We’re already almost at the end of the first week in December! Time has really flown this year. The first week of December may be a bit early for some people to be thinking about Christmas, and I’m pretty sure some people are pretty annoyed with all this early Christmas season stuff.
We get bombarded with Christmas in October already in the malls! But, advent has started in church and carol services are happening, and well, it’s time 😀
We are going to be spending Christmas with family again this year and I am super excited! I’ve put up our little Christmas tree and I’m already thinking about Christmas meals and dessert.
It’s our second vegan Christmas, so it still feels like we need to really think outside of the box.
At least we have the vegan Christmas mince pies covered thanks to BBC Food. Honestly, though, we got lazy and just bought bottled fruit mince to put into the dough :p They were fun to make… well, my husband mostly made them.
I scooped some of the fruit mince into them and when we were with family, my Mom in law helped out as well and they looked a lot prettier than our first batch.
My Dad in law is diabetic and we can all do with less sugar in our diets, so I’ve been thinking about ways to make Christmas desserts healthier.
Healthy Ingredient Swaps
There are many swaps that you can make that taste just as great, or perhaps different, but in a good way. While it can be a little daunting, I promise you, if I can do it with my disastrous baking skills, you can too!
The biggest thing is sugar. Here are some great substitutes that are still sweet but with added benefits such as vitamins, minerals, fibre, or as in the case of the xylitol or stevia, they simply don’t spike your blood sugar levels :
- Molasses (a bit of an acquired taste, but good once you get used to it)
- Xylitol (as long as you don’t have a yeast overgrowth or are sensitive to sugar alcohols)
There are a lot of other sweeteners, and you may wonder why I haven’t put honey or maple syrup here, but check out this video by Dr Greger on NutritionFacts.org
Dates and blackstrap molasses are the best sweeteners for everyday foods. With the other fruits, you can create tasty dishes that are perhaps not quite as sweet as sugar-filled treats, but still tasty. Just bear in mind that they impart some of their flavours into the end product.
Oil, Butter, Cream
Fats and oils, yes, even “healthy” oils such as olive oil negatively affect blood flow, artery function, and triglyceride levels. This was quite a scary revelation as I often used olive oil or canola oil for their beneficial effects on cholesterol levels.
While they do help to keep your cholesterol levels under control, they turn your blood to sludge!
Having said that, it might not affect everyone in the same way. Here’s a study that was conducted using Asian and Caucasian participants. While Caucasians experienced these detrimental effects, Asians didn’t, or at least not to the same degree.
I’m not sure how it works for people of other ethnicities, but I think we could all use some caution anyway. The nuts and seeds that oils are expressed from are fine to eat in whole food form, it’s just the oil that you need to worry about.
My husband and I use water or vegetable stock to fry and saute our food, and even roasting food in the oven comes out great without oil. When it comes to baking, however, you definitely need that moisture that oil provides. Here’s what to use instead:
- Pureed or mashed fruit
- Milk (yip, even plant milk does the trick)
- Applesauce (unsweetened if you’re avoiding sugar)
- Avocado (you can use avo to make great tasting chocolate mousse!)
But what to do about the cream? Why not try some custard instead?
Are eggs really that bad? I mean, they are so nutritious and if you’re not allergic to them… right? Well, if you consider healthy nutrients with a hefty side of bad cholesterol-raising saturated fat nutritious… Yip, all that talk about saturated fat being healthy… nope, sorry, not true.
Not everyone has a bad time with saturated fat, but definitely, if you are prone to high cholesterol levels, saturated fat is not a good option for you. But what else can you use?
- Ground flaxseeds: 1 tablespoon of ground flax seeds and 3 tablespoons of water makes one egg. Wait a few minutes before using it.
- Chia seeds: 1 tablespoon of chia seeds and 3 tablespoons of water makes one egg. You need to wait 15-20 minutes before using it.
- Banana: 1/4 cup of mashed banana replaces one egg.
- Applesauce: 1/4 cup replaces one egg.
- Silken tofu: 1/4 cup of pureed silken tofu replaces one egg.
- Aquafaba: This is what is left over after cooking beans and is the liquid that you find in canned beans and chickpeas. 3 tablespoons replace one egg white. It can even be used to make meringues!
- Nut butter: If you don’t mind the flavour of whatever nut butter you have at home (peanut butter is a staple in our home) you can use 2 tablespoons to replace one egg.
Healthy Ingredients to Add
Here are a few extra ingredients that lower inflammation and are full of antioxidants, vitamins, and mineral. You probably use some of these when you bake anyway:
- Spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, most spices are anti-inflammatory.
- Chocolate or cocoa
- Carob powder
- Fruit, fresh preferably, but if you go canned, choose the fruit in the juice and not the syrup
It’s Christmas time! Having the occasional naughty treat or pudding isn’t going to completely ruin your health or your weight loss efforts provided you practice some self-control.
If you do have diabetes and need to watch your sugar intake, you can use sweeteners such as xylitol or stevia in place of the sugar.
Whether you are having some Christmas parties at the office or with your friends and family, enjoy this time. Most of all, enjoy Christmas day. Don’t worry too much about being super strict with yourself on these occasions. Just have fun with the people you care about.
Use the 80-20 Rule
80% of your meals should be healthy and nutritious and then the other 20% can be those yummy goodies you have been eyeing. This way you can be healthy and enjoy yourself 🙂
Next week I’ll post some more tips on how to stay healthy this Christmas season without stressing over it. Christmas season is hectic enough without adding extra worries to the pile, especially if you still need to do your Christmas shopping.
I advise you to go the online route if this is the case, because while I’ve never been run over by a shopping cart or squashed into a display, I have a feeling it would really suck.
What are your favourite Christmas desserts?