There is no shortage of temptation to overindulge during the Christmas period…

The suggestion that this time of year presents more challenges when it comes to our resolve for eating healthily is not just a fanciful thought, it’s backed by research in psychology and behavioural sciences.

We know that when presented with many options, people tend to eat more. This doesn’t start to take into account the effect alcohol has on lowering our inhibitions or interfering with our judgment on portion sizes, not to mention the calorie content of alcoholic drinks!

On average people gain about a pound over Christmas. At first, one pound doesn’t sound like much, and it isn’t, but the vast majority of people won’t turn around and lose that weight once the new year is rung in; a few Christmases later and you’re carrying an extra half a stone of fat.

Avoiding weight gain over Christmas is simple but not easy

Here’s the good news: with a few tips, you’ll be able to enjoy the best that the season has to offer without feeling deprived or out of control. Nothing happens by accident, and ultimately you are in control of your Christmas eating. You will have to make an effort, though, if your goal is to stay on track. No blaming others for the dessert they brought or served and no blaming your mother-in-law or sister because you didn’t want to offend them by saying no to second helpings!

Here is what you can do……

Don’t skip meals
Skipping meals as a strategy to keep your overall calorie intake lower rarely works, unless you have the discipline of a monk. More often than not, it backfires by increasing the likelihood of you overeating later on. It’s simple biology: when you are starving and there is food, you will eat!

Moderate alcohol intake
Alcoholic drinks are fattening – full stop. A small glass of wine (125ml) can contain as many as 120 calories and you’d just be getting started. You can cut back on the number of calories you consume from alcohol by choosing light or alcohol-free beers or choosing a white wine spritzer. Another great tip is to alternate: make sure to drink a glass of water or diet soft drink in between each alcoholic drink.

We do not need three-course meals! Try and skip the starter altogether, as they’re typically high in calories and often only served to give people something to do while chit-chatting. One chicken wing contains around 100 calories and that’s before any dipping sauce. You can always serve delicious, healthy vegetable crudités, if you’re looking for something for your guests to nibble on.
Eating is best seen as a budget. If you want to include a couple of “extras” you need to factor it into your overall calorie budget. Remember, when you’re attending a few of these parties over the month, the calories quickly add up!

Use smaller plates
Nothing can be this easy right? Smaller plates give the illusion that you have more food in front of you, than if the same serving of food was on a large dinner plate. Unless you’re a master at stacking, most will simply put less food on a smaller plate, also known as forced portion control.

Out of sight, out of mind!
Do not hover around the table where the food is. Serve yourself something if you wish, then mingle with the guests on the other side of the room. If presented with variety and, more importantly, ease of selection, people will simply eat more.

Be assertive
Don’t feel you have to say yes every time food or drink is offered. Don’t feel guilty about offending the host. Being a people pleaser doesn’t keep the weight in check. A simple ‘no thank you’ will suffice or perhaps leave some food on your plate, so you can say you’re still working on it.

Leave what you don’t want to finish
Truth be told, some of us never learn how to do this. Even when we are well past the point of enjoyment, we still clean the plate. As the saying goes, you should always leave wanting more; stop before you eat too much.

The best defence is a good offence
Have a small snack before leaving for the party, ideally something with fibre and/or protein to help curb your appetite. Don’t to go to a party hungry. 


  • 2 tomatoes, sliced up with some balsamic vinegar
  • a cup of vegetable soup (made with real vegetables)
  • 100g container of fat-free yogurt or cottage cheese with some vegetable crudités

Make allowances
Can you eat and drink whatever you want to, as much as you want to, whenever you want to and not worry about health or weight gain? Maybe, if you’re training like an Olympic athelete, but for the average person, it’s unlikely! So, if you know you’re a dessert person and really want a piece of cake, skip the bread roll and butter or take a smaller portion of a starch, like rice.

Back on track
Remember, no one meal or one holiday season is going to break your efforts if you don’t want it to. If you ‘indulge’ more than you plan to, get back on track the next day!

Have a very merry Christmas and a happy new year!

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