Christmas is traditionally a time of over-indulgence, excess and rich foods but if you're on a diet that spells one thing... trouble. As tempting as turkey, trimmings, Christmas pud and a mouth-watering cheeseboard may be, here are a few tips on how to enjoy the day without ruining your diet.
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A hearty, healthy breakfast
Start the day with a good breakfast and you'll be far less likely to start nibbling on nuts and crisps before lunch. A bowl of porridge, made with semi-skimmed milk and brown sugar, adds up to 156 calories but it will keep you warm against the cold and that slow-release energy will keep you going all morning. It'll also mean that you're less likely to pig out come lunchtime.
Should you feel the urge to snack, choose wisely - you can afford to munch a couple of festive clementines (24 calories each) or, for a savoury bite, go truly festive with chestnuts roasted on an open fire - at 240 calories for 100g they make a flavourful alternative to those salted peanuts (622 calories per 100g).
Pile on the veggies, not the pounds
When it comes time for the big meal, begin by loading up the veggies. We would never suggest, of course, that you abstain from enjoying a roast potato or two but if they are par-boiled first and scored with a fork before you put them in the oven they won't need to be swimming in oil or fat. Seasoning all the roast veg with herbs will also help to cut down on salt. But while the average 85g serving of spuds is worth 127 calories and 4g of fat, portion of Brussel sprouts totals just 32 calories and 1g of fat, so it's worth piling on the green stuff.
Take care with trimmings
The turkey isn't the problem as the average portion (90g) is just 149 calories. But if your plate is loaded with sausages, bacon, turkey skin and stuffing, it'll be loaded with calories too. The stuffing alone (100g) contains 231 calories and a whopping 15 grams of fat while the same amount of pork chipolatas adds up to 321 calories. Add to that the 90 calories in just two rashers of streaky and your scales will soon notice the difference.
Pudding portion control
A 100-gram portion of Christmas pud is a calorie-counter's nightmare - with custard and brandy butter, you're topping 580 calories and swallowing a massive 22 grams of fat. But if you can't do without the traditional dessert, opt for a small portion and add natural yoghurt or fromage frais (a 15g serving is just seven calories) instead of cream (which doubles the calorie count) and brandy butter.
When you've recovered from the EastEnders Christmas episode and the excess of lunch, the cheeseboard starts calling. It's easy to cut down those calories though, if you don't go crackers. In 100g of Jacob's Cream Crackers there are 421 calories - instead, enjoy your festive cheeses with grapes (62 calories) or apple (49 calories) and you'll benefit from some fruity goodness too.
Beware the booze
They might make the day go with a swing but indulge in a few cheeky tipples before lunch and the calories soon mount up. A large gin and tonic will see 175 calories slipping through and the average pint of lager tops 200 calories. Stick to wine, where a glass of dry white is 116 calories, red wine is 119 calories per glass or spoil yourself with Champers at just 95 calories. And to ensure you're not sozzled by the time you have to light the pudding, alternate your alcohol with water.
After all that, a brisk walk with the whole family will help to burn away a few of those heavy, rich foods and prepare you for the afternoon Christmas movie, where you can happily slump on the sofa with a sleepy smile.