This time of year can be a test of willpower for those of us who are either trying to lose weight, or trying to maintain a healthy weight. With Christmas fast approaching ( really, thanks again for the Facebook posts counting down the days, I really enjoy seeing how little time I have left to get organised) I got to thinking about how I can stay in control this year and not undo all the hard work of the past few months.
There’s a few things I want to focus on in the coming days. Firstly, today we will be looking at some healthy alternatives for Christmas treats. In the lead up to Christmas, we’ll be looking at how to stay focused on goals when everyone around you is stuffing their faces full of shortbread and other delicious high calorie treats. I’ll be talking about exercise and how it can help you through the minefield of family dinners without completely destroying all your hard work. We’ll also look at some alternatives to alcohol (if that’s how you want to roll). And for something mental health related we will practice some diversionary tactics to employ when being asked the awkward questions about why you’re still single, and what ever happened to that nice young man…
Number one priority this Christmas is going to be how you choose to handle it. And there are a few ways.
You can decide to just go hard on the food and booze and deal with the consequences later ( not a fan of this one, but if you are, then enjoy!)
You can do the whole ‘I’ll just ease up for a few days over Christmas’ thing, starting Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and then before you know it all the way through to New Years Day become cheat days. Also, not a fan of this one for the record.
Or you can give yourself a pass on Christmas Day and Boxing Day, eat what you like and get back into the healthy groove the day after. For those of you playing at home, this is what I have chosen as my Christmas game plan ! Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still be having my superfood smoothies for breakfast, because my body actually craves them when I don’t have one, and I still plan on hitting the gym on Christmas Eve and Boxing Day (Anytime Fitness, Caroline Springs) because my gym is awesome and open 24/7 I can pop down there anytime !!
*Gratuitous image of sexy santa with awesome abs*
So lets look at some healthy recipe alternatives to minimise the Christmas damage. Luckily we live in a hot climate, so the first tip is to swap out the fat laden roasts for cold meat, seafood and salads.
Red and White Salad
- 4 cups thinly sliced hearts of romaine
- 2 heads Belgian endive, cored and thinly sliced
- 1 bulb fennel, trimmed, cored, quartered and thinly sliced
- 1 15-ounce can hearts of palm, drained, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
- 1/2 head radicchio, cored, quartered and thinly sliced
- 1 red apple, cored and cut into matchsticks
- 1 cup thinly sliced radishes
- Champagne Vinaigrette, (recipe follows)
- Freshly ground pepper, to taste
- Toss romaine, endive, fennel, hearts of palm, radicchio, apple and radishes together in a large salad bowl. Add vinaigrette and toss to coat. Season with pepper.
TIPS & NOTES
- Make Ahead Tip: Prepare salad without dressing, cover and refrigerate for up to 4 hours. Toss with vinaigrette just before serving.
Per serving: 111 calories; 7 g fat (1 g sat, 5 g mono); 0 mg cholesterol; 11 g carbohydrates; 2 g protein; 3 gfiber; 424 mg sodium; 324 mg potassium.
Nutrition Bonus: Vitamin C (30% daily value).
Carbohydrate Servings: 1
Makes: 2/3 cup, for 8 servings
- 1 shallot, peeled and quartered
- 1/4 cup champagne vinegar, or white-wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground pepper to taste
Whirring this champagne vinaigrette in the blender gives it a creamy consistency. If you don’t have a blender, just mince the shallots, then whisk the ingredients in a medium bowl.
Crunchy Pear & Celery Salad
Crisp pears are tossed with Cheddar cheese and pecans in this delicious salad. For an Italian twist, try a good Parmesan with some toasted pine nuts or to go British use crumbled Stilton and toasted walnuts
Makes: 6 servings, 1 cup each
- 4 stalks celery, trimmed and cut in half crosswise
- 2 tablespoons cider, pear, raspberry or other fruit vinegar
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 ripe pears, preferably red Bartlett or Anjou, diced
- 1 cup finely diced white Cheddar cheese
- 1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted (see Tip)
- Freshly ground pepper, to taste
- 6 large leaves butterhead or other lettuce
- Soak celery in a bowl of ice water for 15 minutes. Drain and pat dry. Cut into 1/2-inch pieces.
- Whisk vinegar, honey and salt in a large bowl until blended. Add pears; gently stir to coat. Add the celery, cheese and pecans; stir to combine. Season with pepper. Divide the lettuce leaves among 6 plates and top with a portion of salad. Serve at room temperature or chilled.
TIPS & NOTES
- Make Ahead Tip: Prepare salad without pecans up to 2 hours ahead. Stir in pecans just before serving.
- Tip: To toast chopped pecans, cook in a small dry skillet over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until fragrant and lightly browned, 2 to 4 minutes.
Per serving: 215 calories; 13 g fat (5 g sat, 4 g mono); 20 mg cholesterol; 20 g carbohydrates; 5 g protein; 4 g fiber; 240 mg sodium; 219 mg potassium.
Nutrition Bonus: Calcium (15% daily value)
Carbohydrate Servings: 1
Citrus Ginger Cake with Spiced Orange Compote
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1/4 cup mild-flavored extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature, separated (see Tip)
- 2 tablespoons freshly grated orange or Meyer lemon zest
- 1/3 cup fresh orange or Meyer lemon juice
- 5 tablespoons chopped crystallized ginger, divided
- 1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
- 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons confectioners’ sugar
- Spiced Orange Compote, (recipe follows)
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Oil an 8-inch round cake pan (see Variation), line with parchment paper and oil the parchment.
- Stir together honey, oil, egg yolks, zest, juice and 3 tablespoons crystallized ginger in a medium bowl. Sift whole-wheat pastry flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl. Beat egg whites with an electric mixer on high in another medium bowl until soft peaks form, 1 to 2 minutes.
- Stir the honey mixture into the flour mixture with a wooden spoon. Gently fold in the egg whites with a rubber spatula until they are well combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
- Bake the cake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edges of the pan to loosen the cake and turn it out onto the rack. Let cool completely.
- Just before serving, sift sugar evenly over the top of the cake and garnish with the remaining 2 tablespoons ginger. Serve with Spiced Orange Compote on the side.
TIPS & NOTES
- Make Ahead Tip: Prepare through Step 4, tightly wrap in plastic wrap and hold at room temperature for up to 1 day. | Equipment: 8-inch cake pan (see Variation), parchment paper
- Tip: To bring an egg to room temperature, set it out on the counter for 15 minutes or submerge it (in the shell) in a bowl of lukewarm (not hot) water for 5 minutes.
- Variation: You can use a 9-inch cake pan for this recipe, but you will get a thinner cake. Reduce the baking time to 25 to 30 minutes. You can find 8-inch cake pans at well-stocked kitchenware stores or online at surlatable.com.
Per serving: 280 calories; 7 g fat (1 g sat, 5 g mono); 42 mg cholesterol; 52 g carbohydrates; 4 g protein; 3 g fiber; 175 mg sodium; 189 mg potassium.
Nutrition Bonus: Vitamin C (80% daily value)
Carbohydrate Servings: 3.5
Spiced Orange Compote
- 8 small oranges, preferably seedless
- 2 cups water
- 5 tablespoons sugar
- 1 vanilla bean
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 whole cloves
- 1 star anise
- Use a 5-hole zester to remove zest from oranges into long, thin, spindly strips (see Variation). Bring water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add the zest to the boiling water and cook for 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to a small strainer (reserve the cooking liquid). Rinse with cold water; separate and drain on a paper towel.
- Stir sugar into the reserved cooking liquid; bring to a simmer. Cut vanilla bean in half lengthwise; scrape the seeds into the sugar water and add the pod along with cinnamon stick, cloves and star anise. Continue to simmer until the sauce reduces to 1/2 cup and thickens slightly, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove from the heat.
- Meanwhile, slice off an end of each orange so they stand upright steadily. In careful sculpting slices, remove all the remaining peel and white pith from the oranges with a very sharp knife. Slice the peeled oranges into 1/4-inch-thick rounds. Remove any extraneous pith or rind and any stray seeds.
- Discard the vanilla pod and whole spices. Stir the zest into the sauce. Layer the orange slices in a serving bowl, spooning the sauce between layers to distribute the zest evenly throughout.
TIPS & NOTES
- Make Ahead Tip: Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.
- Variation: If you don’t have a 5-hole zester, use a vegetable peeler to remove long strips of the outer skin (zest) of the orange. Cut the zest into thin slivers.
Per serving: 61 calories; 0 g fat (0 g sat, 0 g mono); 0 mg cholesterol; 15 g carbohydrates; 1 g protein; 2 gfiber; 1 mg sodium; 140 mg potassium.
Nutrition Bonus: Vitamin C (70% daily value)