Roger Love, talks to Matt Lovell, a Hackney-based nutritionist, about how to eat healthily over the Christmas season and still enjoy yourself. Matt has worked with rugby players Jonny Wilkinson and James Haskell, and many sports teams including the England and Georgia rugby sides, Saracens and Manchester City.

What the best way to prepare for the excesses of the festive season? Try and get ahead of the game by being stricter about food and drink and upping your exercise levels before Xmas. The festive season is a time for family and friends, so be sure that if you want to do some exercise, you’ve negotiated it with your partner. Going out for a run on Christmas morning won’t seem so neglectful if you’ve cleared it beforehand! Any extra exercise puts you in credit and means that you will have room for an extra pieces of cheese and cake. You’ll sweat out the toxins from any drinking you may have done the previous night. You can actually start now, with a good drive from now until Christmas you could lose half a stone of fat by then.

Get ahead of the game: Matt Lovell, a nutritionist, shares his Xmas eating tips

Get ahead of the game: Matt Lovell, a nutritionist, shares his Xmas eating tips

What the best food plan? In the holidays, I like to get clients to use intermittent fasting more. So try and go until 2/3pm before your 1st meal. If you train in the morning, which is a good idea, you can have a protein-rich breakfast afterwards then fast until supper time. On Xmas Day, aim to keep to the one big meal and a little turkey sandwich before bed. To be fair it’s a day which should really be the best treat day of the year.

 What are the best Xmas days snacks? Make sure you have some healthy snacks at hand in case the turkey ends up taking too long to cook. Have some raw vegetable crudites cut up and ready to go: carrot, cucumber, peppers and celery, with a tub of hummus or a pot of cottage cheese, and some nuts: walnuts, brazil and cashews. With nuts generally, get ones that are already in their shells as having to crack open the shells will slow down your eating of them, rather than getting a big handful of ready salted peanuts and throwing them back. Choose natural nuts rather than salted or roasted ones. As much as possible, avoid these deadly Xmas foods: Biscuits, confectionary, sausage rolls, pastries and mince pies 

What would you suggest for Christmas Day breakfast? A great breakfast is smoked salmon and scrambled omega eggs, a true omega 3 extravaganza! Keeps you nice and full as well and a good base for a glass of champagne. 

What about alcohol? The key really is to enjoy alcohol in moderation, drink plenty of water in between courses, and go for a walk after lunch. If you are going into a situation where there will be a lot of drinking, then drink lots of water before and after the event. If you can drink water during the party then do so. Light aerobic activity will sweat some of the booze out the following day but this only works if you’ve drunk enough water before hand. So if you are going to do some exercise the following morning then make sure you drink lots before you do. It’s the parties and socials before Christmas which really add up. Doing more exercise to balance these out makes sense.

What are the best drinks to choose? Spirits with lots of diet mixers and white wine spritzers. Try and avoid beer, especially lagers. Support your liver if you are going to drink a lot – milk thistle and dandelion is a good supplement - or get a liver formula from a health food store. Egg nog is probably the worst drink for gaining weight.

Is it ok to eat Xmas pudding? Yes, but leave out the brandy butter – have a little low fat fromage frais, instead. Leave a big gap before you have your dessert. Generally, you’re pretty full after a roast dinner and all the trimmings anyway. Often, I’ll wait a couple of hours before having pudding or dessert. It helps prolong the meal and also balances insulin levels. 

 Can we have cheese? Of course - but have another long break before having your cheese. Eat the cheese with celery grapes and apples rather than crackers. 

Finally, what is the one thing that I could do to ensure I don’t put on fat? Go for a run - or a brisk walk - on Xmas morning and Boxing day morning – start your New Year’s resolutions a bit early.

 Matt can be found on Twitter here @mattlovell and via his website

Roger Love