The great Christmas stuffing

Posted: December 5, 2013

How to eat healthy and enjoy a festive feast

With less than three weeks to go till Christmas Day Dietitians at Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust have put together some handy dietary advice ahead of the big festive feast.


The average person in the UK will consume around 6,000 calories on Christmas Day alone (versus the guideline daily amount of 2,000 calories for women and 2,500 calories for men).  In addition to this, over the festive period, which kicks off earlier and earlier each year, the average person may consume an extra 500 calories per day, equating to a weight gain of around 5lb by the time January 1st comes around.

The Trust's dietitians, working at Great Western Hospital in Swindon, and out in the Wiltshire community have put some tips together in line with the British Dietetic Association (BDA) to help ensure that the only thing that gets really stuffed this Christmas is the turkey.

Rachel Cooke, Dietitian for Trust, based at St Martin's Hospital in Bath said:

"Christmas is a time of festive fun and this often includes celebratory foods. There is no need to feel guilty about eating such food now and again, but the key is really to ensure that these foods remain as treats and don't make up the whole of your dietary intake. Stock up on some healthy alternatives too for some balance.

"This time of year, it is so easy to consume many more calories than normal often without even realising and many people will end up with that over-indulged feeling. Make plans to get yourself and the family active - dancing, shopping and post-meal walks all will help to burn off calories."

Eight handy tips:

Plan ahead. If you are going to eat out, eat smaller meals beforehand and cut out any other treats. Open one box of chocolates at a time rather than having five on the go and put unopened boxes away.

Buffet table surfing. Don't hover by the buffet table and if you do indulge, try and visit only once using a smaller sized plate, avoiding the high saturated fat offerings like sausage rolls and quiche, in favour of fruit, skinless chicken and vegetable crudités.

Office politics. Try to avoid the office communal chocolate and mince pies especially on a daily basis for the whole of December. Take festive fruit like satsumas into work.

Supermarket sweep. When going to the supermarket, make a list and stick to it. Avoid those aisles of temptation. If you want some festive snacks, try plain popcorn, pretzels, and vegetable crudités with a tasty low fat dip.

Big bird. Turkey is a great source of protein and 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?

Perfect portions. About a third of your dinner plate should be vegetables, such as brussel sprouts, peas and carrots. Cook for the shortest length of time possible in the smallest amount of water necessary to keep all the nutrients in. Use the veg water for gravy and any leftover veg for a delicious soup.  These make a great contribution to your five-a-day and they also help fill you up to stop the urge to snack between meals.

Bottoms down. Those who like to indulge in a drink or two, tend to drink more over the Christmas period. Alcohol is very energy dense (7kcal/g versus 4kcal/g for protein or carbs and 9kcal/g for fat). Avoid too many sweet cocktails and creamy liqueurs. Try alternating your drink with a glass of water or other calorie free drinks and if you do enjoy a short with a mixer, stock up on low calorie mixers and unsweetened fruit juices and beware the home measures.

Pie-eyed. The average mice pie contains about 250 calories and that's before it's covered in cream or brandy butter. Christmas is also the time of year when most houses have boxes and boxes of chocolates and biscuits to hand. While we all like to enjoy the odd treat now and then, balance this with some healthy options, such as satsumas piled high in a bowl, dried fruit, figs and nuts.

12 days of health tweets for Santa!

From Friday 13 December on Twitter we will be doing 12 days of health tips for Santa in the run up to Christmas. If you want to know how to eat healthy, stay active and still enjoy the festive season then tune in each day until Christmas Eve.

Follow us at and use the hashtag #haveahealthyxmas. Share your tips with us too!

Healthy leftover Turkey recipe!

Mediterranean Turkey Gratin - British Turkey

This delicious low fat recipe was the winner of the 2013 British Turkey awards Dietitian Recipe of the year recipe, created by Angharad Banner.

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