The 5 Christmas party food swaps to keep your waistline AND wallet in check | The Sun

GOOD food is such a huge part of the Christmas festivities, but the costs – and calories – can soon add up. 

December is the ideal time to indulge, but come January, it's often a shock when you look at your credit card statement and waist measurement.

Hpwever, there are savvy ways to stay on top of your health – and it just takes some intent, forward planning, and sticking to your guns.

Meanwhile, UK households are set to be £3billion worse off this Christmas compared with last year as the cost of living cloud continues to linger.

So getting more bang for your buck is more important than ever.

With this in mind, we’ve recruited Melanie Dixon, a registered nutritional therapist at personalised corporate nutrition service Nutrable, for some smart ways to scale down the costs whilst keeping your diet in check.

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1. Swap to a teetotal tipple

According to Drinkaware, more than a quarter of young people are now teetotal. 

The health benefits of cutting back or abstaining – improved mood, sleep and skin health – are just a few of the perks.

And with the latest tax levy on alcohol totting up the price of everything from Prosecco to Peroni, joining the booze-free movement definitely has an appeal. 

Look at how much you typically spend in a month on alcohol, and consider going sober for a while to keep some coins. 

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In December, it's easy to pick up a mulled wine here and an eggnog there, unaware of how much they are adding up.

But if you want to keep your health and bank balance in check, there are lots of tips to help people stay sober – or cut down – at Christmas.

For example, have the intention of asking yourself, 'Do I really want or need this drink, or am I just having it because it is there?'.

Consider events which don't need to be centred around alcohol, like ice skating, Christmas lights and markets, cosy coffees with cake or a trip to see Santa.

When in large social gatherings, plan fun board games or bring your own non-alcohol tipples.

Melanie says: “Nowadays, there are plenty of non-alcoholic options such as non-alcoholic wines, spirits, spritzers or mocktails."

2. Swap to seasonal favourites

Eating seasonally is best for our tummies and our wallets. 

As there’s no need to import from abroad, produce tends to be cheaper.

The nutritional value of seasonal produce is usually higher because fewer preservatives are used to make it last the journey.

Sprouts aren’t just for Christmas Day – you can eat them in the lead-up to the big day.

A 500g bag at Aldi currently totals just 95p because they are in season.

As a low-calorie but high-fibre food, Brussels are a good vegetable to include in your diet to manage weight.

“Brussel sprouts are high in anti-inflammatory antioxidants and fibre, offering many health benefits ranging from digestive and heart health through to maintaining healthy blood sugar levels,” says Melanie.

Clementines are super-sweet in December. They are harder to peel than a satsuma, but are often labelled as 'easy peelers' – a type of small orange which has been engineered to peel easier.

They often feature in supermarket special deals like Asda’s any two for £2, or you can get a bag of 600g for 89p on Tesco Clubcard.

“Clementines are a Christmas favourite, and they are packed with vitamin C to help boost immunity and help you stay well through winter,” says Melanie. 

Other foods in season now are: sweet potatoes, carrots, red cabbage, beetroot, cauliflower, parsnips, apples and pears.

3. Swap to an air fryer

An air fryer is a life-saver in many kitchens in the UK.

But did you know you can in fact cook a whole roast dinner inside one, if it is big enough?

From crumbling puds to turkey in no time, Sun writer Katy Docherty put a Wilko 2.5L air fryer, costing £40, to the test, with incredible results.

While you’ll initially have to buy one – they can range in price, with cheaper ones at £30 – the tabletop cookers could slash your energy bills. 

Air fryers cost less than running an oven – a study by Uswitch found that a 1000-watt air fryer costs 17p per 30 minutes of use.

Research by energy firm Utilita found air fryers cost £55.71 a year on average to run, while an electric cooker came in at £335.57.

They can also help with healthy eating.

Melanie says air frying "requires less oils – just a spoonful will usually do".

There are tonnes of recipes online, including TikTok, to inspire you to cook from scratch more, rather than rely on ready meals or oven food.

4. Swap to homemade canapés

Hosting a Christmas gathering?

There are so many ways you can jazz up healthy yet humble ingredients.

Melanie says: “Fill mini peppers with hummus, cottage cheese or smashed avocado, top cucumber slices with herbed cream cheese.

"Or add cherry tomatoes, sliced peppers, fresh mozzarella balls and basil leaves on toothpicks and drizzle with balsamic glaze.” 

You'll be surprised at how well a warm winter salad will go down, including beetroot, sweet potato walnuts, goats cheese on a bed of rocket with a balsamic dressing.

It doesn’t have to cost the earth, either.

Plates of nibbles are always a surefire crowd pleaser and often work out cheaper (and less stressful) than putting together a full three-course spread.

It's standard for people to over-buy when it comes to Christmas food.

But why not ask people to 'bring a plate' – sharing the costs and leaving people with their own leftovers to take home.

Make sure to make the most of any leftovers that build-up over the festive period.

Think soups with leftover veg and meat bones, pastas using leftover cream, and freeze leftover bits of meat to throw into stews.

5. Swap to pre-snacks

December is typically the busiest month of the year and it can sometimes feel impossible sticking to a strict budget when nights out with friends and work colleagues are filling up your social calendar.

Melanie says: “Eating out can be a minefield of temptation and bad decisions but there are some clever hacks to spending less and making healthy choices without ruining the fun!”

Prep like a pro by having handy snacks in your bag to curb any pre-meal hunger pangs so you don't have a huge blow-out at the table.

Melanie says: “Eat a handful of nuts and seeds or enjoy hummus on oatcakes before you go out to curb your appetite."

Other healthy and satisfying appetisers include cream cheese on rye bread, an apple with nut butter or vegetable crudites with dip.

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Eating a vegetable-based appetiser can also reduce the impact of a carb-heavy dinner on your blood sugar levels, which can slash cravings for dessert.

Melanie says: "At the restaurant, choose menu options like light bites or share a side dish with a friend to avoid over-eating and reduce costs.”

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