How to Have a Healthy Christmas Dinner (With All the Trimmings)

By Hayley Payne | Thursday 20th December 2018

Last updated on Tuesday 28th July 2020

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In this post, I discuss how to have a healthy Christmas dinner while still enjoying the whole menu. During the festive period, we all know how hard it is to try and keep a healthy spin on your diet. Rather than restricting over Christmas, you can make healthy decisions and take a mindful approach to how you eat. These top tips will help you enjoy the festivities without inches on your waistline.


How to Have a Healthy Christmas Dinner: Portions and Tracking

Portion Control

Portion control is a massive part of balanced eating. I’m not saying to completely avoid anything unhealthy. It’s all about moderation. That is easier said than done at Christmas! When it comes to how to have a healthy Christmas dinner, there’s no need to deny yourself. Here are my tips on how to treat yourself, but in moderation. Keeping an eye on your portions is an easy way to have a healthy Christmas dinner without changing anything on the menu.

Tracking and Balance

My biggest downfall over Christmas is cheese. I love a cheeseboard, and I could honestly eat my body weight in cheese. I do however find that in small amounts I can still satisfy my craving without overindulging. This makes for a healthy Christmas dinner while allowing you to treat yourself!

Portion control can make your Christmas dinner healthy

I always track my food on a daily basis, so I factor in more indulgent foods. This is a useful way to ensure a balance between treats and good nutrition. I will also accompany something indulgent with something healthy. For example, with my piece of cheese, I’ll have some grapes or celery. I might also add lots of cucumber and tomato to a piece of quiche. This makes things both tasty, and nutritious.

How to Have a Healthy Christmas Dinner: Starters and Desserts

We don’t usually eat three courses for lunch, so it needn’t be any different over Christmas. How to have a healthy Christmas dinner without changing the menu? It can be as simple as sticking to two courses.

Whether you choose a starter or a dessert alongside your main meal is your choice. Just ensure your choices are mindful. And again, focus on portion control. Nothing is stopping you from having a piece of gateaux. But just ensure that it’s a small piece and that you’ve balanced it with healthier options. Try adding a side of berries for a vitamin boost with your dessert. This will also make it more filling.

If skipping a course would be a travesty in your family tradition, here’s an alternative tip on how to have a healthy Christmas dinner. Just modify your favourite flavours to be more nutritious instead. For example, instead of that calorie-dense dark chocolate gateaux, have a bowl of fruit and grate some dark chocolate over the top. Starters are more easily modified. Go for a have low-calorie soup or a prawn cocktail minus the sauce.

How to Have A Healthy Christmas Dinner: The Main Course

This is likely the most significant meal you’ll have. As part of how healthy Christmas dinner, I’ll go into a few simple changes you can make to your roast. It’s one of the least difficult meals to modify if you want more nutrition over the festive period.

Load Up on Protein and Vegetables

We all know how important protein is for you. Your body needs protein for it to build and repair your tissues. Your hair and nails are mostly formed with protein. It’s also crucial in maintaining muscle, cartilage and blood.

Make Christmas dinner healthy by loading up on protein and vegetables

Choosing to have more protein on your plate will help to curb your cravings for roast potatoes. And no Christmas main course menu is short of protein! One of my most straightforward tips for how to have a healthy Christmas dinner is to make the most of the high protein menu!

You can also add lots of vegetables as part of your Christmas roast. Speed foods such as broccoli and spring greens are excellent sources of iron. They are also beneficial to your immune and digestive system.

Skip Sausages

If you truly want to know how to have a healthy Christmas dinner, there is one protein source that’s best avoided. Many people often eat sausages as they believe they are a great source of protein. But sausages are also full of processed meat. This means they can contain anything from fat to eyelids.

Sausages contain nitrates. Research from the world health organisation states that these can harm the body if consumed regularly. Sausages also contain high amounts of salt. It’s always important to check the packaging with sausages to have a look at the contents. Sausages with high fat and salt content are a no go.

If you’re a sucker for pigs in blankets, you might want to know how to have a healthy Christmas dinner without skipping sausages. There are healthy alternatives to your regular pork sausages. Chicken or turkey sausages are a good example. They still pack a lot of flavour with half the fat and additives. A simple tip for a healthy Christmas dinner is to make the sausage swap!

Swap for Sweet Potatoes

Often people think to stay healthy they need to completely cut out or avoid food groups. Carbohydrate is usually the first to go, but we need this as part of a balanced diet. When thinking about how to have a healthy Christmas dinner, there’s really no need to avoid carbohydrate. Plus, what would Christmas be without roast potatoes? Instead, swapping some of your carbohydrate sources for more nutritious alternatives. For a healthier roast dinner, trade your regular roasties for some roasted sweet potato.

Swap regular potato for sweet potato for a more nutritious roast dinner

Sweet potatoes are rich in fibre, minerals and vitamins. They are also high in an antioxidant known as beta-carotene. Sweet potatoes count as part of your 5 a day whereas a regular potato doesn’t. Their high fibre content will help with digestion and is linked to the prevention and management of gastric ulcers.

How to Have a Healthy Christmas Dinner: Alcohol

Now we’ve covered food, let’s talk about another thing we indulge in at Christmas – alcohol. I always get asked what the healthiest alcoholic drink is. Many people think that shots contain the least number of calories in them because they are small. This can be the case for vodka shots as vodka is one of the lowest calorie drinks you can have. Sticking to lower calorie drinks is my simplest tip for how to have a healthy Christmas dinner and still be part of the party.

The tastier shots though are not as easy on the waistline. Apple sours, Jaeger and Tequila Rose – some of the most moreish of shots – all are high in sugar. There are 76 calories per 1 Apple Sourz shot. This is all well and good if you only have one! But most of us know they do taste good, hence why we knock around 5 back. If we were to have 5 Apple Sourz shots across the evening that would equal 380 calories. And for us to burn that off, we would have to do a thirty-five-minute run!

Hidden Calories in Alcohol

Typically we also have other drinks between our shots. So, realistically we might have 5  vodka red bulls – around 190 calories per tipple – alongside those shots through the course of a Christmas party. It might make for a great night, but it’s also a total of 1,330 calories. That’s over half of a women’s total recommended daily calorie intake!

To stay healthy over Christmas be aware of alcohol sugar

So, how to have a healthy Christmas dinner and still enjoy the afterparty? It’s enough to be mindful of how many hidden calories are in your drinks. This should help you avoid getting an extra drink even when you don’t need it, just because it’s your friend’s round. A great tactic is to space out alcoholic beverages with low-calorie soft drinks. You’ve always got a drink in your hand, but you’re consuming half the calories.

How to Have a Healthy Christmas Dinner: Happy is Healthy

My final tip for how to have a healthy Christmas dinner – enjoy yourself while you eat it! It’s beneficial to our mental well-being that we take some time off extreme dieting and eating healthy. There’s no better time to do this than Christmas.

Be mindful of what you’re eating, but don’t let it get in the way of the festivities. Christmas is a time of celebration and joy, and mental well-being is just as important as physical. These tips should help you stay healthy and still enjoy yourself!

In this post, we’ve discussed tips on how to have a healthy Christmas dinner. To really give yourself a health boost over Christmas, read our Christmas exercise tips, or find out ways to boost your metabolism over the holiday season.

Hayley Payne


British Gymnast, Injury Prevention Specialist, BSc (Hons)

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