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How To Have a Wholesome Christmas Without the Restriction

The carols are playing, drinks are flowing, presents are being wrapped and placed under the tree and the streets are lined with festive lights – Christmas is here! This wonderful time of year means plenty of upcoming social events and feasts to be had.


For many, this time of the year can cause a lot of food anxiety. From endless sweets, more food then can possibly get eaten in one sitting and a little too much alcohol, many worry that our good intentions and health goals will go out the door. But it doesn’t have to be that way. We can enjoy everything the festive season has to offer and still feel good at the end of it. In this blog post, we’ll be diving into how.


What makes it difficult to find healthy food at Christmas time?

Depending on where you go or who you spend time around, Christmas feasts can look a little different. When celebrating with our health-conscious friends, there’s an abundance of healthy food on offer. But more often than not, the Christmas feasts are delicious, yet not so nutritious. Whether it’s a whole lot of BBQed meat, bread and potatoes, hearty but vegetable void dishes like a traditional lasagne, or salads lathered in nasty dressings, it can be hard to fill up on nutritious foods. Not to mention the overflowing table of sweets. We’re not always in control of what’s on offer, which makes it hard to ensure there’s healthy options available.


It also doesn’t help that the shop shelves are lined with junk food and every kind of sugar filled Christmas sweet one can think of. Food companies with big marketing budgets have found their way into almost every home, capitalising on cute Christmas packaging and festive cheer.


What does a healthy Christmas look like?

A healthy Christmas doesn’t mean eating only salads, staying sober and avoiding the festive sweets – really, it’s all about balance. We know that true health isn’t about deprivation or restriction, it’s about focusing on nutritious food and lifestyle practices most of the time, while still allowing ourselves to enjoy our favourite indulgences from time to time.


Trying to stay strictly healthy over Christmas isn’t actually going to be the healthiest thing we can do. This is because it can lead to an unhealthy or obsessive relationship with food. We don’t have to be ‘perfect’ and it’s important to enjoy ourselves. This is how we make healthy living a sustainable and long-term practice, by getting the balance right.


This Christmas, focus on getting plenty of veggies on your plate, but also feel free to enjoy a drink or two and savour your favourite festive dessert.


What does an unhealthy Christmas look like?

An unhealthy Christmas would involve filling up on sweets and drinking far more than your share of alcohol. If you’re waking up with an alcohol or sugar hangover, you know you’ve probably gone too far. Take it slow and enjoy what you do choose to consume.


Just because it’s Christmas, it also doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still aim for the minimum 5 serves of veg per day. Yes, it’s important to have fun, but try not to let all of your health values go out the window. Fill up on the good stuff, then enjoy smaller amounts of the sweets and drinks.


Processed and high sugar sweets (like candy canes) are also a criterion of an unhealthy Christmas. Read on to learn the truth about these stripey little devils. Instead of purchasing store bought sweets, opt for the homemade kind. They may still contain sugar, but at least they’re made with love.


Top 5 Christmas products to avoid and why:

While balance is important, there are some foods that we’re better off avoiding this festive season.


Candy Canes

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A popular Christmas sweet, candy canes are iconic this time of year. While they may look cute, there’s nothing good about their ingredients. Let’s take a look inside:


Ingredients: Sugar, Glucose Syrup, Water, Natural Mint Flavour, Natural Colours (Anthocyanins, Cochineal)


Predominantly sugar, candy canes are your blood sugar’s nightmare! With a whopping 16.9g of sugar per serve, that’s 4 teaspoons of sugar in each cane. And it doesn’t stop there… Did you know that the ingredient ‘cochineal’ is a red food colouring that’s actually made of crushed bugs? That’s right – these candy canes are nothing more than refined sugar and crushed up bugs.


Processed Crackers

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Crackers are an important part of Christmas platters, but there’s definitely better options than the ones that are highly refined and full of additives. Here’s an example of a popular supermarket cracker:


Ingredients: Wheat Flour, Vegetable Oil, Sugar, Salt, Malt Extract (From Barley), Baking Powder, Yeast, Antioxidants (E307b From Soy, E304), Emulsifier (Soy Lecithin).


First, we have wheat flour, which is highly refined and less nutritious than a wholemeal option. Even worse is the second ingredient, the dreaded vegetable oil. Vegetable oils are highly refined and can contribute to inflammation within our body. Despite being a savoury cracker, they also contain added sugar. It may not be a huge amount, but it’s still an unnecessary addition.


Sugary Alcoholic Beverages

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There are a lot of alcohols on the market that contain a ton of added sugar, along with artificial colours and flavours. Most people love a drink or two on Christmas, but try to steer clear from those that have an ingredients list that looks like this:


Ingredients: Carbonated Water, Vodka (12%), Sugar, Food Acid (330, 331), Flavour, Preservative (211), Colour (123, 129).


Aside from the water there’s nothing good in here. Sadly, alcoholic beverages don’t have to show a nutrition panel, which means we can’t determine the exact percentage of sugar it contains. However, based on the taste alone it’s safe to say there’s quite a bit in there. That’s not the worst part though, we can also see preservatives, artificial flavours and colours on the ingredients list. These don’t meet the real food criteria and are something we should keep away from.


Supermarket Shortbread

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If you’re going to enjoy shortbread on Christmas, go for a homemade kind. That way it has just the basics, without all of the additives of the classic store-bought products:


Ingredients: Wheat Flour, Sugar, Vegetable Oil, Salt, Eggs, Baking Powder, Emulsifier (Soy Lecithin), Flavour, Antioxidant (E307b from Soy).


Highly refined wheat flour, added sugar, inflammatory vegetable oil and artificial flavour, need I say more?! If it had just been flour, sugar and butter, it would have been passable, but with these additions it’s one to avoid.


Christmas Chocolate

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At this time of year, classic milk chocolate gets a rebrand with a cute Christmassy theme. But underneath the disguise, it’s still the same sugar filled chocolate. Take a look at the ingredients:


Ingredients: Full Cream Milk, Sugar, Cocoa Butter, Cocoa Mass, Milk Solids, Emulsifiers (Soy Lecithin, 476), Flavours.


Using a more processed form of chocolate, most popular milk chocolates use cocoa instead of cacao. The problem with this is that it’s lacking many of the amazing benefits of cacao. This includes the antioxidants, minerals and mood boosting benefits. Instead, we’re getting a product that’s mostly milk and sugar. In fact, this example is 56% sugar!


Healthy swaps from the GoodnessMe Shop

Now that we know which products to avoid, let’s get to the fun part and take a look at some of the healthy options we have available to us on the GoodnessMe shop. Here are a few we’re loving this festive season:


Healthy Crackers

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With processed crackers off the table, there’s plenty of more nutritious options for us to enjoy. Take the Mary’s Crackers for example.


Ingredients: Organic whole grain brown rice, organic whole grain quinoa, organic brown flax seeds, organic brown sesame seeds, filtered water, organic garlic, organic herbs, sea salt, organic wheat-free tamari (water, organic whole soybeans, salt, organic vinegar).


Non-Alcoholic Spritz

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Split up the alcoholic beverages with some non-alcoholic options like this delicious English Garden Spritz from Naked Life.


Ingredients: Carbonated Water, Sweeteners (Erythritol, Stevia), Natural Flavour, Citric Acid, Apple Extract, Cucumber Distillate, Tahitian Lime Extrac, Ginger Extract.


Nutritionist Review: By Malissa F.
NON-ALCOHOLIC ALTERNATIVE
If you are after a non-alcoholic beverage that is super tasty, sugar free and free from any nasty added ingredients then you need to try this Naked Life English Garden Spritz. This spritz is super refreshing and is the perfect alternative to alcohol. It actually contains less than 8 calories per serving so it's super low in cals but does not lack any flavour. A great drink to share with friends on the weekends.


Healthy Biscuits

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It may not be shortbread but who can go past a good Anzac Biscuit?! These one’s from Gloriously Free Oats are even gluten free:


Ingredients: Gluten Free Flour (rice, potato and tapioca), Pure Steamed Organic Uncontaminated Oats *, Coconut Sugar*, Shredded Coconut*, Brown Rice Syrup*, Bicarb (Aluminium free), Water. * = Organic ingredients


Nutritionist Review: By Shelley M.
THESE GF ANZAC BISCUITS ARE THE REAL DEAL!
Yum, these Anzac Day biscuits are so delicious. My son is absolutely obsessed with cookies and I don't always have time to make them. So, these are always a great alternative. He eats them every time fuss free... so they must be good.


If you have a gluten sensitivity you may also like to give them a try. The oats used in these are uncontaminated, meaning they are one of the very few that don't have traces of gluten. So if you have a gluten sensitivity these may be ok for you, but of course check with your health care provider first.


Good Quality Chocolate

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Ditch the sugar filled milk chocolate and go for a nutritious option instead. This Burnt Caramel Chocolate from Alter Eco gives us Christmas vibes and uses real food ingredients.


Ingredients: *Organic Cacao Beans, *Organic Raw Cane Sugar, Salted Caramel Granulates 15% (*Organic Raw Cane Sugar, Organic Glucose Syrup, Organic Butter, Organic Cream, Water, Salt), *Organic Cocoa Butter, Organic Butterfat, Sea Salt (Fleur De Sel), Natural Flavour.


Nutritionist Review: By Shahna S.
MELT IN YOUR MOUTH DELICIOUS
This Burnt Caramel Chocolate tastes so indulgent and has an amazingly creamy texture. It's definitely one to try for all of my fellow chocolate lovers out there, especially those who are fans of caramel!


Alter Eco are known for their decadent chocolate and are proud to have Fairtrade products. They use high quality organic ingredients and make their chocolate out of real foods. Something I love about this is that their chocolates are good for everyone involved. Good for us as the consumer having a healthier option, and good for the farmers, growers and pickers involved in collecting the cacao.


Good quality dark chocolates bring us the amazing benefits of the cacao bean. Not only is cacao a natural mood booster, it's also packed with antioxidants and is a source of important minerals like zinc, iron and magnesium.


Healthier Chips

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Whether you’re looking to add chips to a platter or just have nibbles for people to snack on, choosing a healthier chip is a great way to go. Especially when we have so many yummy options available to us! The Almond Chips from Temole aren’t your average chips and will leave your guests wanting more.
Ingredients: Almonds (50%), White Beans, Almond Oil, Sea Salt (1%)


Nutritionist Review: By Shahna S.
NEXT LEVEL CHIPS
These next level chips are packed with a nutritional punch! Made up of a combination of almonds and white beans, they're high in protein, healthy fats and dietary fibre. They make for a much more nutritious and filling snack than a typical potato chip and come with the benefits and nutritional profile of almonds.

Almonds are a great source of vitamin E, magnesium and antioxidants, as well as the aforementioned protein, healthy fats and fibre.


These chips are made up with 4 simple, real food ingredients and this is the kind of ingredients list we want to see on healthy snack options. Naturally gluten free and vegan, these chips suit a variety of dietary requirements and make a good occasional snack when you're craving something crunchy and salty.


Recipe Suggestions...

If you’re looking for some Christmas recipe inspiration, we have you covered! Check out some of these nutritious and delicious recipes from the blog:


Hemp Seed Crackers

These easy and nutritious hemp seed crackers are the perfect addition to every platter! Take your platter game up a notch this year and bake a batch of these, you can find the recipe here.

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Festive Cool-Served Zucchini

The perfect entree for your Christmas feast, these cool-served zucchinis are just the right colour palette and taste just as good as they look! Get cooking using this recipe here

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Teff Falafel Lettuce Cups

Not only do these look like Chritsmas, they’re the perfect food to share. Make up a big plate of these Teff Falafel Lettuce Cups and let everyone grab a serve. Here’s the link to the recipe. 

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Spicy Mushroom Risotto

A hearty main meal that’s perfect to share, this spicy mushroom risotto is super flavoursome and is sure to be a crowd pleaser. The full recipe can be found here.


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Crunchy Kale Salad

Get some extra veggies on everyone’s plates this festive season with this colourful kale salad. The satisfying crunch will have everyone licking their lips. You can find the recipe here.

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Berry Cheesecake Bites

No Christmas feast is complete without a delicious dessert, switch the classic cheesecake for this highly nutritious vegan alternative. With berry season here you can also opt to add fresh berries, instead of frozen. Check out the recipe here

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Festive Dark Chocolate Rocky Road

We love a good rocky road and this one is extra festive, check out the recipe for this Dark Choc Rocky Road here

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One of the best ways to help yourself have a healthier Christmas is to take along a nutritious yet delicious dish. Whether it’s one of the examples above, or another one of your favourite festive recipes, if you can contribute something you know you’ll have at least one healthy option to enjoy.


Another fun tip is to get moving this Christmas. So often the festivities revolve around food, but what if we add some exercise into the mix. Whether it’s a walk after lunch or heading to the park to kick a soccer ball around. These double as fun ways to bond with your family and friends, while helping us stay active and digest all of the food we’ve just feasted on.


Most importantly, enjoy yourself this Christmas. The social element of the festive season and coming together to celebrate with loved ones is beneficial in itself. With that said, I’ll end it there – Merry Christmas!

*****

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About the author:
Shahna Sarpi is a qualified nutritionist that is on a mission to help people live a nourished life through real food and healthy habits. She loves simplifying food labels and helping people make healthier food choices. Shahna is passionate about spreading the real food message and supporting people in living a healthy life.

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