A Dietitian’s Survival Guide – Avoiding Overeating

Walking in a Winter WonderlandWhen it comes to the Christmas season, one of the first things that springs to my mind is the delicious food!

For me, Christmas will be a little different this year as we’re spending it in Australia, and many Australians choose seafood, cold meats, or a ‘barbie’ on Christmas day, which will be a new experience for us!

For many though, Christmas is a time for turkey, with all the trimmings, and honestly it’s often a time of pure overindulgence! But, it doesn’t have to be this way.

Three important things to remember:

  1. Christmas day is just another day in terms of eating – if you’ve been working hard all year to get in shape, don’t overdo it on Christmas day, you’ll end up feeling disappointed with yourself. Try to enjoy what you do eat, but in moderation.
  2. Recognise when your body has had enough to eat. If you feel like having second helpings, wait at least 20 minutes, your body needs this time to realise it’s full.
  3. Take time out of your busy schedule to exercise – aim for 30 minutes of activity, at least 5 times each week, despite the holiday season. Exercising can make all the difference in terms of post-holiday weight, and if you can manage to stay active, you’ll already have a head start come 2008.

So, how can you survive the Christmas feasting, without going on a diet in the new year?


If you’re at a party, try not to stand by the buffet table all evening – make your selection and move away. Filling your plate with salads first will mean that you choose a smaller amount of what else is on offer. Opt for meats such as chicken or turkey with the skin removed, or fish, and snack on raw veggies, with a little hummus, guacamole or salsa dips, avoiding the creamier options; unsalted nuts, or fresh fruit are also a good option.

Portion distortion

We often get carried away with our portion size during the holiday season. Remember, the general rule of thumb for dinner plate portions:

  • 50% of your plate filled with vegetables
  • 25% of your plate filled with meat, fish or alternatives
  • 25% of you plate filled with a source of carbohydrate

A deck of cards, or the palm of your hand (excluding fingers) is the recommended serving of meat, fish or poultry (this is 3 ounces). The suggested portion for potatoes is about the size of a computer mouse - pretty small in comparison to what Christmas dinner normally looks like!

If puddings are your thing, treat yourself to a smaller portion, or why not share with someone else? You could also have a little fresh fruit on the side as well.

A note on recipe modification:

  • Grill, bake, poach, steam, microwave or boil foods, rather than frying them, or cooking with added fat.
  • Use fats and oils which are high in monounsaturates, such as olive oil.
  • Try and reduce the amount of salt used in cooking, and at the table, since we already eat more than we need. Add flavour to food with lemon juice, herbs, spices or mustard.
  • Light creme fraiche is very similar to traditional soured cream. It is heat stable and is therefore ideal for use in savoury sauces. You can also serve it on hot or cold puddings instead of double cream.
  • Fromage frais is fresh skimmed cows milk cheese, but is more like a natural yogurt. It is not heat stable and is therefore best used in desserts and dips in place of cream or Greek yogurt.
  • When you feel nothing but cream will do, spoon extra thick single cream onto fruit or puddings instead of double cream. Whip up whipping cream rather than double cream for filling cream buns or cakes.


If you tend to have huge tins of chocolate sweets around the house, place a bowl of fruit, or unsalted nuts next to them also – this way you’ll have to make a choice each time you reach for the chocolates.

This is part 1 of your Christmas Survival Guide, please let me know if there are any topics you would be interested in reading about.

I love this photo – it reminds me of home!

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About Melanie
Melanie is a Registered Dietitian who started Dietriffic in March 2007. Her aim is to make good health attainable and sustainable, without guilt and torture, making her approach popular with those who desire a level-headed approach to good health. Have you got your copy of her free book yet?

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Michael Jenkins December 4, 2007 at 4:39 pm

I agree with this. Many people find it difficult to stay on track over the holiday season. It is important for people who are trying to lose weight to plan healthy alternatives over this period and keep serving sizes to an appropriate amount.


Melanie December 7, 2007 at 10:49 am

Hi Michael – thanks for your comments.

Yes, it’s very difficult indeed to stay on track during the Christmas period, and you’re absolutely right – portion size is SO important.


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