Many of us, including myself, work hard all year to maintain our health and fitness goals whatever they may be. Being a chef, I love my food, so this is an annual mission for me – avoiding temptation to undo all the good and not allowing my health to become second to the lure of Christmas festivities.
Indulging is a healthy part of life and is only realistic; strict limitations do no body or mind any favours. However, as I do each year, I am still able to follow the healthy path and continue with my health goals during the festive season with a few things in mind.
I’d like to share with you the general rules I follow to stay on the health bandwagon and take the stress out of “bringing a dish”, including healthy ways to decorate dishes in the most nutritious and delicious fashion. You’ll not only feel festive, but you’ll feel fabulous when you find nutrition in the festivities!
Tip # 1 – Focus on Fruit
Avoid a sugar hangover and find sweetness with fruit. Fruit not only brings sweetness to desserts but also provides a good dose of anti-oxidants and fibre. My dish-tips include:
- Poach pears as a dessert; I love them warm or cold served with yoghurt
- A summer favourite of mine is banana ice-cream that I like to serve with Christmas classics such as pudding. Banana ice-cream is so easy to make. All it takes is blending frozen bananas in a food processor until they resemble the texture of ice-cream.
- Another reason I love Christmas is because it’s mango season! Make the most of it and try grilled mango cheeks with banana ice cream and a squeeze of lime – what more could you ask for?
Tip # 2 – New Twists on Old Classics
Personally, I love Christmas traditions so I indulge in them but also sometimes find ways to improve on the old with new, exciting ways that my family enjoy, too.
- Pavlova is a favourite on my family’s Christmas table. For a healthier version, I top my Pav with whipped coconut cream and seasonal fruit, instead of dairy cream. To make coconut cream, place a can in the fridge the night or a few hours before required, open and skim off solid cream into a bowl, whip like cream adding a touch of maple syrup or raw honey. Heaven!
- Another way I tempt family and friends is with avocado mousse instead of traditional chocolate mousse. It’s so good and I have everybody fooled! I make it by blending avocado, banana, raw cacao, water and maple syrup.
- Trifle is an Aussie tradition. My healthy alternative is a delicious chia pudding, which I make using Vitasoy’s Unsweetened Coconut Milk layered with fresh mango puree (it has 1⁄2 less calories than lite milk* and just 55 calories per serve, plus is made using real coconut cream and contains calcium+)
Tip # 3 – Simple Swaps
I have a ‘cheat sheet’ of quick, healthy tips when time is short on Christmas Day and, let’s face it, time is short when you’re preparing a Christmas feast! Simple swaps is all it takes for me to turn a high calorie feast into a healthy one:
- I swap refined white sugar for raw honey or maple syrup
- Coconut oil is great to “set” dishes as opposed to butter
- I swap refined white flour for hazelnut, flaxmeal or buckwheat flour
- Full-fat, creamy and luscious natural Greek yoghurt is a staple in my pantry. At Christmas, replace a dollop of cream with a dollop of yoghurt instead!
- I make beans my binder. Cannelloni beans, chickpeas and red kidney beans are not only delicious, they are also a fibre-rich addition to biscuits and cakes
Tip # 4 – Finding Joy
Above all, Christmas isn’t a time for guilt, whether we indulge or not. Christmas is a time to celebrate and share the love of food with close family and friends. Show your love for food, health and others by putting a healthy spin on your Christmas favourites – you will be sure to find the joy of Christmas and good health will follow!
About Zoe Bingley-Pullin
Zoe Bingley-Pullin’s philosophy is all about eating for a better lifestyle. It’s about enjoying food, being educated about food, and truly understanding how it can increase your health, happiness and performance in all aspects of life. She is an internally trained chef, author, nutritionist and founder of Nutritional Edge, a nutritional consultancy company based in Sydney. In addition, Zoe is currently the co-host of Channel Ten’s Good Chef Bad Chef, with Adrian Richardson.