Healthy food swaps to curb your festive cravings

Author: Gareth Sapstead - Fitness Director

Office parties, family dinners and fun festivities. It’s that time of year where for most of us routine goes out of the window and the extra calories start to sneak in. 

Over the next month or so most of us will be exposed to more high-sugar and ultra-processed foods than the entire rest of the year. It’s tempting, and if you have strong willpower then you’ll manage to resist it getting out of hand.

That being said, studies do indeed confirm that the key to a healthy sustainable diet is giving yourself permission to have a treat every now and then. So, have a little and enjoy it without the guilt. 

Making healthy food swaps can be an excellent strategy to keep your physique and performance goals on track this tricky time of year. Enjoy a little festive indulgence with permission, but use these healthy and creative food swaps to crush cravings when you need to.

Swap Mince pies for homemade healthy oat flapjacks

Why? Oat bars are super easy to make, and can be typically made using just oats, natural honey or maple, and little fat (grass fed butter, peanut or almond butter). You can also throw in some dried fruit and spice for that festive feel. Alternatively, you can buy them ready made but be sure to check the ingredients list. Depending on portion size, the calories can be comparable to a mince pie, but you’ll be getting more healthy nutrients, less processed sugar, and more sustainable energy.

Swap cakes and muffins for a homemade 1-minute mug cake

There are plenty or recipes online for mug cakes, but the simple idea is that in less than 1-minute and with a few core ingredients you can get a nutritious and fluffy cake. For a 1-minute healthy banana choc-chip muffin try this:

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 medium overripe banana, mashed well
  • 1 TBSP coconut flour
  • 1 TBSP nut butter of choice (cashew, almond or peanut)
  • 2-3 TBSP dairy free milk of choice
  • Dairy free chocolate chips or chopped nuts (optional)

Mix the ingredients together in a bowl, grab a microwave proof mug and spray a little oil inside, then pour in the mix. Add a little natural sweetener or maple if you prefer the mix sweeter. Microwave for approximately 60 seconds depending on texture preference and microwave power. This recipe is both vegan and gluten free, and even the kids love it.

Swap sweets for frozen berries and grapes

Place them in the freezer and these nutritious snacks become super-snacks. When you want them, leave to thaw for a few minutes and the texture is a little like sorbet in sweet form. Sounds a little weird, but once you eat a half-frozen grape you won’t go back.

Swap a fruit crumble for some stewed fruit and homemade granola

This is an easy way to get in one of your 5-a-day. A baked apple, or stewed rhubarb with a little cinnamon can work well. You can make your own granola or go for the low sugar shop bought variety as a topping. Maybe try to avoid drowning it in brandy cream though, as tempting as that might be.

Swap crisps for salted popcorn

Why? If you pop it yourself, or search for a brand that uses little oil, popcorn is largely just tasty air. A crisp size bag of it can typically be half the calories and provide a good hit of fibre to keep your digestive system running smoothly. If you want to get a little more festive you can even lightly dust them in a mix of cinnamon and nutmeg.

Swap the bag of salted nuts for monkey nuts or pistachios

The worst time to eat is when you’re sat on the couch taking in what TV has to offer this time of year. Before you know it you’ve just mindlessly swallowed 600 Calories of salty nuts and need a beer to wash it down with. Swap the bagged salty variety for the ones that will make you work for them, such as peanuts in shells and pistachios. You’ll eat much fewer and won’t crave the drink to wash them down with.

Swap ice cream for a smoothie bowl

Buy frozen fruit or freeze some yourself. A mix of banana and berries usually works well. Then providing you have a good blender mix the frozen fruit with approximately half the quantity of milk. If you get the ratios right, you’ll have yourself a thick icy smoothie you can eat from a bowl. Top with chopped nuts, seeds, cacao nibs and dried fruit if you like too. It goes without saying that this is a much better option than a tub of ice cream. 

Swap the tin (or two) of chocolates for some homemade ‘snowball’ truffles

Using just a few healthy ingredients and naturally sweetened with dates, this healthy swap is both easy to make and dangerously more-ish. You can even give these to friends as a gift!

Ingredients

  • 2 cups pitted medjool dates 
  • 4 TBSP raw cocoa powder 
  • 1 TBSP virgin coconut oil (melted but not hot)
  • 1 tsp real vanilla extract 
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut 
  • 2- 3 TBSP warm water 
  • 1/4 tsp of sea salt 

Simply throw everything apart from the shredded coconut in to a food processor or bullet blender. Add just a single teaspoon of warm water at a time until a smooth paste is formed. Use your hands or two spoons to form in to balls, then roll in the shredded coconut to form snowballs. If you don’t like coconut, then finish with a dusting of cocoa. Place in the refrigerator until they set. Just don’t eat them all at once!

The fast option

We couldn’t write an article about healthy snack ideas without mentioning protein bars. If you’re pretty nutrition savvy then you’ll already know that most of the protein bars out there aren’t much better than a shop-bought chocolate bar. In fact, many protein bars contain even more calories. Just because it has protein it doesn’t mean it’s healthy or will keep you on track. This is one of the reasons why so many of you are fans of our MYOBARS. With 25g of protein, added vitamins and minerals, no added sugar and under 200 calories, MYOBARS are an excellent easy-grab option that’ll help curb your cravings and stay on track.

You can get them in four delicious flavours HERE.

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