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Eating over the festive party season

The Great Christmas Stuffing!

Most Irish households have at least one Mrs. Doyle (Father Ted)  when it comes to visiting friends and family over the festive season… “Ahh go awn, you’ll have a cuppa tea and of course you’ll have a few of these delicious sandwiches…. Oh just look at these buns that are just come out of the oven AND we have just opened a lovely tin of fancy biscuits… Sound familiar?!

The party season kicks into full swing this week.  On average, we will consume around 6,000 calories on Christmas day alone (compared to the recommended daily amount of 2,000 kcal for women and 2,500 kcal for men) according to the British Dietetic Association.  Not only that, the festive period which seems to kick off earlier and earlier each year and extending to the first week of January.  The average person consumes an extra 500 kcals per day, equating to a weight gain of around 5lb by the time we reach the beginning of the New Year.  Here are some handy tips and tricks to ensure the only thing that gets truly stuffed this Christmas is the turkey!

Eat Me!!

Christmas is the time of year when most households have numerous boxes of chocolates, tins of biscuits to hand and cupboards bulging with bottles of wine and spirits.   Just open one box of chocolates at a time rather than having four on the go. Remember that three individually wrapped choc sweeties are equivalent in calories to to one slice of bread with butter and cheese.  Keep the opened box of treats in a drawer and dispose of any wrappers so you are not constantly reminded of their existence… out of sight equals out of mind!!

Forward Planning

If you’re going to eat out, eat small meals in the day prior to and the day afterwards and ensure that you get plenty of exercise that week.   Avoid going visiting friends and relations when you are very hungry, as “Mrs. Doyle” just might twist your rubber arm!  At the buffet table, visit once using a smaller dessert sized plate, avoiding the high saturated fat offerings like sausage rolls and quiche, in favour of cheese & fruit cubes, sandwiches and vegetable crudités.  Sit or stand with your friends away from the buffet table rather than beside the temptations if it makes it easier to resist second helpings.

Office Overload

Don’t be tempted to hoover up your colleagues Christmas chocolates and other tempting offerings. Plan to limit the treat to something equating less than 200 calories each day. Take lots of fruit into work and keep them visible at your desk.

Supermarket Sweep

When going to the supermarket, make a list and stick to it (good advice anytime of the year).  Avoid those aisles of temptation, you know exactly what and where they are.  If you want some festive snacks, try plain popcorn, pretzels and vegetable crudités with light cheese or tomato dip.


Turkey is an excellent source of protein and technically a low fat meat.  Most of the fat that is present in a cooked turkey will be found in the skin.  Why not take the skin off before you tuck in and similar to party chicken wings and chicken legs, remove the skin so you consume less saturated fat and unwanted calories.

Veg Out

At least a third, ideally half of your dinner plate should comprise of a variety of colourful vegetables.  Cook for the shortest length of time possible in the smallest amount of water necessary, steam or microwave to retain more of the nutrients.

Healthy Options

If you want take that little extra step, try roasting potatoes on a non-stick baking sheet and lightly brush with rapeseed oil instead of drowning them in goose fat.  If using meat stock for gravy, let the fat rise to the top then skim off.  Be aware that the average mince pie contains about 250 calories and that’s before it’s smothered in cream or brandy butter.  Balance these with some healthy options, such as seasonal satsumas, dried fruit, figs or nuts.


Alcohol is very energy dense as we all know.  Try alternating your drink with a glass of water or other calorie and sugar-free drinks and if you do enjoy a short with a mixer, stock up on low-calorie mixers and unsweetened fruit juices and be mindful of generous home measures and large glasses!

Food Police!

Dietitians and Nutritionists are definitely NOT the Food Police. Dietitians are normal people, well so we like to think! If you are thinking about your calorie intake, weight or general health over the festive season, some of these tips are definitely well worth considering.  Christmas is a time when we all consume a little more than we usually do and that is absolutely fine.  Focus on the bigger picture; if you are eating a well balanced diet in the run-up to Christmas and quickly return to those good habits in the New Year, then it’s ok to let lose a little!! Merry Christmas…..

Ellen Roche Dietitian & Clinical Nutritionist

Nutri Vive  Nutrition Clinic –  Kilkenny & South East of Ireland
For all of your professional nutrition advice
Contact (087) 680 2248

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