A little of what you fancy won’t pile on the pounds

Don’t deny yourself a little party food this Christmas but try to get back to healthy eating as quickly as possible

One mince pie contains 239 calories so make sure you enjoy every mouthful of it. Savour the treats you choose to eat. Photograph: Getty Images

One mince pie contains 239 calories so make sure you enjoy every mouthful of it. Savour the treats you choose to eat. Photograph: Getty Images

Tue, Dec 17, 2013, 01:00

Christmas is one time of year we give ourselves permission to relax our eating patterns. We quickly slip into “holiday mode” and normal routine goes out the window. After all, there are parties to attend, friends and family to catch up with, tins of sweets to delve into and mulled wine to sip.

While I don’t believe anyone should feel guilty about enjoying the seasonal treats and fare, it’s worth remembering that, on average, people can gain from one to five lbs (up to 2kg) over Christmas.

According to a recent UK survey involving over 1,000 participants, it can take up to Easter to repair the damage.

The survey, commissioned by a supplement company, reported that 34 per cent of respondents said it could take four months to get back into the same shape they were in before their Christmas indulgences.

For 18 per cent of people, the holiday lasts from Christmas Eve to Boxing Day only, with healthy eating resuming on December 27th. However, 44 per cent let themselves go completely through Christmas and New Year, and 32 per cent for more than a month.

More often than not, it’s the festive between meal nibbles that pile on the pounds rather than the meals themselves.

Gaining a pound of fat is as easy as eating around 70 chocolates from your favourite chocolate tin. That might sound a lot, but a couple of handfuls every day soon adds up.

Another approach to Christmas and the New Year is more about damage limitation than trying to avoid it completely.

Don’t try to lose weight over Christmas. Enjoy the festivities, but aim to maintain your weight as it is by being selective about your treats. Choose a little of the things you really love, and savour every mouthful.

We’re talking mindfulness here. When you have that slice of pudding, take the time to smell and taste every morsel, by taking your time and slowing down.

Don’t deprive yourself
There is nothing like avoiding every bit of party food to bring on the urge to give in and binge. Have a little of what you fancy and pick one or two parties over Christmas where you can indulge.

Most of us treat ourselves a bit more at Christmas than usual, which is all part of the fun.

One or two days of over-indulgence won’t set you back too far. Get back on track the next day.

Don’t do without
Don’t starve yourself or skip meals to make up for the unhealthy treats you have eaten, or are likely to eat, at a party.

Eat your regular meals and try to have a healthy snack at home before heading to a party. If you go to a party starving, you are more likely to overeat and fill up on high fat, high calorie snacks.

Avoid standing right next to the food at a party. It’s easy to get carried away with the snacks if you’re on autopilot and next to a plate of food.

Fill your plate with salads first as others stand in the long queue for hot food, leaving less room for those additional carbs you don’t need. Spending the night on the dance floor is a great way to burn off any excess calories.

One of the big weight gain culprits is alcohol. Think of a party as a real opportunity to catch up with friends instead of using it as a chance to get stuck into the champagne and creamy cocktails.

Tins of chocolates
Large tins of chocolates may be a fixture in most people’s houses at Christmas but they’re guaranteed to leave you with a spare tyre. A 2kg tin of chocolates, for example, contains just under 10,000 calories and around 500g fat. That’s enough to gain three pounds.

Try putting out bowls of festive dried fruits as well. Most supermarkets sell selection boxes that include raisins, sultanas and dried cranberries. But remember, dried fruit might be virtually fat free but they’re still quite high in calories – 100g of raisins contains 272 calories.

Alternatively, keep a box of dates on the table. Counting up the stones will help you keep track of how many you’ve eaten.

A big bowl of satsumas in the kitchen can catch your eye before you lean into the fridge to devour yesterday’s left overs.

A few parties won’t pile on the weight, if you get out for an hour a day to walk or jog it off. It’s a fantastic way of destressing and everyone feels good after a long walk.

Putting on a few pounds isn’t a problem if you get stuck into your activity goals quickly after Christmas.

So relax and enjoy the festive season by keeping a little balance with your health and fitness.

Paula Mee is lead dietitian at Medfit Proactive Healthcare and a member of the Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute. pmee@medfit.ie; Twitter @paula_mee

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