The average Irish adult can expect to pile on half a stone over the festive season, as a combination of boozing, over-eating and shunning exercise takes its toll on our waistlines.

Obesity watchdogs have warned that weight gain is all but inevitable mover the Christmas holiday period, as it's the one time of year that even the most health conscious people allow themselves to overindulge.

But health experts said simple measures can be taken to limit the calorie intake, without spoiling the traditional fun associated with the festive season.

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Joana da Silva, the spokesperson for Safefood Ireland, said, "We are certainly not here to ruin people's Christmas.  It's very important that people enjoy themselves, and there are far more temptations around when it comes to food and drink at this time of year than any other time of the year.

"The average adult in Ireland will put on about half a stone over the Christmas period, and a lot of that weight gain is due to the extra drink that is consumed because people go out more at this time of year.  Calorie-wise, drinks are a big thing.  And of course, people are less inclined to exercise at this time of year, because the nights are darker and colder, so that means the extra calories are not being burned off."

Unsurprisingly, da Silva warned that our waistlines receive the biggest hammering on Christmas Day, when a dinner with all the trimmings, plus treats and other meals, can add up to 6,000 calories, nearly three times the recommended daily intake.

She continued, "Most people will consume more calories on Christmas Day than any other day in this period, but there are effective ways to cut down the calorie count whilst still enjoying your meal.

"For example, reduce the size of portions on your plate and if you're eating Christmas pudding, serve it with low-fat custard.

"Starters and snacks are a big thing, too, and instead of ones full of calories vegetables with hummus, or olives with bread, are very tasty, and more healthy options.

"I would also advise people to avoid a fried breakfast on the morning of Christmas Day and to try and drink more water.  Often people mistake hunger for thirst.  If you drink more water, it will help curb your hunger."

Da Silva also advised parents to set a good example to their children by steering clear of chocolate-laden Advent calendars and selection boxes.

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