The Little Black Dress and Dinner Jacket Guide to the festive season

The Little Black Dress and Dinner Jacket Guide to the festive season

30 November 2016

Christmas fireplaceToday the British Dietetic Association has released some tips for both men and women to enjoy the Christmas period without sacrificing their health.

'Tis the season to be jolly, but for many the Christmas festivities bring with them dread at the prospect of wrecking all of the year’s hard work towards being and staying healthy in just a few, short, party-filled weeks. After all, on average, people gain between 1-5lbs (0.5-2.5kg) over the Christmas period.

To ensure that everyone enjoys themselves this Christmas time and still feels at their best come January, the British Dietetic Association (BDA) lists their top five tips for enjoying the festive party fun whilst maintaining a healthy balance and a healthy body.

The BDA, founded in 1936, is the professional association and trade union for dietitians in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It is the nation’s largest organisation of food and nutrition professionals with over 8,500 members. 

Love your fruit and veg this Christmas…

As the Christmas festivities kick in, our workplaces begin to fill with giant tins of chocolate, generous friends and neighbours give sweet treats as festive gifts, and meals start to expand (along with waistlines) from one to two courses, to four or five, with the addition of creative canapes, and delicious cheese platters. With this abundance of food, it can be easy to forget the basics – including the (at least) 5-a-day recommendation. This festive season, make sure to include at least two servings of fruit and three servings of veg each day and put them on your plate first rather than last. Not only will this provide essential nutrients like fibre, vitamins and minerals, it will also mean you are filling up on healthy food, leaving less room for calorie dense and nutrient lacking items like pastries and sweets. A couple of satsumas have the same calories as a single wrapped chocolate! Find out more about getting your 5-a-day here:

Hot tip: Fill up half your plate at meals times with fruit and/or vegetables.

Fill up before you hit the town!

Got a big night ahead with friends? Or an office party including an all-you-can-eat buffet? Why not fill up on something healthy beforehand and spend your evening socialising rather than eating whatever is on offer? Often buffets are filled with ‘beige’ deep fried pastry treats like samosas and sausage rolls, with few healthy options. Perhaps try eating a filling winter vegetable and bean soup beforehand, or enjoy a fresh fruit and lower-fat unsweetened yoghurt based smoothie? You make the choice on whether to fill up on something healthy ahead of time or be left picking at whatever options are on offer when you arrive.

Hot tip: Eat something healthy and filling before you head out.

Make use of your running (or dancing) shoes…

Exercise is a great way to burn some extra calories this party season and help keep your mind and body fit and healthy. Current guidelines recommend 150 minutes of moderate activity per week (such as cycling or fast walking) and strengthening exercises two or more days a week too (for example yoga or weights). Why not ask some of your friends if they fancy going on a festive walk or run after work one night? You can exercise, socialise and even check out the Christmas lights all in one go! In addition, if you can and it is safe to do so, why not walk to that Christmas party or get off the bus or train a stop early? Not only is this a good opportunity to be active, but you’ll arrive at the party feeling great as well as looking great.

Christmas means the return of classic festive tunes to our radios too. If you find yourself at a fab festive party this year, why not burn some extra calories by getting your groove on to some of your favourite songs? Just remember to keep hydrated with a healthy-choice drink to make up for the warm room and additional levels of activity! Find out more about fluid recommendations:

Hot tip: Use exercise as a chance to catch up and socialise with friends this Christmas season – take a gym class or go for a walk together.

If you’re going to drink, drink aware!

With the Christmas parties comes the inevitable drinks menu, including an endless list of fancy cocktails! Whilst these cocktails look enticing and their creative names and combinations are highly tempting, just be aware that these drinks are often high in calories and very alcoholic. A pina colada for example can contain 300 calories or more, just in one drink! If you are going to drink alcohol, try sticking to a refreshing white wine spritzer (less alcohol and fewer calories) and try alternating your alcoholic drinks with a glass of water or lower-calorie soft drinks. If spirits are still your tipple, try a rum and diet coke or gin and slimline tonic. Also keep in mind that alcohol recommendations for men and women in the UK are no more than 14 units per week, spread across a minimum of three days. Find out more about alcohol guidelines: 

Hot tip: Alternate alcoholic drinks with a glass of water or lower-calorie soft drinks.

Enjoy festive treats, but do so mindfully!

Christmas sees the return of festive favourites to our supermarket shelves, which now have a whole aisle dedicated to them, like mince pies, Christmas pudding and variety boxes. Knowing that these foods are only available for a short time each year can make them even more tempting. Saying that you won’t eat any of these festive treats is unrealistic for most of us – in fact a complete ban is only going to add to their allure. The key to a healthy diet is moderation and portion control so allow yourself to indulge on occasion with a little bit of what you fancy, but do it mindfully. Sit somewhere quiet and really savour the taste, smell and texture of the food – enjoy it and move on, rather than mindlessly snacking on anything that comes your way and regretting it later. Keep in mind portion size too – one serving of cake or pudding is equivalent to the width of two fingers, and that one mince pie is equivalent to one serving in most cases but try to look for mini ones and those without a pastry lid.

Hot tip: Allow yourself time to enjoy festive treats in moderation, and take time to savour the taste, smell and texture of the food. 

Sian Porter, Consultant Dietitian and Spokesperson for the BDA commented:

“Christmas is about fun, friends, family and feasting but it’s all too easy to get carried away, only for everything to catch up with you in the New Year. Avoid making it an ‘eat and drink-athon’ from November to January. You can have your cake and eat it – just not too much and not with custard, ice-cream, cream and brandy butter and a sticky drink just because it’s there, all day, every day.

“Enjoy Christmas Day in all its glory but balance party days with lighter days and use portion control. Get out for a walk to blow away the cobwebs and give yourself a breather from the family and the buffet.

“However you choose to spend yours, the British Dietetic Association wishes everybody a very Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy 2017!”


Save your money and access a whole raft of FREE BDA Food Fact Sheets at including one specifically about weight loss at


For more information / interview requests, please contact the BDA Press Office on:

0800 048 1714


Notes to the Editor:

  • Visit the BDA website at
  • Dietitians are the only qualified health professionals that assess, diagnose and treat diet and nutrition problems at an individual and wider public health level. Uniquely, dietitians use the most up to date public health and scientific research on food, health and disease, which they translate into practical guidance to enable people to make appropriate lifestyle and food choices.
  • Dietitians are the only nutrition professionals to be statutorily regulated, and governed by an ethical code, to ensure that they always work to the highest standard. Dietitians work in the NHS, private practice, industry, education, research, sport, media, public relations, publishing, non-government organisations and government. Their advice influences food and health policy across the spectrum from government, local communities and individuals.
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