The concept of a healthy Christmas may seem foreign; after all, traditional Christmas foods like roast pork with crackling, plum pudding with brandy butter, Christmas mince pies, shortbread and chocolate are not light on kilojoules or fat. The concept of Christmas ‘treats’, however, can be easily redefined. When we think of a ‘treat’ we tend to think of it as my dictionary defines it: “a source of special delight or pleasure”. While chocolate, cakes and pastries may fit this description, so do many healthy foods. Foods like salmon, prawns, glazed ham on the bone, turkey, a succulent fillet of beef, nuts, berries, cherries, mangoes, melons, figs, fresh asparagus and avocadoes are “a source of special delight and pleasure” to most people and are foods that are every bit at home on a Christmas menu as the traditional fare that reflects our English heritage. Concentrate on these foods and you will have delighted and satisfied guests. Enjoy small portions of chocolate, cake and dessert as well, but as trimmings to these delicious foods, not as the main players.
Healthy and delicious Christmas meal ideas
- Bowl of mixed berries with crème frâiche or yoghurt
- Poached or fresh pears, peaches, nectarines, apricots or apple with waffles or pancakes and Greek yoghurt
- Grilled mushrooms, tomatoes and asparagus with multigrain toast
- A toasted bagel with scrambled eggs, smoked salmon and grilled tomatoes
- Vegetable frittatas made in muffin tins
- Fresh fruit salad with lemon yoghurt and toasted almonds
- Bircher muesli topped with mango and blueberries
- Fresh asparagus rolls
- Green salad with smoked salmon, hard-boiled egg, cold potato slices, semi-dried tomatoes, capers and green beans; dress with balsamic vinegar and olive oil
- Sliced ham on the bone with seeded mustard, ciabatta bread, avocado, tomato slices and red onion
- Greek salad of cucumber, feta, tomato and olives
- Roast vegetable salad made from leftover roast vegetables, feta, cooked green beans and toasted pumpkin seeds
- Bruschetta topped with rocket, pear slices, blue cheese and walnuts
- Roast turkey, lamb, beef fillet or pork (one is sufficient – too much choice often confuses the enjoyment)
- Whole baked salmon – stuff with lemon slices, dill and almonds and bake in foil on the BBQ or in the oven; serve with a bowl of light sour cream mixed with horseradish
- BBQ meats – kebabs, steak, lamb cutlets or lean gourmet sausages
- Seafood and fish – grilled, barbecued or baked (keep these simple to enjoy their delicate flavours)
Delicious side dishes
- Medley of roast vegetables; drizzle with honey or maple syrup and balsamic vinegar
- Roast vegetable salad – potato, pumpkin, kumara, yams, parsnip, beetroot, baby onions can all be roasted in advance, then cut up and dressed to make a salad; toasted pumpkin seeds make a delicious garnish
- Vegetable kebabs – thread pieces of kumara, courgette, mushrooms, pineapple, red onion and cherry tomatoes onto skewers and barbecue
- Corn on the cob – barbecue in its husk or wrapped in foil
- Fresh fruit and marshmallow kebabs – kids love these
- Pavlova or meringue crushed and mixed with lemon yoghurt, blueberries and walnuts and served in individual glass bowls
- Mango jelly garnished with fresh raspberries, strawberries and blueberries
- Ice cream Christmas pudding made by mixing brandy-soaked dried fruit in softened light ice cream and then freezing in a pudding bowl
- Bowls of roasted nuts, muscatels and figs
- Chocolate-covered strawberries – mix of white chocolate, dark chocolate and plain strawberries
- Smoked salmon fillet with crackers or ciabatta bread slices, extra-light cream cheese, lemon slices and fresh dill
- Hummus or salsa with vegetable sticks
- Bread cases filled with a mixture of cottage cheese, feta, spinach and chopped sun-dried tomato
- Mini pikelets topped with extra-light cream cheese, smoked salmon slices and capers
Useful holiday foods that can be bought well in advance
- Mixed dried fruit – for Christmas cakes and puddings.
- Dried apricots, prunes and figs – perfect as a snack or nibble. Great on platters or soaked for a dried fruit compote.
- Olives – lovely on their own with drinks, on platters or in salads.
- Sun-dried tomatoes – these are great on their own, on bruschetta or ciabatta bread (eg with light cream cheese and avocado) or added to a salad.
- Jars of artichokes – these can jazz up a salad or antipasto platter. They are great also on pizza or bruschetta.
- Capers – these are particularly nice with salmon or in niçoise-type salads. Mixed with a jar of pasta sauce, they make a delicious and simple sauce for pasta.
- Cranberry sauce/mint jelly/redcurrant jelly/horseradish cream, gourmet chutneys, quince paste, turkey glazes – these are great to have on hand to jazz up meats, sandwiches or barbecues.
- Fillet of beef, racks of lamb and gourmet sausages – pop some in the freezer, they can be easily pulled out if unexpected guests arrive.
- Gourmet salad dressings – team up with a ready-to-go supermarket salad for an easy meal or accompaniment.
- Cans or pottles of smoked oysters or mussels – ideal for nibbles platters.
- Vacuum-packed bacon and smoked chicken – can be easily used as the basis of pasta and rice dishes, pizzas and salads.
- Ice cream and frozen yoghurt – keep in the freezer and add to fresh berries for an unbeatable summer dessert.
- Frozen berries – fresh blueberries are often expensive and hard to come by. A handful of frozen blueberries added to fresh strawberries are both decorative and delicious.\
- Biscotti – they are delicious with a cup of tea or as a simple dessert with fresh fruit.