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How to get calorie-wise before you indulge in festive treats

Do you know how many calories are in your mince pies? Or what about your champers? Resident dietitian Orla Walsh has six simple ideas to keep your intake down this Christmas

Christmas is a foodie's favourite time of the year, where eating good things plays a central role in the celebrations. However, it's also a time where overindulgence is common. This doesn't have to translate to weight gain. It's a case of damage limitation. Simple steps can go a long way to reducing the impact festive celebrations have on your waistline.

1. Drink up

With the arrival of January comes the advertising of products suggesting you require help to detox your body.

However, these products are misleading as your liver and kidneys are constantly ridding the body of harmful or excess substances.

To help your body detox ensure you are adequately hydrated. Most women require at least two litres of water each day while most men need at least 2.5 litres.

As we're all creatures of habit, why not get into the habit of drinking a large glass of water 30 minutes before each meal.

This means that our meals act as a reminder to drink more water and, for added benefit, research suggests that it helps with weight loss.

Considering Christmas is a time when many eat too much, drinking a pint of water before each meal is likely to help prevent weight gain during this festive period of plenty. On the colder winter days, why not switch this to a large herbal tea.

2. Control what you can control

There's no point in worrying about elements of your life that you have no control over.

For example, you can try your best to make a healthy choice when out for dinner but the meal that is placed in front of you may not meet your healthful expectations.

It's more challenging to eat well when dining out during the Christmas period.

However, every other meal eaten during this time is within your control.

Having a healthy breakfast at home and making your own lunch should be a focus.

Do this and at least 66% of your meals are healthy during this time.

As most people aren't out every single night of the week, the few nights you do spend out are the minority, not the majority. Homemade meals will not only help reduce the pounds you gain over the festive period, they will also help save you money.

3. Burn an extra 300-500 calories each day

When you eat more than you require to make your body function, you gain weight. Doing some extra exercise around Christmas time is a great first step to curbing weight gain.

Although going for a run or heading to the gym is terrific, this exercise doesn't have to take place in a formal setting.

Women often burn five kcal for every minute they walk while men burn about seven kcal per minute.

Taking up walking to work for the month of December can have a meaningful impact on your Christmas weight gain.

For an extra incentive think of the money you'll save on transport. For those who are not in a position to walk to work, why not try going for a 30-minute walk on your lunch break and a 30-minute walk in the evening time?

Every minute is beneficial. Many people find it helpful to track their steps using an app on their phone.

4. Sleep when you can

When sleep quotas aren't being met people are less likely to exercise and are prone to craving unhealthy foods.

This combined with lower mood and energy often results in eating to excess. When out and about and having fun until the early morning, sleep can take a hit.

Ensuring you stick to your nightly routine on all other nights is key to avoiding the negative repercussions of inadequate shut-eye.

For most people this requires charting sleep in the daily calendar to ensure it remains a priority.

5. Don't go to dinner hungry

If you're heading out to dinner why not eat beans, peas or lentils with lunch as they have been shown to increase the feeling of fullness by about 30%.

Making the healthier choice at dinner time is a lot easier when you're not ravenous.

For an extra helping hand drink a bowl of soup before heading out to dinner as the filling effect of the vegetables naturally helps you to eat 20% less.

When you do go out focus on mindfully eating your meal so that you enjoy every mouthful. This will also help you to listen to your body's natural cues telling you when you have had enough to eat.

The most important factor in this is to give your body time to hear the "satiety reflex'' and put down your knife and fork down between mouthfuls.

6. Know your treats

Food as a treat is a very individual thing. Some people are more savoury while some have a sweeter tooth.

Know what treats are worth it. Eating treats you don't really like is wasteful. Get to know your treats.

Use the table (below) to see what is worth it and what is not.

Guide to Christmas calories


  • 1 finger Christmas cake 200kcal
  • 1 mince pie 240kcal
  • 1 serving pudding 350kcal
  • 2 scoops ice cream 140kcal
  • 2 tbsp clotted cream 175kcal
  • Apple tart 430kcal
  • Black Forest gateau 355kcal
  • Cheesecake 440kcal
  • Trifle 255kcal

Snacks and treats:

  • 1 chocolate 75kcal
  • 3 squares milk chocolate 85kcal
  • 3 squares (white) 110kcal
  • gingerbread man 220kcal
  • 4 jellies 85kcal
  • 1 croissant 190kcal
  • 1 pain au chocolat 275kcal

At the office party:

  • 1 cracker 50kcal
  • 1 serving cheese 100kcal
  • 30g Bombay mix 140kcal
  • handful tortilla crisps 75kcal
  • 1 spring roll 170kcal
  • 1 samosa 75kcal
  • 1 chicken satay skewer 75kcal


  • 1 pint beer 160-220kcal
  • 1 bottle beer 115kcal
  • 1 pint stout 210kcal
  • 1 pint cider 200-240kcal
  • 250ml glass wine 170-235kcal
  • 125ml champagne 90kcal
  • Irish cream (50ml) 165kcal
  • 1 pub measure gin/vodka/whiskey 60-80kcal

Christmas dinner:

  • 2 slices roast turkey 230kcal
  • 1 slice ham 100kcal
  • 2 Yorkshire pudding 85kcal
  • 2 balls stuffing 65kcal
  • roast potatoes 230kcal
  • gravy 75kcal
  • carrots (boiled) 20kcal
  • parsnips (roasted) 125kcal

Meal total: 930kcal

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