With the most sociable, yet indulgent, time of year on the horizon the guilt associated with Christmas can cause some stress when thinking about the kitchen antics. Finding stability and balance over Christmas doesn’t need to feel like you are walking on a tightrope. Ensuring jolly season traditions are kept while nourishing our family, friends and communities, with good food and healthy mind-sets can be challenging but it doesn’t need to be boring!
While the words Christmas and indulgence may be synonymous, life is too short not to eat the pudding while drowning in guilt. Christmas and the summer holiday period have a core basis around food; the sharing of food and connections with our family, friends and community.
A strong focus on health and wellness is continuing to permeate our communities. You just need to look around to the multitude of plant based, organic, gluten free, health promoting alternative options in cafes, restaurants and supermarkets. The health and wellness industry truly is expanding, by approximately 6.5% growth each year according to the Global Wellness Institute. Health and wellness goes beyond just being free from disease and illness but more so focusing on a proactive approach to maintain and improve health. While we don’t need to stop the health wheels in motion over the Christmas holiday, we also don’t need to miss out on the Christmas mince tarts (or Pav!).
Some of us have weight concerns, with adequate reason given 1 in 3 New Zealanders are classified as obese. While others are managing health conditions (such as diabetes which affects approximately a quarter of the nation) or immune diseases (such as coeliac disease meaning our diet must be free of gluten). Putting aside longer term health concerns, short-term symptoms can swiftly appear as an abundance of processed food and sugar-laden options are on display for the taking.
Choices such as substituting traditional processed sugars with dried fruits offer an option for sweetness. While many have a negative connotation with dried fruit, they have an abundance of additional benefits being loaded with micronutrients, fibre and antioxidants. Sure, they do offer some punch in the natural sugars, but the glucose and fructose are wrapped in beneficial nutrients we may not otherwise ingest, and certainly won’t with pure sugar. Take raisins for example, they are packed with fibre and potassium, offering many health promoting benefits. They also have a low to medium glycaemic index (GI) value, and a low insulin index meaning we won’t get the nasty sugar spikes as processed high GI sugars promote.
When it comes to food, keeping a holistic view is constructive. Not looking at constituents in isolation but how they are integrated and function in combinations. Dried, and natural, fruits have received criticism for their sugar content as society seems to increasingly place sugar in the spotlight, with elements such as fibre and nutrients being unfairly disregarded. These components alter absorption in the body, slowing it down, and additionally facilitating health in other ways.
With the intention to live our best lives other Christmas, we don’t want you to compromise on taste or miss out on the fun when it comes to food. We have been busy in the kitchen creating some options for you to play with and explore.
Tweaking some Christmas favs, we have swapped out some of the more traditional ingredients:
Try these recipes:
1. Christmas Steamed Puddings
Who doesn’t like a steamed pudding?
2. Fruit Muesli Slice
Using Coconut Nectar Syrup to sweeten these bars gives it a beautiful caramel taste similar golden syrup. Try using this instead of your regular golden syrup for a healthier alternative.
3. Coconut Lemon & Berry Trifle
Dairy free Coconut Lemon & Berry Trifle – instead of sponge cakes, layer it with ginger crumble, dairy free custard and fruits.
4. Vegan Hazelnut Peanut Butter Meringue
Save the brine from your chickpeas next time to whip up a delicious alternative to your traditional meringues.
5. Vegan Gluten Free Christmas Cake
Pulling this vegan gluten free Christmas cake out on to the table will sure be a winner for all – it’s deliciously moist and only sweetened by dried fruit and apple juice.
6. Gluten Free Berry & Coconut Tart
Wow your pals with this Gluten Free Berry & Coconut tart. Plant based gum such as Guar and Xantham gum is needed in gluten free baking to help bind the ingredients together.
*Ministry of Health – Illness Statistics https://www.health.govt.nz/nz-health-statistics