The scary truth about what’s really in your favourite Christmas foods

It’s easy to let your diet balloon out over the holiday period, but if you’re looking for ways to cut down on calories while still enjoying the festive season, dietitian Susie Burrell has some tips for you.

After a challenging year, it is safe to say that for many of us Christmas, and the end of 2020 cannot come quickly enough. As the festive celebrations ramp up, so too does the eating, with Christmas treats inundating supermarkets aisles, tempting us with chocolates, shortbread, mince pies and lots of snacks.

While Christmas foods are a once a year treat, there can still be some major calorie bombs, and a few simple swaps and dietary tricks can ensure you are still about to enjoy the treats of the season for far fewer calories

Christmas pudding

While a small piece of Christmas pudding contains a similar number of calories to regular cake (100-200cal), it’s the brandy butter that we enjoy the pudding with that adds much extra fat and calories.

Considering a hearty pudding served along with a good lashing of sauce will clock in at 500-600 calories, one of the easiest ways to keep your calories under control is to serve you pudding in small individual serves with a little custard or Greek yoghurt.

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Or if you are looking for an even healthier option, opt for a summer fruit-based dessert rather than heavy cake and puddings.

Chocolate nuts

It may seem slightly odd to single out one particular type of Christmas chocolate, but the thing with chocolate nuts is that it’s almost impossible to eat just one or two.

Rather, a handful or more is the standard serve and with an especially thick chocolate coating, you can eat an entire meal’s worth of calories with just 10 chocolate almonds—more than 300 calories and almost 20g of fat!

If you love to keep a supply of chocolates within easy reach at Christmas, serve individually-wrapped chocolates and keep in mind that just two to three equates to 100-150 calories.

Even better, replace chocolates with fresh cherries, which are not only delicious but packed full of fibre and antioxidants for no fat and far fewer calories.


We rarely think about or enjoy shortbread at any other time of year but suddenly this buttery delight is within easy reach any time you make yourself a cuppa.

Made from a mix of white flour, sugar and loads of butter a single piece of shortbread contains as much as 10g of fat and more than 200 calories.

Another festive treat that will give you just as much enjoyment is biscotti, which is made using very little fat and offers the nutritional benefits of nuts and seeds.

A piece of biscotti contains as little as 60-100 calories and just a couple of grams of fat.

Roast pork with crackling

Pork roast is a relatively fatty cut of meat, but when you team it with thick, crunchy skin basted in extra fat and served with gravy made using the dripping, a single-serve of roast pork can contain up to 600 calories and upwards of 40g of fat.

A simple swap to roast turkey breast and gravy made from a lower calorie mix will halve the fat and calories of a roast meal or even better, a swap to shellfish will contain very little fat while packing a strong nutritional punch.

Mince pies

Don’t let the fruit filling fool you, with thick shortcrust pastry, and a sugary filling, a mince pie is not a healthy treat and larger varieties can contain upwards of 200 calories per tart and more than 10g of fat.

If you love a Christmas mince pie, seek out the mini serves where you can, or a much healthier festive swap is to gingerbread. Made with much less fat and sugar, small gingerbread cookies are a much lighter option.

Susie Burrell holds two honours degrees in Nutrition & Dietetics and Psychology. She is especially known for her practical, easy to understand approach to diet, nutrition and wellbeing.