Make it a happy and healthy Christmas

PUBLISHED: 13:14 28 November 2008 | UPDATED: 15:37 20 February 2013

Yakult Smootie

Yakult Smootie

Over-fed, over-tired, over-wrought...Christmas doesn't have to be that way. Just follow our festive survival plan and you'll see in 2009 in tip-top shape! Words by Petra May

Yes Christmas is fun. Yes Christmas is a time for a teensy bit of over-indulgence. But when it starts affecting your health the fun falls as flat as that half glass of champagne you found behind your desk after the office party. You don't want to weigh in at New Year carrying an extra 5lb, you want to avoid the traditional hangover, and you're not too keen on the annual family squabble over the TV controller on Christmas afternoon. Here's how to survive!

Beat the bloat.

The British Dietetic Association has calculated that the average adult gains 5lb (2kg) over the Christmas period, that's not surprising when you learn that the average adult Christmas dinner contains a hefty 7,000 calories. That's fine if you can easily lose the extra weight afterwards but too many of us end up not quite losing that weight and adding to it, year after year.

Our tips:

  • Rather than tucking in to the family size box of chocolate assortments (with just a handful containing an average of 258 calories) keep the fruit bowl near you and reach for a Satsuma instead of that last purple Quality Street.
  • If you're a real chocolate addict, opt for dark chocolate (60-70% cocoa solids) - its intense flavour and bitter taste usually means you don't want to eat as much!
  • Don't go for a Christmas fry up. You can still treat yourself with a healthy option of smoked salmon (a good source of omega 3) with scrambled eggs (packed with vitamins and protein) on wholemeal toast.
  • Christmas dinner is your perfect opportunity to work towards your five-a-day portions of fruit and veg - so make sure you load up on Brussels sprouts and carrots as they are full of antioxidants.
  • When it comes to puddings, if you're going for a traditional Christmas pudding, then for a healthy change why not try custard made from skimmed milk or even fresh fruit as an alternative to brandy butter. You could be looking at almost a 50 per cent reduction of fat content (16.3g) and a total of 448 calories.


Christmas is extremely stressful and anyone who says it isn't hasn't ever attempted to prepare, cook and serve the perfect Christmas dinner and made sure every present has been bought, wrapped and labelled and smiled serenely at all and sundry in the mad effort to ensure that everyone has a nice time.

Our tips:

  • Relax! Take a deep breath and remember Christmas doesn't have to be perfect it just has to be fun!
  • Plan your days. Make a list of the things you need to do that day - it does help concentrate your mind.
  • Think of Christmas dinner as a glorified Sunday roast - how hard can that be?! Decide what time you are going to eat on Christmas Day and work out your cooking plan (most good cookbooks have a timed guide to preparing the feast).
  • Delegate - it's all part of a sharing caring Christmas.
  • Learn to say 'no'. You know that saying - if you want something done ask a busy person? Well that busy person is the one who can't say no and what the saying doesn't say is that busy person is stressed to a frazzle.
  • If it's not done now, it's not going to get done, is a useful mantra to live by.
  • Take a break - even if it's only for 10 minutes. Just close your eyes and listen to some relaxing music. It is important to take time to re-charge your batteries.
  • Banish the blues with a spot of exercise. You don't have to get down to the gym but if you're feeling tired, sluggish and a bit down in the dumps a walk in the fresh air is the best way to banish the blues.
  • Last but not least, don't drink too much! It will spoil Christmas for you and everyone else!

The demon drink

Alcohol is great for wheeling the oils of a social occasion. It helps you relax and loosen up. But, of course, as we all know alcohol has its downsides.

Our tips:

  • Drink small glasses of wine. Glass sizes in restaurants and bars have grown over the last decade, and now some large glasses of wine are the equivalent of one-third of a bottle. Opt for a small glass.
  • Buy shandies and spritzers. You reduce the alcohol content while still getting to taste your favourite drink.
  • Go for low-alcohol drinks. Premium lagers and ciders can contain almost twice as much alcohol as normal alternatives.
  • Opt out of rounds. Don't feel you have to keep up with your friends. You can always buy a round in which you don't get one for yourself.
  • Keep a drinks count. You might be surprised how much you drink over a night.
  • Have something to eat with your drinking, this helps to slow down the alcohol absorption (although all the alcohol eventually gets absorbed into your bloodstream)
  • Alcohol-free days. Give your body a break by having at least two alcohol-free days a week.

Box Text: Instant Pick-Me-Up <+ PICTURE>

Kick start your festive day with a healthy smoothie alongside your breakfast.

Mixed Berry Smoothie

Blend together -

1/2 cup of semi or skimmed milk

2 scoops of low fat frozen yoghurt (strawberry or vanilla if possible)

140 grams of finely chopped raspberries and blackberries

1 small ripe banana

1 bottle of Yakult

BOX TEXT: Christmas Diet Maths

Traditional festive treats

Healthier alternatives

Calorie saving

Sweet Sherry 136 kcal (175ml)

Dry Fino Spanish sherry 96 kcal (175ml)

40 kcal

Small Packet of crisps 181 kcal

Eight sesame rice crackers 60 kcal

121 kcal

Cream liquors (eg, Baileys)

Kcal 130 (37g serving)

Grappa or limoncello

75 kcal (37g serving)

55 kcal

2 tbsp double cream

269 kcal

Low fat Greek yoghurt 63 kcal

206 kcal

A handful of chocolate assortments 269 kcal (5 pieces /40 grams)

A handful of unsalted almonds 122 kcal

(26 pieces/ 28 grams)

147 kcal

A portion of trifle

437 kcal

A portion of satsumas in brandy 150 kcal


A slice of Christmas cake

646 kcal

A slice of Italian panettone

300 kcal


BOX TEXT: Christmas medical cabinet


You can't beat good old Alka-Seltzer. The aspirin will kill the headache and it does 'settle' the tummy. Or you could go for hair of the dog, a plate of eggs and of a glass of Dioralyte or Rehiydrat to replace your lost salts caused by dehydration - the reason you've got the headache in the first place.

Bad breath

Yuck. Take your mouth hygiene seriously to avoid an embrassing faux pas under the mistletoe - brush, floss and use a tongue cleaner. You could also try Aloe Dent Fresh Breath Therapy which contains aloe vera, anti-bacterial tea tree oil, peppermint and menthol (£3.49, 30ml from Holland & Barrett).


Make sure you have your inhalers topped up and ready to go just in case. Dusty decorations and artificial trees are a potential trigger for asthma attacks at this time of year. Asthma UK suggests washing or wiping decorations down before putting them up and shaking artificial trees outside to shed dust before displaying.

Sore throat

They're usually caused by a virus and will resolve in three days.
A severe sore throat, that lasts over three days could be a symptom of tonsillitis or laryngitis and you should see a doctor - even then the chances are it's a virus. Take pain relief and throat lozenges. Try Sambucol's range of cold and flu products, which contain blackberry extract (£8.49 for a pack of 30).


All the stress of the preparations can provoke tension headaches.
Over-the-counter treatments containing paracetamol, such as Panadol, are gentler on the stomach than other pain killers.

Cold sores

Cold winds, flu and tiredness can trigger an attack of the unsightly, painful sores on the mouth. Formulations such as Zovirax cold sore cream containing aciclovir, can be helpful. Zovirax is £5.99 for a pump, or £5.65 a tube from Boots, which has its own brand Avert, £4.98.


Chilblains - itchy red swellings usually on the toes - are caused by the skin's abnormal reaction to cold. If the skin is not broken paint them with a mixture of friar's balsam and a weak solution of iodine, which a pharmacist can prepare.Boots Chilblain cream, £2.25.


Feeling bloated, uncomfortably full or having a lot of wind often result from large portions of rich, spicy food. Rest your stomach and take an antacid. Zantac, £11.29 for 48 tablets, can help prevent or reduce heartburn or acid indigestion.

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