When thinking of healthy food, traditional Christmas fare doesn’t automatically spring to mind.
However, it is possible to enjoy some deliciously healthy Christmas snacks and load up on key nutrients at the same time.
Clinical nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares her top five festive snacks.
Prawns in teriyaki sauce
Prawns make great, low-fat canapés. Whilst prawns naturally contain cholesterol they have not been found to increase cholesterol levels in the body. Raised levels are generally caused by a diet high in saturated fats and refined sugars.
Prawns are a great source of protein, containing all the essential amino acids and are also low in calories. Start by mixing up the sauce using brown sauce, soy sauce, chopped ginger and white wine vinegar. Lightly cook the prawns in a little butter with seasoning and serve with cocktail sticks and the sauce on the side for dipping.
Sweet potato wedges
Sweet potatoes are loaded with immune-boosting nutrients and provide a much wider array of nutrients than white potatoes.
They contain beta carotene which produces vitamin A in the body (great for immunity) and vitamin C (also important for immunity and the skin). They are also packed with B vitamins (for energy) and an array of essential trace minerals, which are frequently lacking in today’s diet.
Sweet potatoes can also help with weight loss. They keep your blood sugar levels balanced so you feel fuller for longer and they discourage the body from storing fat.
For a really healthy twist, cook them in the oven roasted in coconut oil: it is one of the best oils for cooking plus it helps provide great energy. Sprinkle a little paprika on the wedges while they’re cooking, for an extra kick.
Why not slice up some kiwi fruit and lay them on a plate to make a Christmas tree shape, add some satsuma segments and add a star at the top cut out from watermelon. These fruity Christmas trees and are a good way to encourage children to eat more of these nutritional powerhouses. It’s also perfect for encouraging adults to eat more too.
Kiwi fruits are loaded with immune-boosting vitamin C and, interestingly, there has been some research showing they can encourage better sleep. It’s thought they may help stimulate our natural sleep hormone serotonin.
Nuts are synonymous with Christmas and many of us will have a bowl on the go throughout the festive season. To be super healthy, caramelised sugar-free nuts are a great alternative to the not-quite-so-healthy roasted peanuts. Go for cashews or Brazils which are high in the mineral selenium – a powerful antioxidant and generally lacking in the Western diet. Or try almonds, which are high in brain-boosting omega-3’s, and you’ll be serving up some wonderful nutritional goodness.
Lay a mixture of the nuts on a heated roasting tray and sprinkle with sea salt. Then lightly sprinkle with some granulated stevia (a natural, no calorie sweetener) and gently roast until the nuts are nicely caramelised. A delicious twist on nuts in a bowl!
Walnuts are high in healthy and essential omega-3 fats and have been found to help reduce blood pressure. For the hummus all you need to do is combine some crushed garlic, a can of chickpeas and the zest of an orange, and whizz in the food processor.
Then add around 100g of walnut butter (readily available in supermarkets) and you’ve created a truly delicious dip to go with crudities. It’s also great served with sliced, toasted wholemeal pittas – wholemeal pittas contain much higher levels of energising B vitamins than the white variety.