Updated 17 December 2013

Cut those Christmas kilojoules

Do you always gain a kilo or two over the festive season? This needn't be the case. It is possible to enjoy a festive family feast and still maintain a healthy weight.


Do you always gain a kilo or two over the festive season? This needn't be the case.

It is possible to enjoy a festive family feast and still maintain a healthy weight. Take a look at these simple adjustments that can make traditional Christmas foods lower in fat and healthier:

1. Roast turkey

  • Remove the fat glands of the turkey before roasting and cut away any visible fat at the head and tail ends of the turkey prior to cooking.
  • Roast the turkey on a rack so that excess fat can drip off.
  • Flavour the turkey with herbs such as thyme and sage and lemon instead of salt.
  • Do not cover the turkey in lots of oil prior to cooking. An oil spray can be used to coat the top slightly, but generally the turkey should have sufficient fat.
  • A roasting bag can be used to contain some of the moisture. An alternative is to cover the bird on the rack and baking tray with tin foil so that the oil and juices can still drip off into the tray.
  • Eat the lean, white meat without the skin.

Pour the turkey juices into a jug, wait for the fat to rise and once slightly cooled, scoop off the fat layer with a spoon.

Add herbs such as rosemary or thyme and some turkey stock (made from the giblets) or chicken stock.

Heat and reduce the stock until the taste is to your liking. A splash of Port or dry sherry can be added for more flavour - allow it to bubble to burn off the alcohol.


Use a fruit, polenta, brown rice or sweet potato-based stuffing rather than sausage meat.

Here is an idea for a healthy stuffing:

Orange rice stuffing (Serves 4)
This is delicious with chicken or turkey. Double this recipe for turkey.

2 cups cooked brown rice
¼ cup coarsely chopped pecan nuts or pine nuts (30g)
3 Tbsp finely chopped parsley
2 Tbsp fresh orange juice
½ tsp grated lemon rind
¼ teaspoon salt (optional)
1 Tbsp lemon juice

In a medium-sized bowl, combine the rice, pecan nuts, parsley, orange juice and lemon rind. Sprinkle the inside of the chicken or turkey with salt and lemon juice before stuffing the chest cavity with the rice mixture. Tie the legs of the bird together before placing in the oven to cook.

2. Gammon

  • Ideally, the gammon should be cooked with very little fat coating it.
  • Remove as much of the visible fat on the gammon prior to eating it.
  • Eat the gammon with mustard or horseradish as condiments rather than mayonnaise.

3. Leg of lamb

  • Although this is the cut of lamb with the least fat, remove as much of the visible fat from the lamb before roasting.
  • Avoid using oil in the preparation process. Rather use lemon juice, garlic and herbs such as rosemary for flavour.
  • Roast on a baking rack so the fat can drip off onto a baking tray.

4. Vegetables

  • Use the opportunity to serve delicious seasonal vegetables with the meal, e.g. roast mixed root vegetables; chargrilled carrots with honey, sesame oil and soya glaze; steamed broccoli and cauliflower topped with a dash of olive oil and vinegar; steamed green beans or asparagus with pine nuts and olive oil.
  • Try to dry-roast potatoes. Boil large chunks for 10 minutes, drain and shake the saucepan a few times. Place on a non-stick baking tray; use an oil spray to lightly coat them and roast (olive or canola oil).

5. Trifle

  • Use low-fat custard and real fruit for your trifle.

Here is a healthier alternative to the traditional dessert:

Mango, granadilla and raspberry trifle (Serves 8)

3 large ripe mangoes
90g icing sugar
9 ripe granadillas
200g raspberries (or any other berry you can find)
150ml thick cream
180ml thick low fat Bulgarian or Greek yoghurt
400ml low fat milk
4 egg yolks
20ml sugar
40ml corn flour
1 banana or fruit & nut loaf

Peel and stone the mangoes. Chop the flesh of one and mix with the icing sugar and blend to a smooth puree. Slice the remaining mangoes into thin slivers and set aside. Scoop the seeds from 6 of the granadillas and rub through a sieve over a small bowl to collect the juice.

Pour the granadilla juice into a large bowl with the cream and yoghurt. Whisk or beat until the cream and yoghurt starts to form soft peaks.

Heat the milk in a pot. Meanwhile mix the corn flour, sugar and egg yolks together to make a smooth paste. Whisk the hot milk into the paste and then pour back into the pot. Stir continuously until it begins to thicken. Allow to cool and then fold in the mango puree.

Make individual portions using 8 tumblers or serve in a medium sized glass bowl - Place a layer of banana loaf at the bottom, then add a layer of mango custard, followed by a layer of granadilla cream mix, a layer of sliced mango and of the raspberries. Repeat the layering process and finish with a layer of granadilla cream mix.

Scatter the granadilla pips and pulp of the remaining granadillas over the top of the trifle along with remaining mango slices and raspberries. Chill overnight or for at least 2 hours before serving.

6. Christmas pudding & other ideas for dessert

  • It’s ok to have a ready-made Christmas pudding – just make sure you choose one without trans fats (i.e. a pudding that has been made with butter). Decorate your bought Christmas pudding with dried fruit over the top and around it (figs, dates, apricots, cherries).
  • Make homemade custard using low-fat milk instead of full cream milk or buy a low-fat custard (lite) option (less than 3g fat per 100g).
  • Avoid brandy butter. If you really want a brandy flavour to top the dessert, add a little brandy to the low-fat custard instead.
  • Frozen berries can be added to a dessert and are great served with frozen yoghurt and meringues.
  • Cassata ice cream is a refreshing option for a hot Christmas day – mix fruit & nut cake mix with slightly melted low fat vanilla ice cream or frozen yoghurt. Pour or spoon into a cake ring, insulated with wax paper. Freeze and, once frozen, decorate with fresh or dried fruit before serving.

A change from the traditional Christmas pud is to make individual Christmas muffins served with low-fat custard.

Christmas muffins (Makes 12)

150 g honey
100 g brown sugar
70 g margarine/ butter
3 Tbsp low fat milk
250 ml flour
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch cardamom
½ tsp ground cloves
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp mixed spice
2 Tbsp cocoa
2 eggs
100 g almonds, chopped
200 g apricot jam
Cupcake paper cases

150 ml whipped cream
Maraschino cherries

Line a muffin tin with the paper cases. Warm the honey, sugar, butter and milk until the sugar dissolves, and then cool.

Sift the flour and baking powder together and add the spices and cocoa. Mix the dry mixture into the cooled honey mixture followed by the eggs. Fold in the chopped almonds.

Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Put the muffin mixture into a piping bag with a plain nozzle and pipe a thin layer of mixture on the base and sides of the cake (use a spoon and your fingers to create the same effect if you don’t have a piping bag).

Put a teaspoonful of jam into each and pipe on a lid. The cases should only be ¨ø full. Bake the muffins for approximately 25 minutes. Leave to cool slightly, and then remove from the tin.

To decorate, whip the cream until stiff and put a blob on each muffin. Place a cherry in the centre of each and serve.

Remember to watch your portion sizes this festive season – enjoy a small amount of everything, particularly the puddings and cakes. Enjoy your first serving and avoid going for seconds.

(Written by Gina Stear, registered dietitian)

Read more:

Stay slim over Christmas
Festive season slimmer's guide
What is a food portion?


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