We’re all hoping to make the most of Christmas this year – dressing up and meeting friends and family in real life.
But while parties and reunions are now only weeks away, there’s no need to panic if your favourite dress or suit is feeling a bit snug.
We’ve devised a simple but delicious healthy eating plan to help you look fabulous, beat the bloat and boost your immune system, while helping you shed a few pounds without even trying.
How it works
This calorie-controlled plan is high in lean protein and wholegrain carbohydrates for long-lasting energy, and packed with vitamins and minerals from fruit and vegetables to help boost your immune system.
Our plan is fast-acting but is not a crash diet. Research shows rapid weight loss is dangerous and doomed to fail.
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Indeed, when people stop an extreme diet, studies show they not only put any lost pounds back on, but often end up weighing more than when they started.
With our clever plan you won’t have to cut out major food groups or ban “bad” foods – you can eat everything so long as it’s cooked in a healthy way and served in sensible portion sizes.
Our meals will fill you up so you don’t feel hungry and tempted to snack on sugary treats, yet still have all the energy you need. Plus you’ll be drinking plenty of water to keep you hydrated and banish bloating.
All of which means your early Christmas present this year will be a healthier, happier, more streamlined version of you
10 easy ways to beat the bloat
- Up your fibre intake Eat plenty of fruit, veg and wholegrains as they help keep your digestive system working efficiently. Food that stays undigested in your system longer than 24 hours can release gases that bloat your tummy.
- Increase protein Research shows that protein keeps you feeling fuller for longer. Even a little bit of protein with each meal and snack can help suppress food cravings.
- Swap beige foods for brown Brown versions of rice, pasta and bread tend to be wholegrain so they are less processed than white varieties and contain more fibre and less sugar.
- Ditch ready meals and fast food As well as being laden with calories, the additives in processed foods ferment in your stomach, producing gas and a swollen belly.
- Skip salt Salt encourages your body to retain water. And it hides in everything, so read labels closely for high sodium content. When cooking at home, use herbs and spices to add flavour instead.
- Don’t blow it with booze Alcohol is the downfall of many a diet over the festive season. While it may be unrealistic to cut it out completely, try to stick to one small glass of wine every other night while on this plan.
- Think about your soft drinks Sipping fizzy drinks, even so-called “healthier” brands, will add unnecessary extra calories so are best avoided. The same goes for diet versions because artificial sweeteners can trigger bloating. Your main drink should be water – eight glasses per day. You can also drink unlimited herbal teas, but stick to two cups of standard tea or coffee per day.
- Boost good bugs A probiotic supplement or daily yogurt drink such as Actimel can help improve digestion and banish bloating. Some studies have also found they can help boost your immune system to ward off infections and food poisoning – both of which are more common at this time of year.
- Chew slowly It’s not just what you eat, but how you eat it – better chewed food is easier for your stomach to break down. Eating slowly also gives your body time to feel fuller, so you will ultimately eat less.
- Snooze to lose It can be easy to burn the candle at both ends at Christmas, but try to get enough sleep – seven to eight hours is ideal – or it can affect your waistline. Research shows sleep deprivation increases the body’s levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin, encouraging us to eat more.
The meal planner
Simply pick from the calorie-controlled breakfasts, lunches and dinners below, including two of the suggested snacks per day (men can have three to four if hungry).
Follow the plan for one week or two weeks, depending on how long you have left before your party – and also how much weight you want to lose.
Although health experts agree we shouldn’t aim to lose more than 2lb a week on a longer-term diet, it’s normal to shift more when you first start a diet as your body adjusts to the lower calorie intake.
This means you can safely lose up to 5lb following the plan for one week and 2lb the second week – so 7lb altogether.
Veggie omelette: Two eggs, plus a handful of chopped red pepper and mushrooms.
Mango porridge: Made with 30g oats, 150ml low-fat coconut milk, a handful of fresh mango and a squirt of lime juice, plus 1tbsp chopped nuts and seeds.
Pancakes: Combine 60ml semiskimmed milk, one egg and 30g wholemeal flour, then cook without fat in a non-stick pan. Top with 2tbsp Greek yogurt and a handful of blueberries.
Boiled egg and soldiers: One boiled egg, with a slice of granary toast, plus half a sliced avocado and an apple.
Strawberry and banana milkshake: Blend 250ml semiskimmed milk (or non-dairy alternative) with one small banana and a handful of strawberries.
Egg fried rice: Made with one packet ready-cooked brown basmati rice, fried with two sliced spring onions, a handful of frozen peas and a little soy sauce. Add one large egg, beaten, for the last 60 seconds of cooking, stirring quickly.
Prawn pasta: 150g cooked wholemeal pasta, with 2tbsp tomato and basil sauce (or passata), a handful of cooked prawns, handful fresh spinach and 1tbsp grated parmesan.
Soup and sandwich: Bowl of shop-bought chunky veg soup, plus an open salmon sandwich made with a slice of wholegrain bread, topped with half a cooked salmon fillet (or a small tin of salmon) mashed with lemon juice, plus five halved cherry tomatoes.
Avocado and bacon salad: Made with a grilled rasher of bacon, half a sliced avocado, mixed green leaves, lemon juice and black pepper, plus a pear.
Jacket potato: Sweet jacket potato topped with a small can of tuna, mixed with 1tbsp sweetcorn and 1tbsp natural yogurt.
Easy lemon chicken: A chicken breast baked for 35 minutes with 10 chopped olives, one crushed garlic clove, half a lemon, sliced, and 1tsp olive oil. Serve with roast veg: a red pepper, five tomatoes and half a courgette, sliced, mixed with 1tsp olive oil and roasted alongside the chicken.
Steak and garlic stir-fry veg: 1 medium steak grilled or Quorn pepper steak, served with two handfuls sliced mushrooms, sugar snap peas and broccoli, stir-fried with 1tbsp olive oil, a crushed garlic clove and a little soy sauce.
Prawn curry: 100g raw prawns cooked in a wok with 1tsp grated ginger, three chopped spring onions, 1tsp curry powder, half a sliced red pepper, quarter of a mango, sliced, and half a tin low-fat coconut milk. Serve with 150g brown basmati rice.
Mediterranean cod: Cod fillet, baked with a matchbox-sized piece of mozzarella in foil with chopped basil. Serve with two handfuls steamed new potatoes, plus unlimited carrots, broccoli and green beans.
Meat-free chilli: Cook half an onion, thinly chopped, with a chopped red pepper, five mushrooms, a chopped carrot, and a can of tomatoes, plus 1tsp chilli powder and 1tsp cumin. Cook for 20 minutes, then add half a can of kidney beans. Serve with half a mashed avocado and 1tbsp natural yoghurt.
1⁄2 sliced avocado with one slice of ham
Sliced apple with 1tbsp peanut butter
Plain yogurt, small pot
Handful cherry tomatoes with matchbox-sized piece of mozzarella cheese
Carrot sticks with 1tbsp houmus
Two oatcakes with cream cheese
Small handful of almonds, peanuts or Brazil nuts
Scoff or swerve
Swerve: Pigs in blankets
Scoff: Asparagus wrapped in parma ham
Sausages wrapped in bacon are a party favourite, but contain 19.3g fat and 289 calories per 100g. Switch for parma ham wrapped around steamed asparagus instead. High-fibre asparagus helps boost digestion and 100g contains just 13 calories. Add four slices of parma ham and you’re still under 10g fat and 136 calories in total.
Swerve: Port and stilton
Scoff: Brie and red grapes
Stilton cheese is seriously indulgent with 100g containing 413 calories and 36g fat. A glass of port is an extra 165 calories. But swap for the same sized portion of brie, with 330 calories and 27g fat, and pair with a handful of grapes, and you’ll shave off a third of your overall calories.
Go for 50g cheese and a larger portion of grapes, and you will halve the calories.
This indulgent blend of sugar, cream, rum and vanilla tastes like Christmas in a cup, but contains 335 calories and 10g fat per serving. Trade for a 125ml glass of prosecco and you’ll only be consuming 80 calories and zero fat. Plus, according to University of Reading research, drinking a glass of the Italian bubbles lowers blood pressure and could even reduce your chance of stroke.