It’s hard not to love Christmas with the lights, the festivities and the food! But, we understand that it can be a difficult time to remain healthy or manage a balanced diet as Christmas is all about celebrating, eating out, entertaining and indulging. But don’t worry, we’re here to help.

First things first, food, especially sugary food is a big part of celebrating. As we covered in our Celebrating Diwali’ article, sugar and celebrating go hand in hand. And that’s fine – it just needs to be consumed in moderation.

Secondly, a healthy diet includes eating a variety of foods and sugar can be part of that.  Because there are so many delicious things on offer during the Christmas period, our advice would be to  take the time to think about what’s going into your mouth, eat slowly and treasure the taste as opposed to simply gorging through mindless eating. Otherwise, enjoy a range of Christmas treats as part of your balanced diet and don’t forget to watch your portion sizes!

Finally, a common assumption is that Christmas food is always unhealthy but in fact Christmas food is very diverse. While Christmas in various countries originates from Christianity, that’s about the only commonality. Food-wise it’s as varied as it gets! We take a look at some of the Christmas food traditions from around the globe.

Festive foods from around the globe

Meat is a popular choice for many Christmas meals but how it’s cooked varies depending on where you are. The British usually have roast turkey and Americans typically opt for another roasted meat given that Thanksgiving usually involves turkey. Iceland, however, go for something very different with roasted reindeer!

Due to the heat, Australians and New Zealanders choose to barbecue their meat, or have a picnic on Christmas day. Latin Americans like to have tamales – a corn-based dough filled with meats, cheeses, vegetables and spices and wrapped in a banana leaf. While a lamb stew is a tradition for the Egyptians.

In Italy, meat is avoided on Christmas day and fish, in fact seven kinds of fish, take precedence in the Italian Feast of the Seven Fishes. Slovakians also opt for fish, favouring fried carp. Russians prefer dressed herring, which they call ‘herring under fur coat’, as a celebration staple – it’s a layered salad made of herrings, potatoes, carrots, beetroot, onions, boiled eggs and mayonnaise.

Even in South Africa, there’s a real range of Christmas traditions. While there’s the more traditional roasted meat, there’s also barbecued meat and potijie. In terms of treats, some opt for panettone, rice pudding or the western tradition of christmas pudding, while others go for the classic South African dessert of malva pudding. And, nibbles or side dishes range from sambals (a zesty and chili-based condiment with chopped veg), atjar (pickled fruits and vegetables), geel rys (yellow rice) and green bean salads.

As long as you eat these varied traditions as part of a balanced diet and don’t overindulge, Christmas doesn’t have to be an unhealthy period. Instead, use this time of year to try out some new and alternative snacks and treats.

Our delectable Christmas treat suggestions

With this in mind, here are some sweet and savoury treats and snacks that are perfect for Christmas. Whether you’re after an impressive dessert, nibbles to keep those hungry tummies at bay or an after-dinner treat, we’ve got you covered with a selection of our favourites. And, the good news is they are quick and easy to prepare too!

Fruit dipped in chocolate
A very simple yet impressive sweet nibble that makes a great dessert or after-dinner treat. It’s also a great activity to do with friends and family and children love it! You just need a selection of fruit to dip into melted chocolate. If you’re feeling adventurous, start decorating with nuts, chocolate chips, or pipe patterns onto the fruit with a different type of chocolate.
Festive-flavoured baked apples
These festive-looking baked apples are packed full of christmassy flavours and make a great dessert. Make them by coring the eating apples and then stuffing them full of your favourite festive flavours. We suggest raisins, cinnamon, ginger, almonds, cloves and orange zest. Once you’ve filled your apples, bake them in the oven for around 30 minutes or until the apple is soft.
Chocolate bark
Chocolate bark is another exciting treat where you can get creative and children can get involved. Melt chocolate in a double boiler or in a pot over some boiling water. Once it’s melted, smear it over a baking tray lined with baking paper. Then, simply sprinkle on any toppings of your choice. We recommend fruit, like dried banana chips, dried figs, raisins, dates and fresh orange slices, and nuts such as walnuts, flaked almonds, pecans, macadamians and pistachios. You could also try pumpkin, sesame or sunflower seeds, berries, flaked coconut or chopped popcorn. Have fun and experiment to find out what looks and tastes best. You can also spice it up a bit with cardamom, cayenne pepper, cinnamon or dried chilli flakes. Once your decorating is complete, put it in the fridge for 30 minutes to an hour until it’s set and then break it up into pieces.
Date balls
A healthy alternative to petite fours, these date balls look and taste great! Make them by soaking 250g dates in seven tablespoons of hot water. After an hour, remove dates from the water and blend them in a food processor with half a teaspoon of vanilla essence.  If required, add in a little water to make date mixture a little softer. Next, roll them into balls and cover them in desiccated coconut, chopped nuts or a little cocoa powder. Again, you can experiment by adding extras like walnuts, chia seeds, flax seeds, goji berries, cherries or anything else you fancy to the date mixture before rolling it into balls. To finish, leave them in the fridge until firm.
Veg and dip platters
These are perfect for pre-dinner nibbles and it stops guests from filling up on crisps. Another bonus is that they can be prepared in advance. You can also make this platter festive by displaying your vegetables in the shape of a Christmas tree or other Christmas-themed ornaments! Serve your vegetables alongside a range of dips of choice – we like hummus, tzatziki, aubergine dip and sour cream.
Sweet potato and kale crisps
These are another healthy and simple-to-prepare alternative to potato crisps. Chop your sweet potatoes into thin, crisp-like slices and wash your kale. Coat them in a little olive oil and put them in the oven until they have gone crispy – the time it takes in the oven will depend on how thin your vegetables are. Once they look crispy, add a little salt or your favourite spice and serve.

We hope you enjoy these festive snacks and treats and they help to keep your diet balanced and your stomach satisfied! Keep up the good work after Christmas with some healthy recipes for the new year.