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!