We’re thrilled to welcome nutritionist Zoe Bingley-Pullin today to share her health-smart tips on how to avoid undoing all the good work you’ve done throughout the year at Christmas-time. Take it away, Zoe!
We work hard all year to maintain our health and fitness goals whatever they may be. Avoid being tempted to undo all that good and don’t let your health 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, it is possible to continue your health goals during the festive season and find nutrition in the festivities.
Below are my top tips to keep 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. Enjoy!
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:
- Try poaching pears as a dessert; they’re delicious warm or cold served with yoghurt.
- Make banana ice-cream to serve with Christmas classics such as pudding. All it takes is blending frozen bananas in a food processor until they resemble the texture of ice-cream.
- Replace ½ the sugar in recipes with mashed banana or dried fruit.
- Indulge and purchase fresh berries – serve with yoghurt and a sprinkle of spiced granola for crunch, this is enough to satisfy any sweet craving.
- Christmas is 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
Old classics may be tradition in your household, but it’s possible to improve on the old in new, exciting ways that will be sure to get the nod from the both young and old:
- Instead of using cream, top pavlova with whipped coconut cream and seasonal fruit. Place a can of coconut cream 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.
- Make “”bliss balls” the new truffles. Use Christmas as your time to show off your favourite high-protein treats or try my Frozen Mint Cacao Chia Balls (recipe below) – guaranteed to be a crowd pleaser!
- Make classic custard from scratch using good quality milk, eggs and maple syrup, this provides a nutrient dense decadent addition to desserts.
- White Christmas is a favourite in most households and especially with kids, but is loaded with unhealthy fat and sugar – try a healthier version using puffed quinoa, coconut oil and goji berries
- Tempt the table with avocado mousse instead of traditional chocolate mousse – you will have everybody fooled! Simply blend avocado, banana, raw cacao, water and maple syrup.
- Put traditional trifle to rest and instead try chia pudding made 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) .
- Christmas and panna cotta go hand in hand; try my Vitasoy Almond Milk Unsweetened and yoghurt panna cotta as an alternative (recipe below) – I love this Almond Milk as it’s made using Australian grown, non-GM whole almonds and has 98% less sugar than lite dairy milk.
Tip # 3 – Simple swaps
If time is of the essence on Christmas day and you’re well versed in the kitchen, simple swaps may be all you’re after:
- Swap refined white sugar for raw honey or maple syrup
- Use coconut oil to “set” dishes as opposed to butter
- Swap refined white flour for hazelnut, flaxmeal or buckwheat flour
- Replace a “dollop” of cream with a dollop of full-fat luscious natural yoghurt
- Make beans your binder – cannelloni beans, chickpeas and red kidney beans are not only delicious, but are also a fibre-rich addition to biscuits and cakes.
Tip # 4 – Finding Joy
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!
Yoghurt Panna Cotta with Pomegranate and Almonds*
- ½ cup Vitasoy Almond Milk Unsweetened
- 1 vanilla pod, deseeded or ½ tsp vanilla essence
- 2 tsp agar agar
- 1½ cups sheep’s yoghurt (unsweetened)
- 1 pomegranate, deseeded
- ½ cup almonds, roughly chopped
- 1 tbsp agave
- Mint sprigs to garnish
- Place the milk in a pot on the stove and gently heat with the vanilla seeds.
- Stir in the agar and let it dissolve.
- Allow it to cool then whisk in the yoghurt and agave.
- Pour into individual moulds and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.
- In a small bowl mix together the almonds and pomegranate seeds, then garnish with a sprig of mint.
Frozen Mint Cacao Chia Balls*
Serves 20 balls approx.
Time 10 minutes + freezing
- ¾ cup organic cacao powder
- ¼ cup fresh mint, very finely chopped
- 1 cup of coconut oil, melted
- ¼ cup cashew spread or ABC spread
- ¼ cup agave nectar
- 100g almond meal
- 100g coconut flour
- dash vanilla essence
- 1 tsp. cinnamon or chilli powder
- 1/2 cup chia seeds, for rolling
- Mix all of the ingredients together.
- Roll into ball and then cover with the chia seeds.
- Place on a lined baking tray and place in freezer overnight or until frozen.
Note: Remember coconut oil melts when it gets warm, so best kept in the freezer or fridge. You can change or add ingredients to your taste.
*recipes provided by Good Chef, Bad Chef
Zoe Bingley-Pullin is a nutritionist and founder of Nutritional Edge, a nutritional consultancy company based in Sydney. She has a Diploma of Nutrition and is an internationally trained chef and co-host of Channel Ten’s Good Chef Bad Chef, with Adrian Richardson.