Saying No to sugar at Christmas

How can you enjoy Christmas and all its wonderful feasts and treats, without loads of sugar? The answer is surprisingly easy. Here I show you what to eat and drink to be merry without gaining weight and getting back into bad habits.

Christmas dinner itself is a very healthy meal, with lots of vegetables and lean turkey. It’s the ‘extras’ from mince pies, Christmas pudding, cranberry sauce, mulled wine and chocolate delights that increase the sugar levels. Here’s how to make your own – equally delicious but all low GL. Have fun making these with friends and family.

Sugar-free Christmas Pudding

christmas pudding

This delicious pudding is proof that you don’t have to deprive yourself over Christmas. The fruit lends it a natural sweetness and a gloriously gooey texture. It is wheat and sugar free, and can be easily adapted for those with a dairy or gluten intolerance.

Makes 1 x 1 3/4 pint pudding; serves 8


  • 450g/16oz dried mixed fruit (go for organic and check that there is no added sugar)
  • 80g/3oz breadcrumbs (use Kamut® bread or rye bread if you cannot eat wheat, or millet, brown rice or quinoa flakes if you are gluten intolerant – available from health food stores)
  • 80g/3oz ground almonds
  • 40g/1.5oz chopped nuts (pecans, almonds and hazelnuts work well)
  • 80g/3oz butter (or dairy free alternative) (for those watching their waist lines, use only 40g/1.5oz butter plus a mashed banana)
  • 1 medium Bramley apple, chopped finely
  • 2 eggs
  • Juice of one orange (or 3 tbsp brandy if you are feeling decadent)
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • Half tsp grated nutmeg
  • Half tsp mixed spice
  • Half tsp ground cinnamon


  1. Mix together the dried fruit, nuts and breadcrumbs (or flakes), and rub in butter.
  2. Add the chopped apple and fruit juice.
  3. Beat eggs well and stir into the mixture with the spices.
  4. Add any lucky coins (well wrapped in greaseproof paper – not aluminium foil – to prevent metal poisoning).
  5. Place in a buttered 1 3/4 pint pudding basin and make a cover with 3 layers of greaseproof paper.
  6. Steam for 4 hours and a further hour when you are ready to eat it.
  7. Serve with natural yoghurt or cream.

Sugar-free Cranberry Sauce

cranberry sauce

This delicious cranberry sauce tastes more interesting, but a bit less sweet than the usual store bought product. It is easy to make and will store in the fridge for days.


  • 2 bags of fresh cranberries (they are usually 12 ounce bags)
  • ½ cup of pineapple juice
  • ½ cup of applesauce (no sugar added) or a cup of finely chopped apples
  • The juice and zest of one orange
  • ½ cup of water
  • 3 tablespoons of xylitol


  1. Put cranberries, pineapple juice, applesauce and water in a sauce pan and and bring to the boil. Keep on medium heat, stirring continuously for up to 15 minutes until the cranberries start to explode.
  2. Reduce to a simmer and pour the orange juice and zest over the cranberry mixture. Simmer 10-15 minutes and remove from heat.
  3. Cool completely and store in fridge for at least 4 hours but preferably overnight before serving.

Sugar-free Mulled Wine

mulled wine

This delicious mulled wine is sweetened naturally with a little cider and the juice of an orange. If not sweet enough just add some xylitol.


  • 2 bottles of fruity red wine
  • 150ml apple cider
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • The juice of one orange
  • The peel of one unwaxed lemon
  • 5 whole cloves, stuck in an unwaxed orange
  • A pinch of nutmeg
  • 5 cardamom pods (optional)
  • I tablespoon of xylitol (optional)


  1. Simmer all ingredients in a small saucepan over medium low heat for 15 minutes.
  2. Remove from heat and let the wine rest for an additional 10 minutes before straining and serving.

Chocolate dipped nuts

dipped nuts

Is this the ultimate decadence? You can pretend it is if you like, but in reality this after-dinner sweet is health food by any other name – the nuts are high in protein and minerals, and dark chocolate is low in sugar and rich in magnesium. Lovely as an occasional treat.

You can double this recipe and store the remainder in the fridge for up to 10 days.

Serves 2


  • 15g (around 1/2oz) good quality dark chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 25g (1oz) shelled mixed nuts (eg almonds, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts or cashews)


  1. Line a baking tray with non-stick paper.
  2. Gently melt the chocolate. To do this, half fill a saucepan with water and let simmer. Place the chocolate in a small metal or heat-proof bowl that fits the rim of the saucepan but does not touch the water, and allow it to melt over the heat, stirring occasionally.
  3. Tip the nuts into the melted chocolate and stir to coat. Place nuts on the baking tray, making sure they are not touching – otherwise they will stick together when they harden.
  4. When all the nuts are done, place the tray in the fridge to let the chocolate harden completely.

From The Low GL Diet Cookbook

Marzipan Truffles

mazipan truffles

These luscious, almondy truffles wouldn’t be out of place served at a dinner party or smartly packaged and given as presents (note, though, that they must stay chilled). Marzipan lends itself well to low-GL sweets, as the nuts and eggs provide protein with minimal carbohydrate.

Will keep chilled in the fridge for up to 24 hours.

Makes 8 truffles


  • 125g (just under 5oz) ground almonds
  • 4 drops almond extract
  • 75g (3oz) xylitol
  • 4 organic, free range egg yolks
  • 1 heaped tbsp finely chopped almonds


  1. Mix the ground almonds, almond extract, xylitol and egg yolks together until they form a smooth paste.
  2. Shape into walnut-sized balls and roll each ball in a saucer of the finely chopped almonds until the outside is coated in nuts.
  3. Place on a plate and store in the fridge till firm.

Health note: Because this recipe contains raw egg, always choose organic or at the very least free-range eggs to reduce the likelihood of salmonella contamination, and do not serve to pregnant women, young children, the elderly or infirm.

From The Low GL Diet Cookbook

Chocolate Almond Apricots

almond apricots

This is another healthy but delicious alternative to after-dinner mints.Very quick and easy to make, these petit fours also provide a powerful nutrient punch, as apricots are rich in the antioxidant pro-vitamin beta-carotene, needed for a strong immune system and healthy skin, while almonds are rich in protein, as well as the bone-friendly minerals calcium and magnesium.

Makes 15


  • 50g (2oz) good quality chocolate
  • 15 ready-to-eat dried apricots
  • 15 almonds


  1. Line a baking tray or large plate with baking paper. Gently melt the chocolate over a bain marie or in the microwave.
  2. Meanwhile, make a slit down one side of each apricot and push your finger in to create a pocket. Insert an almond inside each apricot, then dip one half of the apricot – the open half where the almond was inserted – in the melted chocolate to seal the pocket.
  3. Place on the baking tray and chill in the fridge for at least half an hour until the chocolate has hardened. Store in an airtight tin in a cool, dry place.

From Food Glorious Food.

Sugar Free Mince Pies

mince pies

These mince pies contain no gluten, dairy or added sugar but when I tested them on four children under 7 I had to hide the leftovers from their thieving fingers, so they’ve passed the acid test in my book. We’ve specifically designed them to be as low GL and as antioxidant-rich as possible, so we’ve swapped much of the standard mixed dried fruit for a blend of dried blueberries and cherries, but you could use your preferred choice.

Makes 12

For the pastry

  • 200g (7oz) ground almonds
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 15g (just over ½oz) coconut oil
  • 1 medium egg
  • ¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • Pinch of salt

For the mincemeat

  • 1 heaped tbsp coconut oil – about 25g/1oz
  • 1 medium Bramley (cooking) apple, peeled or unpeeled, as you wish, cored and very finely chopped to about the same size as the rest of the dried fruit
  • Finely chopped zest and juice of a medium orange (unwaxed ideally)
  • Finely chopped zest of half a lemon (unwaxed ideally)
  • 100g (4oz) dried blueberries (choose ones with no added sugar)
  • 30g (just over 1oz) dried cherries, roughly chopped (choose ones with no added sugar)
  • 30g (just over 1oz) raisins
  • 2 heaped tsp ground mixed spice
  • 2 heaped tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 pinch of grated nutmeg
  • 2 tbsp brandy (optional)
  • Plus a beaten egg yolk to glaze and a little coconut palm blossom/nectar (also known as coconut palm sugar and readily available online or from health food stores – choose one with no added cane sugar or sweeteners) to sprinkle on top (optional).


  1. Preheat oven to fan 170C / 325F / Gas mark 3 and prepare a fairy cake baking tray (greased or lined with paper cases as necessary). Get out a round pastry cutter of the same cake diameter, or find a similar sized glass, and a slightly smaller one to cut out the pastry top.
  2. First make the pastry: combine all of the pastry ingredients in a mixing bowl with a wooden spoon until a smooth, firm consistency (or blitz in a food processor, but it doesn’t take long by hand). Bring together into a lump and place in the fridge whilst you make the mincemeat:
  3. Place all of the mincemeat ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a simmer, lid on, for about 10-12 minutes, stirring from time to time. You can remove the lid towards the end of cooking if there is any excess liquid that you want to cook off.
  4. Next roll out your pastry: this is easiest done between two sheets of baking paper and rolled until a few millimetres thick. Cut out 12 circles, re-rolling the pastry as required. Running a little oil along the edge of the glass or cutter with your finger or piece of kitchen towel makes it easier to cut a sharp edge and detach the pastry intact – repeat this half way through if the pastry starts to stick and crumble when lifted.
  5. Very carefully place a pastry circle in each cake mould or cake case on the baking sheet, pressing it lightly into place. Place a heaped teaspoon or so of mincemeat in the centre of each pastry shell to fill it, pressing it lightly out with a spoon to fill the cavity.
  6. With the leftover pastry, either roll it out again and cut out 12 smaller circles to lightly press on top, or cut out strips to make a lattice design on top. You can even cut out holly leaves or stars. If you are covering the whole of the pie with a pastry top, gently make two tiny cuts in the middle of the pastry in a cross shape to let any steam out.
  7. You can glaze the mince pies by brushing with a little beaten egg yolk and dusting with coconut palm nectar if wished. If you’ve not got enough pastry left or want to finish them off quickly, simply scatter a few flaked almonds on top.
  8. Bake for approximately 10 minutes or until light golden on top. Alternatively, chill until ready to cook or freeze in the tin, uncovered, and bake from frozen allowing an extra 5 minutes or so cooking time. Allow to cool on a wire rack. Any leftover cooked mince pies should be kept in the fridge due to the lack of sugar, which acts as a preservative.


&cop; By Fiona McDonald Joyce, 2015

For more information on how to keep your sugar intake low and your blood sugarbalance visit my low GL page.