Entertaining over The Festive Period You.By Dietitian Juliette Kellow BSc RD

Posted by Samantha Rentz on December 26th 2012
  • When it’s your turn to entertain, use it to your own calorie advantage. Simply prepare meals and snacks the low-fat way and stick to the same healthy eating rules that you follow for the rest of the year. And bear in mind that it won’t just be your waistline that will benefit – your friends and family will also be thanking you come New Year!

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  • Know Your Nibbles


More often than not, it’s the festive between meal nibbles that pile on the pounds rather than meals themselves. Gaining 1lb of fat is as easy as eating around 70 chocolates from a selection box – that might sound a lot, but a couple of handfuls every day soon adds up. If you don’t want to pile on the pounds, then follow these simple tips.


  • Leave Stocking up until Last Minute


Don’t be tempted to stock up on too many festive foods before Christmas starts – you’ll simply start eating them earlier and then buy more. There’s also the potential to be left with loads of goodies – and you know you’ll only find one way to get rid of them!


  • Make Your Own


Make your own low-fat dips using reduced-fat crème fraiche, low-fat natural yoghurt or fat-free fromage frais. Add a variety of seasoning’s such as lemon juice, black pepper, fresh herbs and spices. Meanwhile, serve them with vegetable crudités or breadsticks rather than crisps or tortilla chips.


  • Don’t Nibble While Cooking


It might be tempting to nibble while you’re preparing meals for family and friends. But it’s all too easy to work your way through almost as many calories as the meal itself. Avoid the temptation by keeping your mouth busy with a piece of sugar-free chewing gum.


  • Low Fat Nibbles


Buy low-fat versions of favourite nibbles, such as crisps and dips. No one will ever know the difference – just remember to hide the packaging!


  • Have a Go


Have a go at making your own mince pies using filo pastry instead of shortcrust, puff or flaky. It’s lower in calories and fat than the other varieties – plus you’ll use less of it. Check out the chart below.

Pastry per 100g (uncooked)


Fat g

Filo 304 2.7
Puff 401 25.6
Flaky 424 30.7
Shortcrust 453 29.1


  • Tarts


If you don’t fancy experimenting with filo pastry, simply make mince tarts instead of pies. Leaving off the pastry top will save around 40 calories and 3g fat.


  • Mix Mincemeat


Slash the fat content of ready-made mincemeat by mixing it with a little stewed apple before using it to fill the pastry cases. It tastes good, too.


  • Low Fat Versions


Look out for lower fat versions of your favourite foods such as Christmas pudding, Christmas pudding and mince pies. Alternatively, simply downsize. Many supermarkets now sell mini mince pies that contain just 100-150 calories each, rather than the usual 200-250 calories each. Okay, they’re gone in just a few mouthfuls, but at least you won’t have missed out.


  • Watch Out for Leftover Calories


Don’t use leftovers to create fatty, high-calorie meals such as bubble and squeak and coronation turkey. Instead, make delicious low-calorie meals such as turkey soup, turkey curry with brown rice or simply serve with a jacket potato and salad.


  • Healthy Turkey Sandwich


When it comes to the notorious turkey sandwich, make it healthier by using wholegrain bread spread with a little fat-free cranberry sauce rather than butter, choose breast rather than dark meat and pile on the salad.


  • Hunt Out Low Fat Recipes


If you like to make your own sweet treats such as Christmas cake, Yule log or trifle, look on the Internet or in books for lower-calorie recipes. Often it’s as simple as replacing regular ingredients for lower-calorie versions. For example, for a low-fat trifle use reduced-sugar jam on the sponge cakes, sugar-free jelly, fruit canned in juice rather than syrup, make the custard using skimmed milk and decorate with low-fat aerosol cream.


  • Fruit for Snacks


For a low-calorie seasonal snack, choose a satsuma or tangerine rather than a slice of Christmas cake or mince pie. Both these fruits are packed with vitamin C, are virtually fat free and contain just 20 calories each.


  • Go Nuts


If you can’t resist the odd handful of nuts, mix unsalted nuts with raisins. Each handful will contain fewer nuts, and therefore less fat. Alternatively, buy nuts in their shells such as walnuts, Brazil nuts and hazelnuts. You’ll be less likely to overindulge if you have to use a nutcracker every time you want to overindulge.


  • Festive Fruits


Put out bowls of festive dried fruits – most supermarkets sell selection boxes that include raisins, sultanas and dried cranberries. But remember, dried fruit might be virtually fat free but it’s still quite high in calories – 100g of raisins contains 287 calories. Alternatively, keep a box of fat-free dates on your coffee table. Counting up the stones will help you keep track of how many you’ve eaten! Allow 15 calories per date.


  • Christmas Cake


If you can’t resist a piece of Christmas cake, remove the icing and marzipan and just enjoy the fruit cake. You’ll save 60 calories and 1.5g fat.


  • Savoury Snacks


Swap crisps, savoury snacks and peanuts for breadsticks – they’re more satisfying and much lower in calories and fat. For variety, choose those flavoured with herbs, sesame seeds or poppy seeds. Most breadsticks contain around 20-25 calories each whereas a handful of crisps provides 40 calories and a handful of peanuts contains a staggering 300 calories!


  • Olives and Onions


If you don’t fancy breadsticks, replace crisps and nuts with bowls of pickled onions, gherkins and olives. They’re virtually calorie free – but remember to get olives in water rather than oil to keep the fat content down. And remember they’re just as salty as savoury nibbles.


  • Sweeties


Pick your sweets carefully. Large tins of chocolates may be a fixture in most people’s houses at Christmas but they’re guaranteed to leave you with a spare tyre. A 2kg tin of Roses, for example, contains just under 10,000 calories and around 500g fat! That’s enough to gain 3lb! Instead opt for sweets with a low fat content such as fruit pastilles, jelly beans and boiled sweets. Take a look at the chart below.

Sweets per 100g


Fat g

Fruit gums 344 0
Fruit pastilles 327 0
Real Turkish delight 403 8.6
Marshmallows 327 0
Boiled sweets 327 0
Jelly beans 365 0.2
Peppermints 392 0.7
Toffees 426 18.6
Assorted filled chocolates 460 18.8

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