8 healthy desserts to help make Christmas a little less sinful
With love from us, to our favourite sugar-monitor Grinches
Asking for healthy treats during the festive season is like having ‘Grinch’ tattooed on your forehead. You are of course the anomaly that is walking through clouds of icing sugar, refusing to take a sniff of gingerbread cookies. You are the buzz kill that is waking up to freshly baked Christmas cake, and instead chewing on your cardboard-flavoured energy bar.
But since December is supposed to be just a month-long feast, peppered with long naps to help you reenergise to be able to eat some more, we decided to gift you your first Christmas miracle of the season. Healthy treats (of the sweet kind) that will help you fit in with the normal sugar-inhaling crowd of the season, satisfy your latent dessert desires and make sure January doesn’t feel like a nightmare where you’re struggling to zip up your jeans.
You know, when it’s time to get back to the grind, pretend to care about your own unrealistic New Year resolutions, and swim in a sea of lauki and karela juices.
You’ve spent all year evading the sugar monster (and everyone else evaded the monster that you became), now imagine what January would be like if you’d spent all of December sticking to your military regimen too? #regrets.
So allow the Christmas spirit to lower your stringent diet standards, and meet us halfway: from fruit and nut truffles, to even a healthy version of a tiramisu, here are eight Christmas-friendly healthy treats that even the fiend who bench-presses through Christmas will enjoy.
Healthy treats that pack in truck loads of joy but not as much guilt
Photo credit: Kindearth.net
Fruit and nut truffles
These bite-sized bits of indulgence ensure you get your fill of healthy ingredients like nuts and seeds. This recipe eschews refined sugar and uses raisins as a natural sweetener.
- 2/3 cup raisins
- Juice of half an orange
- 1 tsp finely grated orange rind
- 1 tsp mixed spice (cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, and ginger mixture)
- 100 g mixed nuts (walnuts, cashews, and pecans)
- 1 heaped tsp ground flaxseed
- 1 tbsp coconut oil
- Desiccated coconut for rolling
- Mix the raisins, orange juice, finely grated orange rind and mix spice in a glass jug and leave to marinate overnight (or for at least 3 hours).
- When ready, give the mix a stir again.
- Add the mix to a food processor (if you don’t have food processor, use a hand blender instead).
- Add in the nuts to the food processor.
- Blend until everything starts sticking together. You need a chunky blend rather than a puree.
- Mix in the ground flaxseed and coconut oil with a spoon.
- Pop some desiccated coconut onto a plate.
- Take dollops of the mixture. Drop into the coconut and then roll into balls.
- They work well if you put them into the fridge for a while before serving them. But, if you can’t wait, serve them right away.
Photo credit: Kajal’s Healthy Kitchen
Raspberry and chocolate ganache tart
Glistening chocolate ganache, with bits of bright red raspberry swimming in it. What could be better than this?
Well, ensuring that you get your fill of nutritious sunflower and pumpkin seeds as you’re transported to heaven while gorging on this healthy dessert is what.
Now you can have your tart, eat it, and not feel guilty while doing it too.
For the tart
- 120 g sunflower seeds
- 15 g pumpkin seeds
- 40 g desiccated coconut
- 65 g cacao nibs
- 175 g pitted dates
- A pinch of fine salt
- 45 ml coconut oil, melted
- 100 g good quality seeded raspberry jam
- 75 g raspberries – fresh or dried
For the ganache filling
- 300 g dark chocolate
- 300 ml tin full-fat coconut milk
- A pinch of salt
- Pumpkin seeds
- Preheat the oven to 200° celsius.
- Put the sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and desiccated coconut on a baking tray and toast in the oven for 10 minutes or until the coconut has turned golden brown.
- Put the hot seeds and coconut into a food processor or blender and add the cocoa nibs, dates, salt and coconut oil.
- Blend on a high speed until the mixture comes together. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and blend again if necessary.
- Tip the mixture into a 23cm tart tin. Using your hands, press the mixture around the tin until it evenly covers the base and side.
- Put the tart tin in the fridge to firm up slightly while you make the filling.
- To make the ganache, melt the chocolate with the milk and salt in a heatproof bowl over a pan of gently simmering water, making sure the base of the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Stir occasionally with a small whisk or spoon until the chocolate has melted and is combined with the milk.
- Take the tart base out of the fridge and coat inside with a layer of raspberry jam. Use the back of a spoon to help you smooth the jam onto the base. Tear the raspberries into pieces and sprinkle them on top of the jam layer.
- Pour the ganache into the tart case to fill almost to the top, leaving a little room for movement when you transfer the tart to the fridge.
- Chill the tart in the fridge for at least two hours to set the ganache.
- To garnish, top with raspberries and sprinkle over some pumpkin seeds and pistachios for extra crunch.
Recipe: Kajal’s Healthy Kitchen
Photo credit: Alev Takil/Unsplash
This is one of those healthy treats that is a rendition of a much loved classic. This recipe swaps out unhealthy elements like cream and refined sugar for chia seeds, prunes and cacao, which are more nutritious alternatives.
- 150 g pitted prunes, roughly chopped
- 1/4 cup Marsala or fortified wine
- 1/2 cup espresso
- 2 tbsp cacao, plus extra to dust
- 1 tbsp freshly ground coffee
- 1/3 cup rice malt syrup, melted
- 1/2 cup white chia seeds
- 400 ml coconut milk
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/3 cup cacao nibs
- Soak prunes in Marsala (or a substitute) and espresso. Set aside for three hours.
- Meanwhile, combine cacao, ground coffee, two tablespoons of rice malt syrup, one-fourth of a cup of chia seeds, 150 ml of coconut milk and three-fourth of a cup of warm water in a bowl. Stir to combine well, then transfer to an airtight container and chill for three hours.
- Place vanilla and remaining chia seeds, two tablespoons of rice malt syrup and 250 ml of coconut milk in a separate bowl and stir to combine well, then transfer to an airtight container and chill for three hours.
- To serve, beat the vanilla and chocolate chia mousse with a spoon to soften. Spoon prunes into four serving glasses. Top with half the vanilla chia mousse, then top with chocolate chia mousse, then finish with a final layer of vanilla chia mousse. Sprinkle with extra cacao and scatter with cacao nibs.
Photo credit: Yulia Khlebnikova/Unsplash
Cutting into a loaf of cake to find little bits of deliciousness scattered across the spongy surface is what Christmas is all about.
In our childhood, those little bits were tutti frutti. But now when we are all grown up, with slower metabolisms, it’s best to replace the gelatinous and sweet tidbits for healthier options like prunes and oranges.
- 1 medium orange
- 250 g ready-to-eat prunes, quartered
- 500 g dried mixed fruit
- 2 tsp ground mixed spice
- 4 large eggs
- 225 g butter, well softened, plus extra to grease
- 2 tbsp milk
- 300g plain flour
- 1tsp baking powder
- Finely grate the orange zest and squeeze the juice. Pour the juice into a measuring jug and top up with cold water to reach a quantity of 200 ml. Pour into a large saucepan and add the zest, prunes, mixed dried fruit and spice.
- Stir well and place over a low heat. Bring to a gentle simmer. Simmer gently for three to four minutes until almost all the liquid has been absorbed, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and leave to cool for 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven by to 160 degrees celsius. Butter and line the base and sides of a 20 centimetre, round, and deep cake tin with two layers of nonstick baking paper, greasing with a little extra butter between each layer of paper to help it stick.
- Whisk the eggs together in a large bowl then stir in the butter, milk, flour and baking powder. Beat with a wooden spoon until smooth. Stir in the soaked fruit until thoroughly combined. Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and level the surface with the back of a spoon. Cover the tin loosely with a piece of aluminium foil.
- Bake in the centre of the oven for one hour. Remove the foil and bake for another 30 minutes or until the cake is pale golden brown and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven and cool in the tin for 30 minutes. Carefully turn the tin in order to remove the cake, peel off the lining paper and leave to cool completely on a wire rack.
Photo credit: Tasty.co
This is one of the healthy treats that will help you travel back in time to family Christmas dinners that would be incomplete without your grandmother’s blueberry pie.
For the filling:
- 3 cups blueberry (300 g)
For the crisp topping:
- 1 cup rolled oats
- 1/2 cup almonds, chopped or slivered
- 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 2 tbsp coconut oil, melted
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 1/4 cup greek yogurt
- 2 tbsp maple syrup
- Preheat oven to 180° celsius.
- Combine dry ingredients of the crisp topping in a bowl. Then add in the wet ingredients and mix until evenly coated.
- Add blueberries to a medium-sized baking dish, then cover with the crisp topping.
- Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until golden brown and blueberries start to bubble.
- Mix together Greek yogurt and maple syrup in a measuring cup. Drizzle over your blueberry crisp.
Photo credit: Toa Heftiba/Unsplash
What looks like a cloud, is as light as air, is crispy on the outside, soft and gooey in the middle, and tastes like magic?
That’s right, a pavlova.
Here is a version that is lower on calories when compared to the classic, but still manages to hit all the right notes.
- 3 egg whites
- Pinch of cream of tartar
- 55g (1/4 cup) castor sugar
- 75g (1/3 cup) raw cast0r sugar
- 1 tbsp raw cacao, plus extra, for dusting
- 300ml thickened cream
- 130g (1/2 cup) thick Greek-style yoghurt
- 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
- 125g punnet raspberries
- 250g punnet strawberries, sliced
- 200g red cherries, halved
- Fresh mint leaves, to serve (optional) (see tip)
- 1-2 tbsp olive oil, to fry (optional) (see tip)
- Preheat the oven to 140 degrees celsius. Trace a 20 centimetre circle onto a sheet of baking paper. Turn over and place on a large baking tray.
- Use electric beaters with the whisk attachment to whisk the egg whites in a small bowl. Add cream of tartar. Beat until soft peaks form. Gradually add castor sugar, one tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition until meringue is thick and glossy and sugar has almost dissolved. Add raw sugar in the same way. Add two teaspoons of cacao and beat until smooth.
- Spread the mixture over the circle on tray. Bake for 55 minutes or until meringue is crisp and pale. Turn oven off and leave the pavlova in the oven to cool.
- Transfer the pavlova to a plate. Place cream in a large bowl and whip to firm peaks. Fold in yoghurt and vanilla. Sift in the remaining 2 teaspoons of cacao and gently fold through to give a marbled effect. Spoon cream mixture onto the pavlova. Top with berries and cherries to decorate. Scatter with small fried mint leaves, if you like.
Photo credit: Vernika Awal/What's In Your Dabba?
Sweet potato and chocolate cake
How can we conclude this list without giving you a healthy substitute for a good ol’ classic chocolate cake.
This is one of the many healthy treats featured in the What’s In Your Dabba? recipe book, and uses Sugar Free instead of sugar, and uses sweet potato as a healthy sweetening agent to give this classic a nutritious twist.
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1 tbsp Sugar Free
- 4 egg yolks
- 1/4 cup sugar-free chocolate
- 1/2 cup mashed sweet potato
- 1 1/4 cup flour
- 2 egg whites
For the sauce
- 1/4 cup sugar-free chocolate
- 1/4 cup cream
- 1/4 cup milk
- Melt the chocolate and butter and add the mashed potato.
- Make a mixture with egg yolks and Sugar Free, and fold into the chocolate mixture.
- Whip the egg whites and fold into the chocolate and egg batter, and add flour.
- Bake at 200 degrees celsius for 15 minutes.
- For the sauce, warm the milk and cream in a saucepan.
- Add the sugar-free chocolate to this cream mixture and mix gently.
- Serve cake with warm sauce.
Photo credit: Galileo Giglio/Pexels
I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream. And sometimes because of it, while doing a million crunches to burn the extra calories.
This healthy alternative is made using only fruit, and uses honey or maple syrup as a sweetener.
- 2 1/2 cups frozen strawberries
- 1 tbsp honey or maple syrup
- 3/4 cup cold water
- Add the frozen strawberries and honey or maple syrup to a food processor or blender.
- Then add about half of the water to start with and blitz until smooth. If needed add a little more water at a time until you get the right consistency.
- Either serve the sorbet straight away or transfer it to a container and freeze.
- When left in the freezer for a couple of hours, the sorbet will freeze solid so leave it to defrost for about 15 to 20 minutes before trying to scoop it.