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The best ingredients to stay healthy during Christmas

Christmas is a time with many temptations.

The typical Christmas sweets and traditional food are almost always synonymous with eating too much.

Christmas does not have to be exaggerated and we can use some strategies to minimize food mistakes that are often committed during this period.

One of these strategies could be the replacement of some ingredients from traditional recipes in healthier ones.

In this way, tradition is not lost, but tradition becomes healthier. You do not have to run away from your diet or deprive yourself constantly.

Sugar is usually one of the main culprits of most Christmas dishes.

So, I present you healthier ingredients that you can use to replace some traditional ingredients of recipes – such as refined sugar, adding this ones to your recipes you stay healthy during Christmas time and even improve the nutritional value of your traditional recipes.

Christmas selection: the best alternatives
Stevia

stevia

The use of refined sugar is a very common option, but it does not add great value to your diet or your health.

Stevia may be an option to sweeten your recipes without compromising your health.

Stevia is a natural sweetener, from the Stevia Rebaudiana Bertoni plant and comes from South America.

Because of its sweetening power, it is an alternative to refined sugar and is increasingly valued and recognized and its consumption has been extended to several other countries.

It is used instead of sugar in drinks or food. Its sweetening action is very high, reaching to sweeten 200 to 300 times more than white sugar.

Note: Do not exceed 5 grams daily.

Stevia can be found in liquid form, in pills or in powder form.

It has several benefits, such as helping control your body’s sugar level.

Some of its  main characteristics are:

“The main characteristics of stevia carbohydrates are their low gastrointestinal absorption, zero calorie, and considerable greater sweetness compared with sucrose which make them ideal sweeteners for healthy low-calorie drinks.”

You can use it in your recipes to replace the sugar.

But do not abuse and do not use the same quantity you would use of sugar because its sweetening action is a lot higher and therefore you will need a considerably smaller quantity to sweeten your recipes.

Agave

The Agave is also a natural sweetener, from the  Asparagacea family that is from Mexico and other regions of South America and the United States of America.

It is called agave syrup or agave honey and is widely used as a substitute for refined sugar.

Just as in the case of stevia, its sweetening power is higher than that of refined sugar.

Therefore, although it contains more or less the same calories as refined sugar, because of its high sweetening action you can use a less quantity. Consequently, the number of calories consumed will also be less.

Another advantage of agave is that it has a slower absorption than sugar, which prevents sugar peaks in your body.

Maple syrup

Maple syrup

Maple syrup is traditionally used in America.

It is a syrup extracted from the sap of the maple trees and can be a great alternative to use as a topping, avoiding refined sugar syrups or white powdered sugar.

Nutritionally, this syrup will add more value to the recipes  because of the presence of minerals and vitamins, such as B vitamins, calcium, magnesium and potassium, which are important to maintain the functioning of the body.

Flour Alternatives

Most Christmas recipes are made from flour.

Refined wheat flour is one of the most consumed type of flour and is often the first choice for recipes.

However, it does not have to be.

There are innumerous types of flour which can enrich the recipes, increasing the amount of fiber, vitamins, proteins and minerals and reducing the percentage of simple sugar.

Some of them also play an important role to enhance satiety and can prevent overconsumption and glycemic peaks.

Some examples are  oat flour, spelt flour, carob flour and quinoa flour.  

In addition, some of these options, unlike wheat flour, can be good alternatives for gluten intolerance, such as carob pods flour.

Coconut Sugar

coco

Coconut sugar is extracted from the juice of the coconut flower.

Although it is healthier as refined sugar, it has a lot of calories and its consumption must be controlled.

Nonetheless, it has a lower glycemic index than refined white sugar.

Because of this it can be an advantage in preparing the Christmas recipes.

Its replacement is simple, and the sweet taste is very pleasant and can easily be used in traditional recipes.

Natural sugar: Fruit

variety of fruit

The sweet taste of fruit may be a strategy to use.

Add fruit, especially the sweetest, such as bananas or figs, to your recipes and be surprised by its sweetness.

Seeds

variety of seeds

They do not appear here as a substitute for an ingredient, but more as an ingredient to improve the nutritional value of recipes.

They are known for their rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals and protein.

Some examples are the seeds of chiapoppy, linseed (brown or golden) and  sunflower.

Important tips:

  • Attention to the quantities. In addition to replacing the less healthy ingredients with healthier ingredients, the quantities will also be a factor to consider.

In this way you can reduce the amount of sugar from the original recipes by half.

The taste of food will be more easily observed and appreciated, and the health risks will be reduced.

  • Use the oven instead of frying. Most of the typical sweets that are usually fried can be baked in the oven. They look delicious!
  • Jams and others. You can also choose honey, jams without added sugar or different flavors, as grated coconut or cinnamon, which without using sugar, give a different and rather pleasant taste, and add more nutritional value to your recipes.

Cinnamon is quite interesting because, in addition to its specific taste, it also has an antioxidant and an anti-inflammatory property.

Concluding…

There are many alternatives to the usual and traditional white sugar and refined flour and using these alternatives you stay healthy during Christmas.

You no longer have an excuse not to go to the kitchen and make the traditional recipes that you love, without feelings of guilt and having a lot of fun and satisfaction.

Try the options and learn to combine the different flavours.

Share with us some recipes in the comments!

Comments

The information included in this article concerns the authors opinion only.

About Ângela Ferreira

Ângela Ferreira
Ângela Ferreira is a nutritionist. She has a degree in Nutrition Sciences and she is doing a Master's degree in Consumer Sciences and Nutrition. She currently works in Sports Nutrition and Clinic Nutrition. Her goal is to actively participate in changing the population's eating habits and to demonstrate that healthy eating can be simple and practical.

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