Have a heart-healthy Christmas

The festive season is a wonderful time for festivals, celebrations and sharing special moments with our friends and families. Whatever your holiday tradition you'll most likely be faced with the temptation to indulge during December.

To have a heart-healthy holiday, you don't need to starve yourself on celery sticks and resort to boring tasteless meals. Just make a few simple swaps for healthier options throughout your day and convert those treasured favourite recipes into sensational healthier creations.

Here are some ways you can substitute ingredients to help you cut your calorie and fat intake:

Healthier alternatives to use in those special recipes:

Instead of:


250 ml butter

250 ml polyunsaturated margarine or 220 ml oil

250 ml hard margarine

250 ml oil or 250ml oil plus 45 ml polyunsaturated

250 ml whole milk               

250ml skim or low fat milk

250 ml light cream

250 ml low fat evaporated milk or 45 ml oil and 200 ml skim milk

250 ml whipping cream

167ml skim milk and 83 ml oil

250 ml sour cream

250 ml plain fat-free yoghurt OR 250 ml fat-free smooth cottage cheese OR 187 ml low fat buttermilk and 62 ml oil

1 whole egg

1 egg white and 10 ml oil OR 2 egg whites

30 g cheddar cheese

30 g mozzarella, ricotta, parmesan or any low fat hard cheese (20-24% fat) or 30 g fat-free cottage cheese


Try out these tasty healthy recipes for Christmas:

Starter - Smoked Salmon and Rocket Salad (serves 4)

  • 1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbs balsamic vinegar
  • 150 g rocket leaves
  • 1 avocado
  • 250 g smoked salmon
  • 325 g jar marinated goat's cheese, drained and crumbled
  • 2 Tbs roasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped


For the dressing, thoroughly whisk together the oil and vinegar in a bowl. Season, to taste.
Trim long stems from the rocket, rinse, pat dry and gently toss in a bowl with the dressing.
Cut the avocado in half lengthways then cut each half lengthways into 6 wedges. Discard the skin
and place 3 wedges on each serving plate and arrange a pile of rocket over the top.
Drape slivers of salmon over the rocket.
Scatter the cheese and nuts over the top and season with ground black pepper.
Serve immediately.

Main - Spiced turkey with cranberry chutney (makes 12 servings with leftovers)

  • 5-7 kg fresh or thawed plain turkey
  • Spice rub
  • 2 Tbsp (25 ml) ground sage
  • 1 tsp (5 ml) ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp (1 ml) ground cloves
  • 2 Tbsp (25 ml) olive oil


The stuffing in this recipe is just for flavour and moisture. Discard before you carve the turkey.
1 orange, 1 apple, 1 lemon, 1 pear, 1 shallot - all cut in large chunks.


Preheat oven to 180C. Combine all the spice rub ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.
Combine the stuffing in a large bowl and toss with 1 tsp (5 ml) of the spice rub.
Stuff into the cavity of the turkey. Place the turkey in a large roasting pan. Pat dry with a paper towel and rub the spice mixture over the skin. Tie the legs together and tuck the wings under the back.
Cover tightly with tinfoil and roast, undisturbed, for 2 hours.
Remove foil and roast for an additional 45-60 minutes, basting every 15 minutes, until a thermometer placed in
the thickest part of the leg registers 77-80C.
Let rest for 15 minutes before carving.
Serve with the cranberry chutney and vegetables of your choice.

Cranberry chutney (makes 12 servings)

This recipe can be made one week in advance. Bring it to room temperature before serving. Serve with the turkey instead of gravy.

  • 3 cups (750 ml) fresh or frozen (thawed) cranberries
  • 1 cup (250 ml) apple, diced (1 apple)
  • 1 cup (250 ml) pear, diced (1 pear)
  • 1 cup (250 ml) pomegranate seeds (1 pomegranate), optional
  • 1 Tbsp (15 ml) finely grated orange zest, 1 orange
  • 1 Tbsp (15 ml) shallot, finely diced
  • 1/3 cup (75 ml) fresh orange juice, from 1 orange
  • 1/3 cup (75 ml) cooking sherry, optional
  • 1 tsp (5 ml) cinnamon
  • = tsp (2 ml) black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp (0.5 ml) nutmeg
  • 2 dashes Tabasco sauce


Combine all ingredients in a large sauce pan.
Cook over medium-high, stirring frequently for 20 minutes.
Cool to room temperature.

Dessert - Baked plums and blueberries (serves 4)

  • 10-12 large juicy, deep purple ripe plums
  • 125 g sugar
  • 125 g blueberries
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 2 cups (500 ml) fresh fruit juice (apple, orange or mango)
  • 30 ml (2Tbs) apricot or cassis liqueur (optional)
  • 30 ml (2 Tbs) fat free yoghurt (optional)


Wash the plums and wipe dry, then place stem-side down onto a baking tray.
Cut a cross on the top of each one using a sharp knife.
Place the plums in a shallow baking tray and sprinkle the tops with sugar.
Scatter half the blueberries around the plums. Add the cinnamon sticks.
Split the vanilla pod and mix the seeds with the fruit juice. Place the pods between the plums, then pour the juice around the base of the plums.
Cover the baking tray with foil and bake at 180C for 25 to 30 minutes until the fruit is cooked.
Check the plums by pressing them lightly - they should have softened and the skins opened like the petals of a flower.
Remove one or two plums with a spoonful or two of the blueberries, and sieve to make a purie.
Meanwhile, add the remaining blueberries to the baking tray and bake for 5 minutes more.
Remove the foil and allow it to cool, then sprinkle the liqueur over the fruit.
Just before serving, swirl the dessert with the berry purie and chilled yoghurt.

Have a blessed festive season by putting exciting, healthier varieties of food on your plate. A selection of recipe books is available from the Heart and Stroke Foundation. All of the recipes in these books are heart-healthy i.e. lower in saturated fat, dietary cholesterol and sodium (salt).

For more information on general heart health and about our recipe books, contact the Heart Mark Diet Line on 0860 223 222, email heart@heartfoundation.co.za or visit www.heartfoundation.co.za

 - (Written by Erika Ketterer, Registered Dietician at the Heart and Stroke Foundation SA)

(Health24, November 2010)

Read more:

Stay slim over Christmas
Festive season slimmer's guide

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