Christmas, for me, has always been synonymous with mountains of delicious food. From flaming plum puddings to cuts of batch bread stuffed with chunks of turkey, I’m not sure there’s even one traditional Christmas delight I wouldn’t happily tuck in to over the festive period.

However, as the years have passed and the dietary requirements around our kitchen table have altered, I often find myself seeking out dishes that are better suited for all, but still give a nod to some of our old, traditional recipes. Certainly, in recent years, cooking for specialised diets has become a lot easier thanks to the greater accessibility of ingredients in shops around the county. Even if you’re not cooking for any diet in particular, it can be nice to have some healthier alternatives to hand when indulgent, rich foods are simply part and parcel of the season.

Make it look good

Traditional sugar-ladened treats being replaced by something more nutrient-dense can sometimes be a difficult sell, especially to a child. However, in my experience, if it looks inviting and tastes good, it’s normally fairly well-received.

Most children love creating something tasty in the kitchen and this can be the perfect time to introduce new flavours and ingredients to dishes they already enjoy. Many recipes can be altered in some way to make them a little more nutritious.

Plain white flour can be partly substituted for fibre-rich wholewheat flour in cookie and cake recipes. The sugar content in cake recipes can easily be reduced without affecting the end result. Many soft fruits and sweet vegetables, such as carrots, courgettes, or beetroots, incorporate well into cakes. Their addition often allows for more nutrients and less added sugar, while lending a delicious moistness to the bake. Cacao powder is also packed with vitamins and minerals and gives a wonderful chocolatey hit to cakes and desserts and can make for a good replacement for chocolate.

The two recipes here both have a little bit of goodness snuck into the mix, but they are fun and festive, so children especially should enjoy giving them a go.

Reindeer bites

These reindeer bites are full of energy-rich ingredients; perfect for snacking on over the festive season. Pomegranate seeds work particularly well for the reindeer’s shiny red nose, but a chopped dried cranberry would also work in their place.

100g pecans

100g oats

100g dates

100g peanut butter

50ml milk

1tbsp cacao

To decorate:


Edible eyes

Pomegranate seeds

1 Add the pecans, oats, dates, peanut butter, milk and cacao to a food processor and blitz for a few minutes, until fine and combined.

2 Take a spoonful of the mixture and mould into a ball using your hands. Place on a greaseproof-lined tray. Repeat until all the mixture has been used, making about 12.

3 Carefully break the pretzels in half to resemble antlers.

4 Add two broken pieces of pretzels to each ball of mixture. Next, stick the eyes in place, followed by the pomegranate seed as the nose.

5 Place the tray in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to harden slightly before serving.

6 Once set, transfer to an airtight container and store in the fridge for up to five days.

Frozen yoghurt Christmas pudding

The colour of the pudding is reminiscent of a block of Neapolitan ice-cream, but each layer is packed with nutrients and flavour. Every step of the pudding is very straight-forward, but the assembly takes a little time as each layer needs to be frozen slightly before moving on to the next. The white chocolate drizzle adds to the impressiveness of this easy-to-make dessert, but it can of course be omitted and you can simply top the pudding with the hot berry sauce.

Frozen yogurt Christmas pudding. \ Nessa Robins

Strawberry layer:

200g strawberries, chopped and frozen

200g Greek yoghurt

1tsp honey

Peach layer:

300g peaches, peeled, chopped and frozen

200g Greek yoghurt

1tsp honey

Chocolate layer:

4 bananas, peeled, chopped and frozen

100g Greek yoghurt

2tsp cacao powder

Berry sauce:

250g berries

1tbsp apple juice

1tbsp honey


200g white chocolate

1 tbsp coconut oil

1 The night before making the pudding, place the strawberries, peaches (from a tin is fine) and the bananas in a single layer on a large tray and freeze.

2 The next day, line a 1.2lt pudding bowl with a couple of layers of cling film, leaving a little excess over the edge.

3 Using a high-powered processor make the layers of the pudding. Start with the strawberry layer by combining the frozen strawberries with the Greek yoghurt and honey until completely smooth. Transfer to the lined pudding bowl and place in the freezer for about an hour.

4 Clean the processor bowl and repeat the process with the peaches, Greek yoghurt, and honey. Transfer to the pudding bowl and place back in the freezer for another hour.

5 Repeat the process again for the chocolate layer, blitzing the bananas, yoghurt, and cacao powder until smooth, and then transfer to the pudding bowl as the final layer of the pudding. Cover with the extra cling film and freeze for at least a few hours before serving.

6 Take the pudding from the freezer about half an hour before serving. Once it has softened a little, transfer to a serving plate and remove all the cling film.

7 To make the berry sauce, add the berries, apple juice and honey to a small saucepan. Simmer on a low heat for about five minutes, then remove.

8 To make the chocolate topping, melt the white chocolate and stir through the coconut oil.

9 When ready to serve, pour the chocolate sauce over the pudding and top with a few spoonfuls of the hot berry sauce, or serve the sauce on the side.

Read more

Nessa Robins: my favourite festive recipes

Home Nurse: an indulgent Christmas dinner for all