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How to have a healthier Christmas

Siski Green / 05 December 2016

Choose wisely at Christmas time to avoid having to diet throughout January.

Reindeer and christmas tree shaped festive biscuits
Picking one indulgent meal at Christmas dinner won’t add much to your waistline

Don't overindulge throughout December

One of the main reasons people put on weight over Christmas isn’t actually down to the Christmas dinner, it’s about higher calorie intake day after day. 

Social Christmas events in the run up to Christmas and beyond, as well as Christmas food bargains in the supermarkets can result in you eating hundreds of extra calories per day. Over a four-week period, for example, 500 extra calories daily will lead to a gain of 5lb (2kg). 

So keep your indulging only to Christmas itself, and you won’t have to face a drastic diet in January. 

How to avoid Christmas weight gain

Pick one indulgent meal

Indulging in a feast at Christmas dinner won’t add much to your waistline but if you indulge at breakfast, lunch and dinner you’ll overload your system. 

Particularly for people with heart problems or diabetes, it’s best to allow yourself to indulge for only one meal in the day and focus on fruit, vegetables and other light, healthy foods the rest of the day.

Drink a glass of water for every glass of alcohol

Celebrating with a drink or two at Christmas is a must for many people but drinking too much will put your health at risk (and possibly your social life!). A simple way to avoid overdrinking is to have a glass of water for every glass of alcohol you drink. 

Not only does that help keep you hydrated (less risk of hangovers!), it’ll also stop you from drinking too much as you have less time for drinking alcohol and your bladder will fill up too.  

Find out how to avoid getting dehydrated

Eat first, then go out

If you’ve got a Christmas event to go to, eat a full meal beforehand, one that contains protein and carbohydrates. The carbs will give you energy and the protein will help keep you feeling full when you’re faced with all those high-calorie snacks. 

Think small when it comes to portions

If you’re not cooking for a huge family, maybe you don’t need a whole turkey? Research from Cornell University, USA, shows that we eat more when we use bigger plates, and that’s also true if there’s more food on offer. 

So cook only a turkey breast or the legs. Or cook the whole turkey but put some aside to freeze. Then you’ll have a delicious treat ready to eat in January.

Find recipes for Christmas leftovers

Do some clever swaps to keep the calories down

Some very simple changes to Christmas foods can make them far more healthy. Taking the skin off turkey, eating baked potatoes instead of roast, using yogurt or low-fat custard instead of cream for the Christmas pudding are just some of the ways you can save hundreds of calories.  

Make wise food choices

Turkey is a pretty healthy food and if you stick to breast it’s low in fat too, so by eating more turkey and less roast potatoes, for example, you’ll get nicely full without too many calories.  But there are other Christmas foods you can indulge in while staying healthy:

  • Christmas pudding is low-fat, a good source of iron, and contains plenty of fruit too
  • Chestnut stuffing is delicious and low in fat
  • Brussels sprouts are an excellent source of folic acid and vitamin C and they’re full of heart-healthy fibre too. Just don’t slather them in butter!

How to make your Christmas lunch healthier


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.