12 diet tips for Christmas

1. Get off to a good start
Start by asking yourself what is your attitude towards dieting and Christmas?
Are you the type of person that can cope with gaining weight over the festive season and easily get right back on track with your diet in the New Year?
Or do you find that, if you do gain those extra pounds, it causes you to lose all motivation and you cannot face restarting your diet in the New Year?
You may find that trying to keep your weight stable over Christmas will make it easier for you to continue losing weight afterwards.

2. Be realistic
Ask yourself how long should Christmas really last? Twelve days I thought! It is far easier to recover from a week of Christmas treats than a month of over-indulgence. Be realistic about how many of those Christmas dinners you plan to tuck into.

3. Plan ahead
Planning ahead with the Christmas food shopping can be helpful. Pay more attention to how much food and drink you purchase.
How many of you will there be to actually share in all the festive food, or will you still have three extra tins of biscuits to munch through in January?
It may help to write out a shopping list and stick to it - yes if Santa can do it so can you!

4. What type of food?

Pay more attention to what type of food and drink you buy in for the festive season. Choose fresh and frozen foods over tinned and packet alternatives.
Aim to include plenty of festive fruit and vegetables in your diet such as mandarin oranges and brussels sprouts.

5. Check the label
Make use of food labels to help you choose lower calorie alternatives.
Diet drinks, sugar-free squashes and mineral waters are a useful alternative to alcohol. You could buy sugar-free jelly to use in trifle and light creme fraiche is a good alternative to double cream.
Try low-fat milk and artificial sweetener to make the custard for those mince pies.

6. Avoid 'diabetic foods'
Remember, there is absolutely no need to buy special 'diabetic foods' or those labelled as 'suitable for diabetics'
Many of these foods can be high in fat and calories that will still contribute to weight gain.

7. A few treats
You can still enjoy the usual Christmas treats but keep them to small quantities.A good time to have a treat like chocolate is directly after a meal. Eating on a fuller stomach can help prevent a rapid rise in blood sugars. Eating on a fuller stomach may also mean you take a little less too!

8. Eating out

If you find you are facing endless meals out over Christmas, all need not be lost. Try to keep to two courses, a starter and main course or main course and dessert and avoid extra bread.
Healthier options for starters include melon, soups and salads (easy on the salad dressing).

For your main course avoid second helpings. Choose foods that are boiled, grilled, baked or steamed in preference to fried foods.
Ask the waiter if you can have any dressings, sauces or gravy served on the side so that you can use them sparingly.
Healthier options for dessert are often limited to the fresh fruit salad. Being realistic about how many meals out you have during the festive season can help you decide on how many courses you order!

9. Raise a toast
Alcohol is a rich source of calories and if consumed to excess will make it more difficult to keep those pounds off over Christmas.
Remember to at least stay within the recommended units, which are 21 units a week for men, and 14 units a week for women.
- One pint of beer = two units
- One standard glass of wine = one unit
- One pub measure of spirits = 1.5 units.
Bear in mind that a bottle of wine will contain about six to eight units depending on the percentage of alcohol in it.
In addition to keeping within these recommendations it is important to include some alcohol-free days during the week.

10. Party nibbles
The office party! If you have been invited out for drinks after work or to the office Christmas party, check food will be provided as it is important not to drink on an empty stomach.
Alcohol can stimulate the appetite so watch you are not tucking into too many of the nibbles provided. Alternate every second drink with a diet drink or mineral water or use these and slimline tonics as mixers for drinks.

11. A brisk walk
Exercise and Christmas? Can they be combined? Do try to peel yourself away from the Christmas television screen for a short time each day.
Exercise can help with burning off some of those extra Christmas calories and is good for your blood sugar control too.
Trying to keep up with the housework over Christmas can be a good start.
Fit in short walks after tucking into those Christmas dinners and you can still be home in time for the Christmas movies.
Even the dog is starting to gain some of the festive flab on all those Christmas leftovers - when did you last offer to take him out for a walk?

12. New Year resolutions
Think ahead for the approaching New Year and how about making some New Year resolutions?
You may even find some of the good habits you have adopted this Christmas can be maintained into the New Year for a healthier lifestyle!

Margaret O'Donoghue is senior diabetes dietitian at Tallaght Hospital

Issue December 03