a healthy veg dish for christmas with garlic and bacon shavings on top

It’s the time of the year when we all tend to overindulge, with the classic excuse “It’s the Christmas party season”!  All that over-eating and drinking at Christmas can really pile the guilt (and kilos) on by January, so if you don’t fancy following the latest fad diet in the New Year but want to still enjoy yourself and not feel as if you’ve eaten your body weight in mince pies, try my nutritional survival guide to the Christmas period – some simple tricks worth reminding ourselves of at this time of the year.

According to the British Dietetic Association, on Christmas Day the average person consumes around 6,000 calories – that’s three days’ worth of eating for the average woman, and more than two days’ worth for men.

A lot of that is down to snacks. During the festive season the temptation to graze on bite-sized things all day can become too much, so if you’re buying ready-made snacks, make sure you check the nutrition information and stick to the portion size recommendation, which tells you the amount you can eat in one sitting. No food should be off-limits (it’s Christmas!), but just consider the portion size of whatever you do eat. I assure you, if you’re aware of how many calories are in every handful of peanuts you eat, you’ll think twice before you devour them all!

You could also try making some healthier snacks such as Jamie’s recipe for veg crudités – not only are they better for you, it will make a nice, fresh change from the scotch eggs, sausage rolls and mince pies.

When we think about overindulging at Christmas, what most of us picture is a Christmas dinner piled high. It’s easy to get carried away and it’s not surprising then that research shows people tend to eat more when presented with a large portion of food (British Heart Foundation Portion Distortion, 2013).  There isn’t an official recommendation to typical weights and portion sizes for food, however Bupa give a nice guide to suggested portion sizes of common foods that you’ll see at your dinner table on Christmas day.  All I’d say is, remember to fill up your plate with plenty of delicious veggies (not laden in butter, thank you), the turkey and pigs-in-blankets element of the meal should make up less than one-third of your plate! Alternatively, try a really healthy roast like this gorgeous grilled cauliflower with winter pesto.

On Christmas Day and over the party season I’m sure the alcohol will be flowing freely, but drinking to excess can cause dehydration (that’s the reason for your pounding headache on Boxing Day!). Try alternating soft drinks or water with each alcoholic drink. Jamie has a great recipe for fruit flavoured water on JO.com.

Get outside too!
The period between Christmas and the New Year many of us are lucky enough to have a few days away from work. This is always a good time of year to get out of the house, burn off some of the excess calories by exploring your local park and or going for a run.  This is also a good time to adopt a New Year’s resolutions early on perhaps by taking up a new exercise – use the guilt as an incentive!  I took up running three years ago and my ritual since then is to get out for an early morning run on Christmas day, before coming back to cook up a storm and get the turkey in the oven!  It really works up an appetite, and if you’re tempted by the idea, try out the NHS beginner’s guide to running 5k.

Please do let us know what tips you have to look after yourself this Christmas and what recipes you’ll be trying out to eat well.

About the author

Laura Matthews

Laura is head of nutrition at Jamie Oliver. Her passion for food comes from having cooking lessons at a local college from the age of 10, and the nutrition side from a fascination for how the right foods can fuel the body.

Laura Matthews