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  • Writer's pictureJane Michell

Christmas without the calories – is it possible? by Jane Michell

Jane Michell founder of Jane Plan the UK's leading weight management system gives us some great advice on how to enjoy a happy, healthy and fun festive season!

The party season seems to start earlier and earlier every year, so it’s no wonder many of us step on the scales in early January and see that we’ve ‘mysteriously’ gained a few lbs, and sometimes much more. The mince pies, chocolates, party buffets and panettone start to build up well before the main event, Christmas Day, and they linger for at least a week after. In fact, evidence suggests that on Christmas Day itself, on average we eat 3500-4000 calories more than we need, which is more than enough to add a pound of fat. And that’s just one day! It’s therefore not a surprise that the average person in the UK gains around 6lbs during the festive season.

I’m not advocating that we should be forbidding any festive foods, but a bit of smart damage limitation, that won’t spoil the festive feeling or fun, may make your self-talk a bit sweeter when you first step on the scales in January.

Don’t stock up too early for Christmas

Don’t be tempted to stock up on the festive foods in late November or early December – instead hold off. Why? Because the potential of eating them before Christmas is huge. And then you’ll have to go back out to the shops, spend more time and more money – and the chances are you’ll eat them all

again – doubling up your calories!

Be a savvy shopper

We all know what happens to Christmas leftovers – we eat them! So, make a list before you shop and only put on it what you actually need. You’ll mitigate the risk of having a house full of food – that you are almost certainly going to eat!

Don’t overeat out of politeness

We all know the feeling, but the feeders among our friends and family are determined to make sure we eat even more, it is Christmas after all. Make sure you have a strategy in place before you go to an event of how to say ‘no more thank you’.

Make your own……

Dips are a key part of any festive fun. By making your own using low fat yoghurt or crème fraiche you’ll eat less calories and reduce your saturated fat intake too. Even better go for tomato salsas! Rather than

serving crisps and nachos, make crudites like cucumber, celery, sweet peppers and carrots – they’ll look gorgeous and will provide a wide range of nutrients and fibre! Have a go at making your own mince pies using filo pastry instead of shortcrust, puff or flaky. It’s lower in calories and fat. Or leave the pastry lid off completely and save 40 calories per pie. The Jane Plan hub is packed full of healthy Christmas recipes – check them out here.

Go mini!

If you don’t have the time, or the energy, to cook, look out for mini versions of your favourite foods such as Christmas puddings and mince pies. An average supermarket mini mince pie is c 100-150 calories, the

usual size is almost double.

Step away from the sweets

And maybe the nuts too! Not sitting right next to a bowl of nibbles may seem obvious, but it’s all too easy to pick away and not notice how many you’ve eaten until you see the wrappers piling up next to you, or the empty bowl by your side. Think one small sweet won’t count? Think again, there are c 10,000 calories in a 2kg tin of Roses.

But nuts are good – right?

Yes, they are, but they are also high in calories. Buy nuts in their shells, like walnuts, Brazil nuts and hazelnuts and use a nut cracker – you’ll be so busy cracking the nuts you’ll actually eat less of them.

Pile up the tangerines

Not only do they look gorgeous they are also packed with vitamin C and virtually fat free. They’re a great decoy to the other less healthy treats lying around the house. Choose a tangerine over a mince pie, slice of yule log or Christmas cake and save at least 200 calories.

Buffets are sooooo tempting

Don't hover, stand or constantly drift towards the buffet table - you'll end up nibbling or munching on tasty morsels and quickly forget just how much you've eaten. The easiest way to control the amount you eat is to fill your plate just once and then move away from the food.

Choose carefully!

Avoid pastry items such as sausage rolls, quiche, vol-au-vents and spring rolls. And steer clear of anything that's been deep-fried, such as crispy wontons or battered prawns. Skipping the garlic bread, crisps and peanuts will save loads of calories - as will avoiding anything that comes with mayo or soured cream such as coleslaw, potato salad and creamy dips. Instead, opt for lean protein like smoked salmon, fresh prawns, salads without mayo, crudités, breadsticks, salsa and tzatziki.

Strategies for canapes at Christmas

If canapés or nibbles are constantly being offered to you while you're chatting, avoid the temptation by keeping your hands full. A napkin in one hand and a glass in the other should do the trick. Alternatively, keep your hands busy by taking plates of canapés or snacks around for other guests.

The cheese board (and calories)

Whilst totally delicious and moreish, cheese tends to be high in saturated fat as well as calories – to give you an idea a Christmas classic like Stilton has around 123 calories for just 25g. So, if you are going to tuck into the cheese board be mindful of the calories and accompany your cheese choices with

celery, figs or grapes – as opposed to bread or crackers, and this will help reduce the overall calorie intake. And when the big day finally arrives you can still enjoy it without breaking the

calorie bank!

My 12 top tips for Christmas Day without calories

1.Don’t smother the turkey with oil, butter, or goose fat.

Use a pastry brush to add a light covering of oil rather than pouring or spooning it over. Remember, just 1tbsp oil contains 100 calories and 11g fat!

2. Before tucking into your meal, remove the skin from the turkey.

Just 15g contains a massive 70 calories and 6g fat.

3. Pile your plate high with traditional seasonal veggies like red cabbage, carrots and Brussels sprouts. The more colours you have on your plate, the greater the variety of nutrients. Finally, don’t serve veg smothered in butter. Just 1tsp will add 35 calories and 4.1g fat to your meal.

4. Use less fat to roast potatoes and parsnips.

Parboil them first, then brush lightly with oil rather than pouring straight from the bottle. Pop them into the oven and you should have delicious, crispy roasties that aren’t loaded with oil. Keep them in large pieces, too, as this reduces the amount of fat they absorb.

5. If you’re going to use the meat juices to make the gravy, drain off any fat first.

6. Make your own stuffing with chopped chestnuts as they contain just 2.7g fat per 100g. It’s a better option than sausage meat, which provides around 32g fat per 100g!

7. Beware of all the extras such as cranberry sauce and bread sauce.

Allow 25 calories for 1tsp cranberry sauce, 40 calories for an average serving of bread sauce made with semi-skimmed milk and 20 calories for 1tbsp white sauce made with semi-skimmed milk.

8. If you have room for Christmas pudding have just a small serving.

An average 100g portion contains a massive 330 calories and 11.8g fat.

9. Surprisingly you might be better off opting for a dollop of cream on your Christmas pudding as opposed to brandy butter or custard but limit yourself to just one tablespoon. Even better use a low-fat crème fraiche.

10. Watch what you drink! Check out the Jane Plan guide to alcohol to help you make informed choices and remember -will power is soluble in alcohol.

11. And when it comes to the left overs……..instead of fatty, high calorie meals like Bubble n squeak or coronation turkey, make a delicious meal like turkey soup and a simple turkey salad.

The most important tip festive season however is to relax, enjoy, have fun and spend these precious moments with your loved ones.

Happy Christmas and lots of love to you all

Jane xxxx

Jane Michell is Founder of Jane Plan the UK's leading weight management system.

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