The lead-up to Christmas is a time to eat, drink and be merry! But how many of us will spend it stressed about the festivities and end it worrying about an increased waistline in January?

Here are a few tips to help you out:

Never go to a party hungry – eat a high protein, low fat snack before you go such as hummus and raw vegetables, or chicken and salad. Visit the buffet table once, fill your plate … and NEVER return! Resist friends’ and relatives’ pleas to eat heartily, and avoid standing close to the food table where you just might be tempted to “pick”.

Alternate between an alcoholic drink and a glass of water, or simply dilute wine with soda or sparkling water to make a refreshing and socially acceptable spritzer!

You are not preparing for a siege! The shops are closed for barely one day. Don’t overbuy food – just buy what you really need. Christmas wouldn’t be the same without the traditional “Christmas Fayre”. Eat the same foods, but less of all of them. Treat yourself to smoked salmon, unsalted cashew nuts, almonds and walnuts, instead of chocolates and pastries!

Gift vouchers are a perfect solution for Christmas gifts. They can be bought at the last minute if necessary, need little wrapping, and are easy to post. Expiry dates will take them well into the new year, so your friends and relatives will be remembering your kindness long after the decorations have come down!

Avoid leaving bowls of chocolates, crisps and nuts lying around the house, and make a special effort not to sit next to them when you go visiting!

Go for a stroll with the family after dinner. Sitting down, watching the television or DVDs, and playing board games lends itself to further nibbling.

Attend your regular exercise class if it’s available. Alternatively, go for a swim or a cycle ride. The rest of the family will just have to cope without you for a little while, and you’ll have certainly earned the break!

Finally, remember, it’s not what you eat between Christmas and New Year that does the damage – it’s what you eat between New Year and Christmas that really counts!