A Healthier Twist to Festive Foods (Part I)

A Healthier Twist to Festive Foods (Part I)

A Healthier Twist to Festive Foods (Part I)

Healthy Living Topic

8/12/2017 – A Healthier Twist to Festive Foods (Part I)

By Caleb Mok, Dietician

It’s December, the last month of the year, where families and friends will gather over festive foods to celebrate the holidays and look forward to a new year! However, with all the foods and parties, we risk losing the health level that we have worked hard to achieve.

Are there ways to make the lovely foods healthier? We discussed about how to eat mindfully in the previous article, let us now look at how we can modify some festive recipes into healthier, “less sinful” dishes.

Fry Your Foods with Air Instead of Oil

Don’t we all find it difficult to stop once we start with the chips? There is a new and innovative way of frying foods now – “air-frying”. Air fryers are ovens that use hot air to “fry” foods. While not all oil-fried foods can achieve the same fried texture as frying with oil, some foods work pretty well with air-frying.

Try surprising your guests with air-fried kale or spinach chips. It’s rather easy and quick to prepare. Remove the leaves from the stems or ribs, spray or drizzle with some oil, sprinkle with salt and ground pepper, cook them in an air fryer for about 5 minutes, and you have crispy kale or spinach chips! Since they are vegetables and air-fried, you will get roughly 80% lesser fats and calories as compared with the same amount or volume of potato chips. Besides that, they are high in fibre, vitamins and minerals too!

Try air frying chicken wings, fish, satay, croquette, hash browns or even soufflé, with air fryer. The foods that can be prepared by air fryers are actually quite diverse and the taste and texture will amaze you!


Replace Starches with the Non-Starchy Vegetables

Green leafy vegetables and other non-starchy vegetables like okras, cucumbers, cabbages, capsicums, long beans etc., are very low in calories; but high in fibre, vitamins and minerals. You can use them to replace rice or bread. For example, try using cauliflower to replace the “rice” in fried rice and the crust in a pizza. Follow the recipes below and you will be amazed at It’s easy and how similar the texture and flavour will turn out to be!



Recipe for cauliflower fried rice:

  1. Finely grate the cauliflower into rice-sized pieces, excluding the tough inner core.
  2. Sprinkle with some salt and let it sit for a few minutes.
  3. Add some water and microwave it for 10 minutes to reduce the cooking time.
  4. Use a thin cloth to squeeze out the excessive juice and you’ll get the “dried rice”.
  5. Then, fry the “dried rice” as you normally do with ingredients like prawns, eggs, chicken etc.



Recipe for cauliflower pizza:

  1. Add binding ingredients which include eggs and cheese. The number of eggs depends on the amount of cauliflower. Usually 1 cup of cauliflower “flour” will require 1 whole egg. The ideal types of cheeses are Parmesan or mozzarella cheese.
  2. Add salt to taste and herbs like oregano, garlic powder, parsley and ground black pepper.
  3. Mix everything well and shape the “flour” into the shape of pizza crust on a lightly greased baking pan and bake for 20 minutes at 200°C in an oven.
  4. Top with the sauce and toppings of your choice and bake again. The baking time of the toppings will depend on the ingredients and their sizes. Bake at a lower temperature like 180°C to prevent burning.


Now, let’s make lasagna with brinjal instead of lasagna noodles!


  1. 2 large brinjals
  2. ¼ cup olive oil
  3. 2 teaspoons of salt
  4. 4 teaspoons of black pepper powder
  5. 200g ground beef
  6. 2 cans of chucky tomato sauce (28 oz)
  7. 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  8. 2 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese
  9. 1 teaspoon oregano


  1. Preheat the oven.
  2. Cut ends off brinjals and slice lengthwise in ¼ inch slices.
  3. Brush the brinjals with olive oil on both sides and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper.  Bake about 7 minutes each side at 200°C.
  4. On a pan, sauté the ground beef with cooking oil, drain off the excess juice.
  5. Add the chucky tomato sauce. Add salt and black pepper powder to taste and 2 cloves of minced garlic. Bring it to simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.
  6. On a lasagna dish, layer the ingredients in the following sequence and repeat: brinjal slices, tomato meat sauce, mozzarella cheese. Spread the ingredients, especially the sauce and cheese, evenly across the entire dish.
  7. End the lasagna with cheese and sprinkle oregano on top of it.  Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.  Remove foil and broil on high 5-8 minutes. Let stand 15 minutes before cutting.

Get Creative with Fruit Ice-cream or Popsicles

Indulge in ice-cream without gaining weight? Ice-creams are packed in calories because they are made from condensed milk and heavy cream. Try replacing fruit-based ice-cream and popsicles instead!



Banana ice-cream can be really delicious with no extra sugar needed and zero fats (if no additional ingredients added)! Follow the few steps below for this guilt-free treat.

  1. Peel the bananas and cut into small pieces.
  2. Freeze for at least 4 hours.
  3. In a strong blender, blend the frozen banana until smooth. At this point, you can flavour according to your personal preference. I love adding peanut butter (nothing can go wrong when it comes to banana and peanut butter), while some of my friends love to flavour with cocoa powder.
  4. Pour the banana ice-cream into an ice-cream mold or container. Freeze it overnight or 4 to 8 hours and it’s ready to be served.

Another healthy treat is making fruit popsicle. I will share 2 simple recipes here. Feel free to experiment and create you very own recipes.



First up is the mango strawberry popsicles.

  1. Cut well-ripen mango into cubes and blend in a blender until smooth.
  2. Blend strawberries in a blender separately until smooth. No sugar needed especially if the mango is sweet enough.
  3. In a popsicle tray, pour in mango puree, followed by strawberry puree. You can layer in whichever way you like and as many layers as you like.
  4. Put on the lid and insert the popsicle stick. Freeze it for 4 to 5 hours and it’s ready to be enjoyed.


Next, “The Fruit Salad Popsicle”. It’s beautiful and it is easy to make in 3 simple steps.

  1. Cut the kiwi fruit and orange. Half the strawberries.
  2. Layer the fruits in the popsicle tray and pour in coconut water.
  3. Put on the lid and insert the popsicle stick. Enjoy it after freezing for 4 to 5 hours.

I hope you will find these simple recipes interesting and most importantly – YUMMY! Let them be the conversation pieces at your parties! Although these recipes are considered healthier and lesser in calories as compared to their “counterparts”, do bear in mind that they still contain calories. Hence, do enjoy them in moderation! Stay tuned for the second part of this article where I will share with you more healthy recipes for this holiday season!