How to have your cake and eat it this Christmas

Christmas Turkey

Christmas Turkey - Credit: Archant

Christmas is a time for feasting, over-indulgence and excess. But believe it or not, you can do this without causing devastating damage to your waistline.

Nikki Edwards, ealife lifestyle columnist

Nikki Edwards, ealife lifestyle columnist - Credit: Archant

This week, sports nutrition expert Nikki Edwards reveals the simple swaps which mean you can party guilt-free.

I would be a complete party pooper if I insisted you all ate low-fat, low-calorie recipes throughout the festive season. So I’m certainly not going to do that.

But I wouldn’t be much of a nutrition and lifestyle expert if I didn’t warn you about the consequences of over-indulgence.

Over-eating can make you feel bloated and broken and there is nothing worse than the cramps that follow the cravings.

Fresh green Brussels sprouts

Fresh green Brussels sprouts - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

So I have devised a few simple tricks to help you have your cake and eat it too.

Christmas crackers


Cranberries - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

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1. Get moving

The very best way to offset the increase in your intake is to exercise.

One of the main reasons people put on weight over Christmas is that they forget to make this a priority.

To help you incorporate it into your daily routine, get it out of the way first thing.

Not only do you make a healthy start to the day, it will give you a natural energy boost that will keep you away from that tin of Quality Street later on.

2. Eat just one big meal a day

Normally I am a big advocate of spreading your daily calorie consumption out over the day. And I would never normally advise you to skip breakfast. But over Christmas, the number of courses we eat at our meals increases, as do portion sizes. And before you know it, you have put away twice the recommended daily amount.

My advice is to stick to just one main meal per day. Your stomach can only consume so much so this should keep the amount you eat to a minimum.

3. Take your time

Christmas dinner takes hours to prepare and minutes to eat. But this is extremely bad for you. Eating quickly means your brain hasn’t time to register that it is full. And this means you eat more and then discover you are uncomfortably full.

You also overwhelm your digestive system by failing to chew properly.

Try to pace yourself. And remember, the more work you do with your teeth, the less your stomach has to.

Eating slowly and chewing properly will reduce bloating and help stop overeating. Honestly!

4. Sit at the table

One of the biggest mistakes people make all year round is eating in front of the TV.

This leads to them mindlessly staring at whatever is on and eating without tasting or savouring their meals.

So do your waistline a favour this Christmas and eat at the table.

5. One treat a day

If Christmas isn’t a time for treats then when is? But be sensible. By taking a balanced approach to eating and ensuring your plate has a mixture of items on it you can enjoy a meal without feeling guilty.

6. A glass of water for every glass of alcohol

Place a glass of water beside your glass of wine at dinner and take it in turns to drink from each. This helps reduce the amount of alcohol you drink and fills you up faster. It also stops you getting drunk too quickly.

7. Buy a new outfit

Spoil yourself by purchasing a gorgeous Christmas dress to wear on the big day – and no elastic waistbands are allowed. Your outfit should be comfortable – but not so comfortable it allows you to overeat.

8. Sleep

Tiredness makes you eat more. It makes you crave sugar or fatty foods to get your energy levels up.

Christmas should be a time to unwind - so forget about the alarm clock, keep the blinds closed and aim to get as much shut-eye as possible. And if you need an afternoon nap too then so be it!

Stop and swap

Not all Christmas foods are bad for you.

Sprouts for example are full of anti-oxidants, minerals and vitamins that are great for your stomach health and digestion.

And turkey is one of the leanest meats around and the protein of choice for athletes.

Here are some ways to eat Christmas dinner without the guilt:


Low in fat, it provides B vitamins, which you need for energy production.

Top tip: Take off the skin. This is where most of the fat is. If you remove the skin you can save around 40kcal per portion. Choose breast instead of leg or thigh for even fewer calories.


Chestnuts are low in fat and a good source of potassium, which we need for healthy kidneys.

Top tip: Choose a chestnut or fruit-based stuffing instead of sausage meat. A 100g serving of sausage meat stuffing has 252kcal compared to 162kcal in cranberry, orange and roast chestnut stuffing.

Roast potatoes

Potatoes are a good source of carbohydrate and are almost fat free (before they’re roasted in oil or fat).

Top tip: A portion of 100g of potatoes roasted in oil have 149kcal but100g of baked potato has 109kcal. Or just limit your serving to small size!


Brussels sprouts are a good source of folate (a B vitamin) and vitamin C, which may help to protect against heart disease and cancer. They contain fibre, which helps to keep the digestive system healthy.

Top tip: Serve plenty of vegetables as they’re low in calories and fat, but don’t smother them in butter.

Christmas pudding

Christmas pudding is fairly low in fat and high in carbohydrate. It provides some fibre, B vitamins, potassium, iron and calcium.

Top tip: Have just one small portion after lunch as it’s high in sugar. And have fat-free Greek yoghurt instead of brandy butter or double cream.

Party treats

Nibbles are a must-have at Christmas but choose wisely.

• Don’t wrap sausages in bacon or pastry. Grill, dry fry or bake them on a wire rack so that the fat drains off.

• Don’t have dips made with cream or cream cheese. Choose tomato-based dips, such as salsa, or mix some chopped herbs into low-fat yoghurt.

• Serve rice cakes, oatcakes or plain popcorn with drinks, instead of crisps and salted nuts.

• For more information on Deluxe Nutrition visit