In a few short days, I’m going to be hosting my family for Christmas.
a bit completely terrifying.
Aunts, uncles, parents, cousins – all expecting me to feed them.
The only option here is to break out one of my easiest festive recipes – chocolate orange muffins. These muffins take less than five minutes to prepare, 15 minutes to cook and they are completely, 100 percent idiot-proof.
This Christmas, I’m working with Splenda, who have asked me to see if I can make a version of my festive recipe in a healthier version.
So, how do you go about making muffins that will satisfy my family, taste great – and are healthier?
Now, I’m not going to pretend that Christmas is a time when you should obsess about healthy eating. Frankly, if you haven’t eaten more mince pies that is entirely wise by December 25th, I’m not sure you deserve Christmas.
But I try and balance things where I can. That means allowing myself to indulge, but ensuring I also get plenty of fresh, healthy foods, too. For every afternoon spent in front of Die Hard, there’s a walk on the beach, or a morning swim.
It’s also totally possible to create festive treats that taste indulgent while offering some healthy swaps.
To make my festive muffins, I’ve added in wholemeal flour to boost the fibre. Semi-sweet chocolate has less sugar than milk chocolate chips, without compromising on taste.
Finally, using Splenda means the muffins taste sweet, without adding any extra sugar to the recipe.
Splenda is a low-calorie sweetener that is made from sucralose. Because sucralose is heat-stable, it can be used safely in most cakes and bakes. If you’d like to try my muffins, the recipe is below – or head over to the Splenda website for loads more recipe inspiration.
Low Sugar Chocolate Orange Muffins
- 200g plain flour
- 100g wholemeal flour
- 50g Splenda low calorie sweetener
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 50g butter
- 200ml skimmed milk
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp orange extract
- 50g semi-sweet chocolate chips
- Sift the flour into a bowl together with the Splenda, baking powder and salt.
- Mix the chocolate chips into the dry ingredients.
- In another bowl, mix the egg, milk, orange extract and melted butter.
- Slowly pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix together. Aim to make the dry ingredients moist, but don’t over-mix – you’re aiming for a lumpy mixture
- Spoon the mixture into a greased muffin tin. Each muffin case should be half full, to allow space for the muffins to rise. This recipe will make 6-8 muffins (depending on the size of your tin)
- Bake the muffins at 200 degrees for 15 minutes, until they are golden brown and splitting across the top.
Top Tips for a Healthier Christmas, from Splenda nutritionist Helen Bond:
- Always start the day with a healthy breakfast. It’s easy to miss this important meal, or give in and indulge in fatty croissants to ease that Christmas party hangover. But eating a good breakfast will help kick-start your metabolism and keep you feeling full, making it easier to ignore the inevitable chocolates lying around.
- Love seasonal fruit and veg. With the abundance of festive food, it can be easy to forget the basics of eating healthily and achieving the (at least) 5-a-day recommendation. I like to pile the veg on my plate first, rather than last.
- Make time for exercise. However well you plan, life is going to get hectic over the festive period, so schedule your 2.5 hours of moderate intensity exercise into your week now. Exercise is also a fabulous stress buster, as it releases endorphins, making you feel happier and calmer.
- Don’t skip meals. If you’re going to the office party straight after work, or you’ve got a dinner date with friends, don’t ditch lunch for fear of overdoing your daily calorie intake. You’ll be famished – and hungry people tend to make bad food decisions.
- Burning the festive candle at both ends, with parties during the week and weekend hosting duties, can also affect your waistline. Too little sleep can reduce the level of the appetite-controlling hormone leptin and increase the hormone ghrelin, telling the brain you need to eat – and not always the right healthy food choices.
- Rethink your tea breaks.Cut cutting down on the ‘white stuff’ is a tall order, especially around Christmas. It appears in so many of the traditional festive favourites, that it’s near impossible to keep track of how much you’re eating. An easy win is to rethink your tea breaks; instead of adding sugar to your tea, swap to a low-calorie sweetener, like Splenda. If you drink four cups of tea a day with two teaspoons (8g) of sugar in each cup – that adds up to 128 kcals. Your sweet tea also tots up to nearly one 1kg bag of sugar over the 25 days of December.
- Treat sweets as treats. The constant supply of treats from guests and salty savoury snacks at work can be too tempting to avoid. Keep healthier seasonal snacks, like clementines, to hand; a medium clementine has just 25 kcals and will provide you 31% of your daily needs for immune boosting vitamin C and 1g of gut healthy fibre.
- Keep in mind portion size. Most of us are over-generous with serving sizes at Christmas and it’s a fact that the bigger your tableware, the more you’ll fill it. Research shows that simply downsizing from a 12 to 10-inch plate could help you eat roughly 22% fewer calories, and you’ll not feel like you are missing out.