Simple Christmas Food Swaps

This post is about a few simple changes on your plate can make a big difference to your health, your waistline and even the amount that you spend on the big day! Keep reading to find out more...

1) Roast potatoes in Goose fat to sweet potatoes in rapeseed oil

Not only does this mean that your serving of potatoes will count towards 1 of your 5 a day (normal potatoes don’t), but you will be seriously boosting the nutrition credentials of this side dish. Sweet potatoes are packed full of beta carotene (vitamin A) not to mention vitamin C, fibre, potassium and B vitamins. They are also lower in calories and roasting them in rapeseed oil is a far healthier option than using traditional goose fat. Rapeseed oil is rich in healthy fats and far better for your heart than the high levels of saturated fat in goose fat.

2)  Christmas pudding to a spiced Clementine sorbet

If you truly love Christmas pudding (and there are a few of us, myself included, who do) then I’d say just go for it and enjoy a small portion of it. If however, like the majority, you end up eating it just because it is Christmas and "that’s what we do!" then why not think again about pudding and go for a lighter, more refreshing option that still retains a little bit of Christmas charm. Clementine sorbet with some cinnamon and star anise flavours or maybe even some lightly spiced crème fraiche to go alongside some orange segments steeped in mulled wine (or similar) syrup. I love to make a mulled wine syrup by gently bubbling away a bottle of red wine together with some sugar, orange slices studded with cloves, star anise and cinnamon sticks. Simmer until thick, let it cool and store in a bottle/jar in the fridge and pour over the sorbet or ice cream or pretty much anything that you fancy!

3) Mince pie to a lighter mince pie

Mince pies tend to be fairly heavy and rich in calories but this is often due to the thick pastry case and top. Here are my top tweaks to lighten up this wonderful festive treat...If you can’t face making your own mincemeat then just buy and tweak some. I like to buy a decent quality jar then stir in 2 grated cooking apples plus some orange (unwaxed) zest and juice, plus a bit of extra dried fruit.  
Now the pastry side of things...Unless you have loads of time which, lets face it, none of us do at Christmas, then don’t make your own pastry but do buy ready made stuff and roll it yourself. This way you can make a thinner pastry case (less calories) and also instead of doing a solid pastry top, you can do a much lighter lattice one or a simple small star in the middle, both of which will use up less pastry and will give you a lighter end result.

4) Wrapped chocolates and roasted nuts to roasted chestnuts

Christmas is often a time of mindless eating and by that I mean bowls of chocolates, nuts, sweets, crackers laid out all over the house ready for drinks parties, gatherings or just general festive eating which encourages us to pick as we walk past. We don’t really "register" this food in the same way as we would a meal that we sit down and eat from a plate with a knife and fork. It is easy to grab several small handfuls of nuts whilst walking past the bowl while thinking about something else. These foods also tend to be calorie dense so why not replace with something that is less calorie dense but, more importantly, requires you to think about the eating... you have to crack the shell and open it up before you eat the chestnut inside.  The effort involved means you are less likely to overindulge - perfect for Christmas!

5)  Eggnog or Baileys to Prosecco

Eggnog and Baileys are both high in sugar, fat and calories so why not try switching to a glass of prosecco which is lower in both fat and sugar, hence a better option.

6) Pigs in blankets to asparagus or dates wrapped in parma ham

The classic sausage wrapped in bacon is a familiar sight but is high in both calories and fat. If you are after a lighter alternative that still makes for a tasty side dish, then why not try either lightly steamed asparagus wrapped in parma ham and then griddled (or just roast these delicious wrapped spears in the oven). Another alternative would be to roll pitted large dates in parma ham... pop these in a gentle oven to heat a little. Both flavour combinations work brilliantly!

7) Sausage meat stuffing to apple and apricot veggie options

Sausage meat stuffing tends to be high in fat (saturated fat) and calories, so why not opt for a vegetarian version which will be lower in fat and calories but really packed full of flavour. Herbs, apple, dried apricot all stirred into a bread base make for a delicious light stuffing that goes really well with turkey.

8) Ditch the turkey skin! No replacement really but doing this will save a lot of fat and calories

9) Brandy butter and rum sauce swapped to crème fraiche

Instead of the traditional brandy butter or rum sauce that seems to accompany everything from mince pies to Christmas pudding... try some low fat crème fraiche - a lighter but still creamy accompaniment to your sweet treats!

So have fun swapping some foods and see what a difference it can make!

Merry Christmas and here is to a healthy and happy 2018.