. The easiest way to control the amount you eat is to fill your plate just once and then move away from the food.
  3. Choose your nibbles carefully if you want to keep your Christmas halo firmly in place. Avoid pastry items such as sausage rolls, quiche, vol-au-vents, spring rolls and flans. And steer clear of anything that’s been deep-fried, such as crispy wontons or battered prawns. Skipping the garlic bread, crisps and peanuts will save loads of calories – as will avoiding anything that comes with mayo or soured cream such as coleslaw, potato salad and creamy dips. Instead, opt for lean beef, chicken, turkey, ham, smoked salmon, fresh prawns, salads without mayo, French bread (without the butter), crudités, breadsticks, salsa, tzatziki and small slices of pizza.
  4. If canapés or nibbles are constantly being offered to you while you’re chatting, avoid the temptation by keeping your hands full. A napkin in one hand and a glass in the other should do the trick. Alternatively, keep your hands busy by taking plates of canapés or snacks around for other guests.
  5. Choose your accompaniments for cheese carefully. Chunks of French bread and butter or a handful of cream crackers will double the calories. Instead, go for water biscuits, crispbreads or breadsticks – and fill up on the grapes, celery and fruit.
  6. If you’re tempted by the cheeseboard, make sure you choose carefully. Brie, camembert and Edam contain fewer calories than Cheddar, Stilton and Red Leicester. But if it’s on offer, go for goat’s cheese – it’s the best one of all. Check out the calorie values below of some festive cheeses.
Cheese Calories per 25g
Cheddar 103
Blue Stilton 103
Double Gloucester 101
Red Leicester 103
Gorgonzola 99
Wensleydale 95
Caerphilly 94
Danish Blue 87
Edam 83
Brie 80
Camembert 74
Goat’s Cheese 66


Christmas day lunch!

Most Christmas lunches are packed with nutrients thanks to them containing turkey and veg. But all the extras can quickly tot up the calories, too. Here’s how to enjoy your meal without breaking the calorie bank.

  1. Turkey is a great option for slimmers. It’s packed with protein, which helps fill you up, and provides many other nutrients including zinc, a mineral that keeps the immune system in tip-top shape. But best of all, turkey is lower in fat and calories than many other meats, especially if you go for the breast. A 90g serving of roasted, skinless turkey breast contains just 140 calories and 1.8g fat compared with 160 calories and 5.9g fat in the same sized serving of dark meat.
  2. Don’t smother the turkey with oil, butter, margarine or lard when you cook it. If you must use something, use a pastry brush to add a light covering of oil rather than pouring or spooning it over. Remember, just 1tbsp oil contains 100 calories and 11g fat!
  3. Before tucking into your meal, remove the skin from the turkey. Just 15g contains a massive 70 calories and 6g fat – and it’s gone in a mouthful!
  4. Pile your plate high with traditional seasonal vegetables such as red cabbage, carrots, Brussels sprouts, swede and cauliflower. The more colours you have on your plate, the greater the variety of nutrients. You’ll retain more vitamins and minerals, too, if you steam veggies rather than boiling them – and you’ll be less likely to add salt. Finally, don’t serve veg smothered in butter. Just 1tsp will add 35 calories and 4.1g fat to your meal.
  5. Use less fat to roast potatoes and parsnips. Parboil them first, then brush lightly with oil rather than pouring straight from the bottle. Pop them into the oven and you should have delicious, crispy roasties that aren’t loaded with oil. Keep them in large pieces, too, as this reduces the amount of fat they absorb.
  6. If you’re going to use the meat juices to make the gravy, drain off any fat first.
  7. Make your own stuffing with chopped chestnuts, which contain just 2.7g fat per 100g. It’s a better option than sausage meat, which provides around 32g fat per 100g! To keep the fat content down further, use a spray oil to fry onion if you plan to use it in stuffing.
  8. If you’re using a packet mix of stuffing, avoid adding the recommended knob of butter – no one will miss it when it’s smothered in gravy!
  9. Use low-fat chipolata sausages and lean back bacon to make the sausage and bacon rolls that are traditionally served with turkey.
  10. Beware of all the extras such as cranberry sauce, bread pudding and white sauce. They add calories but little else – allow 25 calories for 1tsp cranberry sauce, 40 calories for an average serving of bread sauce made with semi-skimmed milk and 20 calories for 1tbsp white sauce made with semi-skimmed milk.
  11. If you can’t resist the Christmas pudding, have just a small serving. An average 100g portion contains a massive 330 calories and 11.8g fat.
  12. Choose your pudding partner carefully. Surprisingly, custard contains more calories than cream or brandy butter, even if you make it with skimmed milk! Bottom line: you might be better off opting for a dollop of cream if you can limit yourself to just one tablespoon. Check out the chart below.
Pudding Partners Calories Fat g
Cream per 1 tbsp
Half Cream 22 2
Reduced – fat creme fraiche 25 2.3
Single Cream 30 2.9
Creme Fraiche 55 5.8
Double Cream 67 7.2
Clotted Cream 88 9.5
Brandy Butter 98 8.4
Custard per 150ml
Made With skimmed milk 110 0.1
Low-fat ready-to-serve 110 2.1
Made with semi-skimmed milk 135 2.7
Ready-to-serve 142 4.5
Made with full-fat milk 165 6.4


Christmas drinks!

With numerous parties, lunches, nights out and evenings in with family and friends, it’s easy to consume vast amounts of alcohol during the festive season. But while plenty of booze will help social events go with a swing, it won’t do much to keep your waistline in shape. It’s fine to enjoy a drink – just remember to choose sensibly and follow these tips.

  1. It’s a favourite trick, but mix white wine with soda water or diet lemonade to make it last twice as long and half the calories. If you can’t bear to dilute it, opt for a dry white or red wine as these contain fewer calories than sweeter wines. Half a bottle of red or dry white wine contains around 250 calories! You have been warned.
  2. Beware of alcopops – they’re loaded with calories and little else. And because they don’t taste very alcoholic it’s easy to drink large amounts of them. If you like the fruity flavour, add a dash or cordial or fruit juice to a wine and soda. Meanwhile, there are a few reduced-sugar alcopops now on the market so look out for these – although remember, they are still high in alcohol.
  3. Follow in the footsteps of celebrities and enjoy a glass of bubbly. In general you drink less as it’s served in smaller glasses and the bubbles can help fill you up. Allow 100 calories for a glass.
  4. Most measures of spirits poured at home will be larger than those served in bars and pubs with the result that your drink will probably contain twice as many calories. If you’re going to do a lot of entertaining at home, it’s worth investing in a spirits measure so that you can measure out your favourite tipple. In the meantime, always pour spirits into the glass before adding ice or mixers, so you can see just how much alcohol you have.
  5. It’s the oldest trick in the book, but mix spirits with low-cal mixers such as diet cola, diet lemonade, slimline tonic or slimline bitter lemon. Allow around 50 calories for a single (25ml) shot with a diet mixer.
  6. Steer clear of beer, lager and cider as they’re loaded with calories. And the higher the alcohol content, the more calories they contain. For example, a pint of standard beer contains around 160 calories, whereas a bottle of strong lager can contain anywhere between 120-200 calories alone. Watch out, too, for trendy new ciders served in a pint glass with ice. They contain more than 200 calories per pint.
  7. Beware of trendy wine bars. Many serve spirits in double measures (50ml) as the standard with the result that you get double the calories. Some pubs also serve 35ml measures of spirits rather than 25ml measures and so also contain more calories. Finally, watch out for huge wine glasses – some are so large that a glass of wine may actually be close to half a bottle.
  8. Choose cocktails with care. As a guideline, avoid anything that’s made with cream, coconut milk or syrupy juices – they’re packed with calories. And remember that the more shots a cocktail contains, the higher its calorie value will be. Where possible, ask for diet mixers to be used and remember to sip slowly!
  9. Avoid creamy liqueurs after dinner and instead have a single shot of brandy if you really fancy ending your meal in style. Most cream based liqueurs contain around 80-100 calories per 25ml measure compared with 50 calories in a brandy.
  10. Remember that happy hours are designed to get you to drink more and keep you in the same place all night. Unfortunately, this means while the bar gains pounds, so do you as you indulge in far more drinks than you normally would. The key is not to give into temptation.
  11. Finally, why not offer to drive from time to time over the festive season, so that you won’t be able to drink anything other than low-cal diet drinks!

Finally, here are 10 quick survival tips to keep you looking good this festive season and ready for the new year.

  1. Shop wisely
    Plan your Christmas menu, as well as some of the food you’ll be eating that week. Include healthy snacks like fresh fruit, raw nuts, seeds and yoghurt.
  2. Cook light
    The best cooking methods are steaming, poaching, baking, roasting, grilling and stir-frying. Avoid saturated fat in recipes, saute meat and vegetables in a non-stick pan with a light spray of oil, then add a little stock or water during cooking to stop sticking and retain moisture.
  3. Avoid the ‘party fat’ trap
    If you are entertaining, make a healthy selection of party food. Oven-bake your spring rolls instead of frying them in oil. Make a simple hummus or blend a tin of tuna or salmon with low-fat ricotta, lemon juice and black pepper. Natural yoghurt works well when mixed with fresh garden herbs. Use vegetable crudites (carrot, celery, capsicum) instead of bread and crackers.
  4. Drink plenty of water
    Remember to keep your water intake high if you’re partying. Alternating alcohol with water will keep you hydrated so you can have a good night without feeling lousy the next day.
  5. Always eat a healthy breakfast
    Don’t skip your first meal of the day on Christmas Day just because you know you’ll be eating a big lunch or dinner. Aim to eat a balanced healthy breakfast and you’ll have better control of your food intake during the rest of the day.
  6. Eating out
    Most Christmas meals out involve buffets, so there are plenty of options. Choose fresh seafood without the mayonnaise, lean roast turkey and meats (simply remove the visible fat before eating), leafy green salads, steamed vegetables and fresh fruit for dessert. If you just can’t resist that pudding and brandy sauce, have a small portion or share it with someone.
  7. Eat the right way
    Consume food slowly, savour and enjoy your meals and be reasonable with your portion sizes. Try to fill up your plate with lots of fresh salads and steamed vegetables instead of stuffing, gravy and meat.
  8. Recipe makeover
    It’s always possible to make a healthier version of your favourite recipes. Mash your mashed potatoes with skim milk instead of butter or cream. Roast vegies in a tablespoon of olive oil or steam them instead. And substitute a good vegetable or nut oil for the butter in Christmas cakes and puddings.
  9. Be active
    Make exercise part of your Christmas Day and make it fun for everybody. Kids have a short attention span, so keep it varied. Backyard cricket, soccer and basketball are a great way to burn off lunch.
  10. Rest and relax
    Christmas holidays tend to be a bit manic, so the trick is to learn to relax. Make sure you get enough sleep and rest, which is essential for your body to repair and recharge.

Visit the CHI Website for more details.

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