Christmas lunch can be tough on the tum, so here are some ways of slimming down the stodge.

TURKEY, plum pudding, mince pies... these are the traditional tastes of Christmas. Trouble is, not every one likes them. They were, after all, designed as a treat for people who ate lightly, sparingly and boringly through the year. We're spoilt. We don't really need the great big festive blow-out in quite the same way.

You can, of course, celebrate Christmas with the tastes of Easter or summer - there are plenty of hot cross buns and strawberry meringues in the shops.

But, being traditionalists, we don't want to be that different and insteadhave looked at variations on a theme. The taste of Christmas without quite so much of the stodge.


Fancy something smaller, lighter...

For those who just want, literally, a taste, you can now get bite-size cakes, well two or three bites, but still tiny.

Purple Ronnie Bite-size Christmas cake with vivid icing 98p (Asda)

Bite-size traditional decorated Christmas cake 99p (Sainsburys)

Marks & Spencer Genoa cake, loaded with cherries and nuts, only a mouthful; but tastes delicious. Very festive £1.28.

For £4.98 Asda do a small but perfectly formed and nicely decorated Christmas cake. Looks the part but will not linger for weeks. Comes in a gift pack with a few posh chocs too so makes a nice present..

Cinnamon stollen star from Sainsburys £4.99. One of our favourites - moist and rich, with very good flavour of cinnamon and rum, but not as rich or as solid as many stollens. Star shape makes it special too.

Betty's Christmas tea loaf £3.25 - an old favourite spiced up for Christmas. Good flavour, but quite light.

Marks & Spencer mini panettone, four for £1.99. Like a very up-market hot cross bun - made with candied citrus peel and citrus oils - and sugar topped. Sweet and different and much lighter than fruit cake.


Don't fancy messing on with the spices? Get your wine ready mulled. In Europe at this time of year, they take a mid-morning mulled wine break instead of a coffee. Or you can just buy it from a pavement stall in the middle of doing your shopping. Very civilised. We're working on a campaign to get it in the vending machines in the office and spread a bit of Christmas goodwill.

We tried some from Sainsburys (£2.99) and Marks & Spencer (£3.99). Both very drinkable - but remember to warm it gently. A wine boiled is a wine spoiled - disgusting.


"Hullo! A great deal of steam! The pudding was out of the copper. A smell like an eating house and a pastrycook's next door to each other. That was the pudding! Mrs Cratchit entered proudly with the pudding like a speckled cannon ball, so hard and firm, blazing in half of half a quartern of ignited brandy and bedecked with Christmas holly stuck on top. Oh a wonderful pudding!"

Don't suppose Tiny Tim and the Cratchit family ever had the chance to get sick of Christmas pudding. If you fancy a change, you might like some variations on a theme produced by Sainsburys this year.

Their orange and panettone pudding (£2.99) is spicy and citrussy. Traditional enough to keep the old guard happy but with a pleasant sharpness that makes a nice change.

The chocolate pudding is very dark and rich - definitely more for adults than children.

But as for the stollen pudding - two spoonfuls of this and you wouldn't be able to get up from the table. It's ridiculously rich, sweet, heavy and would be excessive if you'd just dined on two lettuce leaves and a tomato. After turkey and all the trimmings, it's impossible.

If you have already bought one, then maybe you should keep it for the power cuts or a polar expedition. It could probably keep a small family going for days.

The thought of a diet version of a Christmas pud seems a bit daft really. The whole point of it is excess and if you don't want the calories, well, just don't eat so much of it...

However there are some diet versions, but actually, they're not exactly what you would call slimline.

Weight Watchers' Christmas pudding has 259 cals per 100g; Sainsburys Be Good To Yourself alcohol free, low fat pud has 267 cals per 100g. Marks & Spencer, low fat pud has 300 calories per 100g. Meanwhile Marks & Spencer luxury pud has 320 calories. So if you're trying to save calories, you're not much better off.

And if you, or one of your Christmas visitors, can't eat gluten, wheat, dairy or nuts, then don't panic. Sainsburys and Tesco both have cakes, pies and puddings in their Free From ranges. Most of which are perfectly acceptable.

We particularly liked Tesco's Free From mince pies, which were actually some of the nicest we've bought this year.