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Saving waist this Christmas

Judith Wills / 01 December 2018

Our diet expert is on hand to help you get through the season of excess.

Mince pies
Do you really need just one more mince pie?

I wish Sainsbury’s Ecclefechan mince pies weren’t so moreish.  I just ate one after lunch, that, based on the consideration of actual hunger, I really didn’t need.  Just the one.  It could easily have been two but for my amazing self-control.  But if I hadn’t bought them in the first place it might have been better for my waistline, if not my tastebuds.

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It’s the shops' fault, of course.  If they didn’t start stocking festive goodies so early we wouldn’t be tempted at all.  Once upon a time, you had your mince pies no more than a week or so before Christmas, and only then if you made them yourself.  (Oh and yes, I do have the ingredients ready to make some of my own – Mary Berry frangipane topped variety, which, I have to say, are the best ever, even though I make them and I’m not known for my baking skills.)

Try our mince pie recipes

This whole mince pie thing got me thinking about how the eating-too-much season now lasts for around six weeks. Then we have the drinking too much to consider, as well.  At least I’ve escaped that problem, as I more or less gave up alcohol over a year ago after a health scare, and I can’t say I miss it a lot, even though I used to drink for England.  More of that in a minute.

So, in case you would like some fail safe ideas for reducing your TCI* over the next month or so, here are my favourites. They tend to work because they don’t leave you feeling deprived or left out or actually hungry. But if you do follow them I can guarantee that you won’t be needing to do any type of starvation diet in January, and for that you can thank your God, and me, if you like.

1.  Share the goodies. When people come round and bring you chocolates or other sweet goodies, it’s vital to open them while the people are with you, and offer them round. Have one or two, by all means – but keep offering them ‘til they are all gone. End of problem, plus you feel kind and generous to boot, which is much better than feeling stuffed and guilty having binged the whole box on your own.

2.  Buy less. You may find this easier if you shop online. It is a given that everyone who shops for Christmas always, always, buys too much food.  Even when we know that no-one likes Christmas pudding, or panettone, for example, we still buy it ‘just in case’. And extra thick plain cream, brandy butter, custard, ‘just in case’. Look – keep remembering, no-one’s going to go hungry. And if you buy it and no-one eats it and it is left in the larder, by December 30th you will succumb. Want not – waist not. Or waist not so slim, at any rate.

3.  Cook less. See number 2. You are expecting four people for Christmas lunch, not ten.

Christmas lunch planner

4.  Don't clear up. After hosting your own drinks, or party, or lunch or dinner – make the others clear up and put away the leftover food, wash up, etc.  If you do it you will nibble, nibble even when you’re full up to here.

Christmas host checklist

5.  The party.  Should you be invited to an actual party, you can reduce your food and drink intake by absolutely masses if you arrive a bit late (the buffet will be nearly empty after half an hour as everyone loves free food), keep putting your glass down and forgetting where you put it, and then find someone drank the contents anyway, talk a great deal (not many people can talk, eat and drink at the same time with any elegance). Then leave early. Job done!

Strategies for avoiding weight gain at Christmas

6.  Alcohol. Listen – if I can manage, after around 50 years of wine drinking, to more or less give up (June 2017, folks!), then I am absolutely sure that anyone, anyone who thinks they tend to drink too much given half a chance, can cut down a bit. 

An average glass of wine is about 175 calories (remember no-one drinks out of those small glasses any more) and it also makes you more likely to eat more as well, as inhibitions are removed. So a certain amount of restraint – at home even if nowhere else - is nothing but a good idea. All you need to do is choose one of the many gorgeous herbal non-alco drinks such as seedlip, and you won’t miss alcohol at all (don’t choose a sugar-rich drink which will contain as many calories as alcohol does). 

Or, like me, you could try an alcohol-free wine. Whatever you may read or be told – one or two of them are perfectly okay. Served in a small wine glass, it makes me feel I still drink, and I like that. My favourite is Ebony Vale white from Waitrose, and Fre red. You can even mix 2/3 alcohol-free with 1/3 actual wine for a bit more bite. Look, purists – I used to love really decent wine.  Just saying.

* Total Calorie Intake.


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.