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  • Writer's pictureJacqui Grant

Nutrition - A Healthier Christmas Feast

Connect and Grow Magazine Edition 4 December 2023

Swapping Indulgences for Plant-Powered Delights

'Tis the season to be jolly, and for many, that merriment often comes with a side of indulgence. But what if we could infuse our holiday celebrations with a dash of health without sacrificing the festive spirit?


Imagine a Christmas feast that delights the taste buds while nourishing the body, leaving you energised and guilt-free. This year, consider swapping out the traditional unhealthy foods for a spread of plant-based, oil-free options to create a holiday experience that satisfies cravings and promotes well-being.


Appetisers to Savour:

Begin your plant-powered feast with appetisers that are both festive and nutritious. Replace the traditional cheese platter with a colourful array of hummus served with whole-grain crackers and fresh, crisp vegetables. Roasted vegetable skewers drizzled with a balsamic glaze make for a flavourful alternative to fried finger foods, offering a burst of vitamins and antioxidants to kick off your celebration.


Main Course Magic:

Bid farewell to heavy, meat-laden main courses and welcome a centerpiece that celebrates the abundance of plant-based options. A roasted vegetable tart with a flaky, oil-free crust can take centre stage, accompanied by a hearty quinoa and lentil-stuffed acorn squash. These dishes not only offer a visual feast but also provide a nutritional powerhouse, brimming with fibre, protein, and essential nutrients.


Sides that Shine:

Elevate your side dishes by embracing the vibrant colours and flavours of seasonal produce. Swap butter-laden mashed potatoes for a creamy cauliflower mash, seasoned to perfection. Replace traditional stuffing with a wild rice and cranberry medley, marrying the richness of holiday flavours with the wholesomeness of plant-based goodness.



Sweet Endings, Guilt-Free:

No holiday celebration is complete without a sweet finale, and this year, you can indulge your sweet tooth without the sugar and fat overload. A fruit salad featuring berries and a drizzle of honey can serve as a refreshing dessert option. For a more decadent touch, consider a dairy-free, oil-free dark chocolate sweet potato mousse, delivering a velvety richness without compromising on health.



Impact on Christmas Day:

By opting for a plant-powered Christmas feast, you're not just satisfying taste buds; you're gifting yourself and your loved ones the joy of a healthier holiday season. Feel the energy surge as nutrient-dense, whole foods replace their heavier counterparts, leaving you invigorated to fully engage in the day's festivities.



Holiday Celebrations, Reimagined:

Transforming your holiday menu can inspire a shift in the overall celebration ambience. Imagine the joy of sharing a meal that not only tantalises the taste buds but also contributes to the well-being of your guests. Health-conscious choices can spark conversations, inspire culinary creativity, and set a positive tone for the entire festive season.



Summer Holidays:

As the Christmas season seamlessly transitions into summer holidays in our part of the world, adopting a plant-based, oil-free approach can set the tone for a season of vitality. Light, refreshing meals filled with seasonal fruits and vegetables complement the warm weather, ensuring you stay active and energised throughout the sunny days.



This year, let your Christmas and holiday celebrations be a testament to the power of healthy, plant-based choices. Embrace the joy of good food, good company, and good health, creating memories that nourish not just the body but also the spirit.



3 incredible recipes for you and your family…

Vegan, Oil-Free, Gluten-Free Christmas Cake


Dry Ingredients:

2 cups gluten-free all-purpose flour

1 cup almond flour

1 cup coconut sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves


Wet Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups unsweetened applesauce

1/2 cup non-dairy milk (such as almond, soy, or oat milk)

1/4 cup maple syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Fruit and Nut Mix:

1 cup mixed dried fruits (raisins, currants, chopped apricots, etc.)

1/2 cup chopped nuts (such as walnuts or pecans)

Zest of 1 orange

Zest of 1 lemon




Preheat your oven to 175°C. Grease and line a round cake pan with parchment paper.


In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients: gluten-free all-purpose flour, almond flour, coconut sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves.


In another bowl, combine the wet ingredients: applesauce, non-dairy milk, maple syrup, and vanilla extract. Mix well.


Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.


In a separate bowl, toss the mixed dried fruits, chopped nuts, orange zest, and lemon zest together.


Fold the fruit and nut mix into the batter until evenly distributed.


Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and smooth the top with a spatula.


Bake in the preheated oven for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean.


Allow the cake to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer it to a wire rack to cool completely.


Once cooled, you can optionally dust the top with powdered sugar or frost with a vegan cream cheese frosting for a decorative touch.


Slice and enjoy your vegan, oil-free, gluten-free Christmas cake with a warm cup of dairy-free cocoa or a festive herbal tea. This delightful treat is sure to spread holiday cheer without compromising your dietary preferences.

Vegan, Oil-Free, Gluten-Free Chocolate Mousse



1 cup cooked and cooled sweet potato, mashed

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 cup pure maple syrup or agave nectar

1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk or any other non-dairy milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

A pinch of salt


Optional toppings: berries, chopped nuts, or coconut whipped cream for servings.



Prepare the Sweet Potato:

Peel, dice, and steam or boil the sweet potato until it's fork-tender. Allow it to cool completely before using it in the recipe.



Blend Ingredients:

In a blender or food processor, combine the mashed sweet potato, cocoa powder, maple syrup, almond milk, vanilla extract, and a pinch of salt.


Blend Until Smooth:

Blend the ingredients until the mixture is smooth and creamy. You may need to stop and scrape down the sides of the blender or food processor to ensure everything is well combined.



Transfer the chocolate mousse to a bowl or individual serving glasses and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or until the mousse has set.



Once chilled and set, you can serve the chocolate mousse topped with fresh berries, chopped nuts, or a dollop of coconut whipped cream.


Enjoy this rich and velvety chocolate mousse that's not only vegan, gluten-free, and oil-free but also packed with the goodness of sweet potatoes. It's a delightful treat that satisfies chocolate cravings without guilt.

Vegan and Gluten-Free Stuffed Butternut Squash



For the Stuffed Butternut Squash:

2 medium-sized butternut squashes, halved and seeds removed

1 cup quinoa, rinsed

2 cups vegetable broth

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 red capsicum, diced

1 zucchini, diced

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

1 cup fresh spinach, chopped

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Salt and pepper, to taste

For the Glaze:


2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon maple syrup

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard


Preheat the Oven:

Preheat your oven to 200°C


Prepare the Butternut Squash:

Cut the butternut squashes in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, and place them cut-side down on a baking sheet. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until they are fork-tender.


Cook Quinoa:

While the butternut squash is baking, rinse the quinoa and cook it in vegetable broth according to package instructions. Once cooked, fluff it with a fork and set aside.


Prepare the Filling:


In a large non-stick pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add chopped onions and garlic, and sauté until softened.


Add diced red capsicum and zucchini to a non-stick pan and cook until they are tender.


Stir in cherry tomatoes, chopped spinach, dried cranberries, and chopped nuts. Cook for an additional 2-3 minutes until the spinach wilts.

Add the cooked quinoa to the pan, mix well, and season with salt and pepper to taste.


Prepare the Glaze:

In a small bowl, whisk together balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, and Dijon mustard.


Assemble and Bake:

Once the butternut squashes are done baking, flip them over and fill each cavity with the quinoa and vegetable mixture.


Drizzle the glaze over each stuffed butternut squash.


Bake Again:

Return the stuffed butternut squashes to the oven and bake for an additional 15-20 minutes or until the glaze is slightly caramelized.



Once baked, remove from the oven, and let them cool slightly before serving.


This beautifully stuffed butternut squash serves as an impressive centrepiece and delivers a delightful combination of flavours and textures.


Enjoy the festive and hearty goodness of this gluten-free and vegan dish!

 Happy Christmas, happy holidays, one and all.


From the team at Health104 and Kathy Ashton, a medical nutritionist.


You can contact Kathy at Health 104

1300 003 082

(C) Connect and Grow Magazine Edition 4 December 2023

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