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Fruit: how to stay in trim over the festive season

Shape up for Christmas: Staying slim and fit in the run up to Christmas is never easy. Cold weather starts to bite and creates the temptation to comfort eat, not to mention excessive drinking at parties and dinners out.

Claire McGlynn is a dedicated 400m/800m track athlete, and an Elverys Sports POWER team leader. She offers her secrets to keeping weight off during the festive season without having to deny ourselves too many treats.

She says: "No diet alone will make you lose weight. The most effective way to lose weight and be healthy is to exercise while cutting back on the amount of food you eat.

"As most of us won't diet at Christmas time, exercise is essential. However, you must take things slowly -- do not suddenly start into a hard-core exercise regime if you're not used to it. If you currently do no exercise, start with at least 30 minutes, three times a week."

Claire feels many people have become obsessed with calorie counting and don't pay enough attention to the nutritional value of food products. For example, something that has just 100 calories and only 1g fat could still be loaded with 20g of sucrose (refined, white sugar).

If you eat starchy carbs (potatoes, pasta, breads) or sugary carbohydrate foods (biscuits, sweets, syrups, jams), which are all high in calories before bed, than they will get stored as fat.

Claire says: "Many people are unaware that a certain amount of fat is good for you. Good fats are found in certain fruits, fresh meat, fish, eggs, nuts and oils.

"So free range, organic meat/ poultry is a better option this Christmas. Omega-3 fats are good fats which most people lack. Bad fats are found in butter, lard and processed meats.

"Stop, or really cut back on using butter in your cooking this season.

"Drink 1.5-3 litres of water a day -- your brain can mistake thirst for hunger, so many people who are dehydrated tend to eat unnecessarily."

>anna coogan