‘Tis the season for office parties, Christmas get-togethers with family and friends and impromptu drinks and canapés with neighbours, which for many means overindulging on alcohol, high calorie treats and rich Christmas nibbles.
It’s estimated that some people will eat an astonishing 6,000 calories on Christmas day alone, that’s three times the recommended daily energy intake for a woman and two and half times that of a man.
What’s more, according to DrinkAware, alcohol consumption in the UK increases by 40% in December, so it’s not surprising that so many start the New Year with an extra few pounds piled on over the holiday season.
Excess alcohol intake (above 3-4 units per day for men and 2-3 units per day for women) can increase blood pressure, raise cholesterol levels, weaken the heart muscle and lead to weight gain, alcohol dependency and depression - all of which may increase your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, liver failure, heart failure and even stroke.
Follow our hearty festive tips with some healthier party snacks and drink solutions to keep your alcohol and calories in check this Christmas and keep the pounds in your pocket, not round your middle:
Serve up healthy nibbles at your Christmas get together such as vegetable crudités, mini wholegrain bread sticks, low fat dips, unsalted nuts with dried fruit and bite-sized fresh fruit pieces like pineapple, mango and blueberries on cocktail sticks.
Dress bruschetta or blinis with thin slices of cold turkey and a little cranberry sauce or a combination of low-fat cream cheese and smoked salmon topped with a curled sliver of lemon or lime.
Buy packs of small plastic party glasses and fill with low-fat chocolate mousse topped with a small dollop of natural Greek yoghurt and raspberries or cranberries.
Drink alcoholic beverages in smaller glasses and pace yourself when out with friends by alternating alcoholic drinks with soft drinks or sparkling water.
Give yourself an alcohol cut-off time or offer to drive so you can have a night off from the booze.
Mix red wine with orange juice or cranberry juice and add cinnamon and spices to make a healthier mulled wine and fill your house with a delicious Christmassy aroma.
If you’re buying canapés for your party, check the labels for fat, sugar and salt content and avoid those that are mostly coloured red.
Be mindful of portion sizes and take smaller servings to leave room for the extra side dishes or dessert.
Don’t lose out on your some regular activity - wrap up well and tackle the over indulgence with a brisk walk to burn off all those extra calories.
As you near the end of 2014, drink to your health, wealth and happiness, but keep an eye on those units and calorie-laden treats to get the best out of your Christmas and give your heart the best start in the year to come.