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How To Plan A Gorgeously Healthy Christmas Menu (Plus A Few Recipes)

Healthy Christmas Meal Plan in Australia | Feed Your Awesome MachineIt’s almost Christmas and time to pull together your Christmas menu. But rather than resorting to all the usual traditions that leave you feeling bloated and sluggish, perhaps 2015 is the perfect year to switch off the auto-pilot and instead kick-off your menu planning with a different question:

How do I want to feel?

I’m pretty clear on this. My three words for how I want to feel at Christmas are excited, connected and alive.

Your words may be different, but whatever they are, your Christmas menu should help to create the kinds of feelings you most want to experience.

Here’s what I mean:

  1. Excited: I want to feel excited about the food I chose to serve. The menu options therefore need to be a little different to what I usually eat, seem special, and for me personally this means food that’s a bit on the gourmet side.
  2. Connected: All great connections with others start with a strong connection with the self. This means I need to respect myself and body, just like I endeavour to do every other day. The food we chose to eat plays a big part in expressing this self-respect. I also need to ensure everyone present is satisfied with the menu options too.
  3. Alive: In addition to keeping my body moving during the day, fuelling myself with nutrient rich whole foods full of colour and life are the best way to keep me feeling alive. I also want everything outdoors so I can feel the freedom and warmth powerof this beautiful Australian summer as I eat.

You can find more tips to feel great on Christmas day here.

The perfect recipe for Christmas menu madness

If however, you are looking for a way to feel the exact opposite: feelings of guilt, isolation, self-hate, then I have the perfect menu for you. Just sit around all day eating a variety of packaged junk foods, then serve up the usual sugary, fatty dishes at dinner and sip alcoholic drinks or soda all day long. To complete the nihilism, just weight yourself two days later.

But of course I know you don’t want that. Otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this. I know you want to feel amazing both on Christmas day and after it. Just like I do.

Screw convention. Create your own Christmas

So what should you do if all your Christmases in the past have added up to you feeling the exact opposite of how you want to feel?

The first step is NOT to start berating yourself for your past Christmases. These are said and done. Chances are you were just following tradition. But unfortunately when it comes to our body and health, tradition rarely get’s us where we want to be.

Remember that you did the best with the knowledge you had.

Now you have new insight.

Now you have the power to make new choices…

So come and claim it.
Healthy Christmas Family Recipes | Melanie Stephens
Mum, Geoffrey and Gypsy dog picking organic strawberries from their garden for our Christmas dessert.

Who said Christmas needs to be all Turkey, mash and mince-pies?

Next, ask yourself how you want to feel, both on Christmas day and afterwards. Then, construct a menu that’ll get you there.

And don’t worry about getting unconventional. If you’ve done much world traveling you’ll know first hand how “traditional Christmas fare” changes completely from country to country and region to region. So be courageous, be bold and craft your own Christmas menu the way you want it.

What if you’re not the lead Christmas chef?

Simple. Either take a couple of dishes with you to “help the chef out” that you can secretly fill most of your plate with, or ask the Chef if they wouldn’t mind incorporating some healthier options into the mix. If they’re up for it, send them the recipes I’ve shared below.

The FYAM sexy gourmet (and healthy) Christmas menu

This whole post was inspired, as per usual, by a conversation I had with one of my Gorgeously Healthy clients during a coaching session the other day. She asked me to share my Christmas menu. I thought I’d go one better. I’d post it here on the FYAM blog and throw in a couple of recipes too.

Here’s the thoughts behind my Christmas menu. It centres around 3 things:

  1. My three focus feelings: alive, excited and connected
  2. It will be my first summer Christmas in over 10 years, so I wanted the menu to be a variety of light, fresh, flavoursome foods that include an Aussie style BBQ
  3. My mother has a beautiful little organic garden out the back of her home where she grows all sorts of fruit and vegetables. We decided it would be fitting to feature Mums amazingly tasty strawberries in the dessert

Family Christmas Recipes and Healthy Menu Plan | FYAM
Meet Gypsy, Mums scrumptious black Labrador. She adores strawberries and always gets her own bowl. Awwww

This translated to a few grilled proteins and a variety of colourful salads to accompany them creating what I like to call a Sexy Gourmet BBQ. Here’s what’s on the menu:

On the BBQ- something for everyone

  • Thai flavoured vegan lentil burgers
  • Garlic and coriander prawns
  • Organic free range grilled chicken with mango and chili salsa
  • Marinated cumin and herb lamb lollipops

On the table

  • Fennel, endive and orange salad with honey and citrus dressing
  • Roast sweet potato and quinoa salad with toasted pecans and cranberries
  • Grilled vegetables with vegan cashew aoli
  • Potato and green bean salad with mustard vinaigrette
  • Mixed green salad with the family homemade balsamic dressing

Dessert

  • Vegan chocolate ganache tart topped with Mums freshly grown organic strawberries

Below you’ll find the recipes for two of my Christmas dishes. The grilled chicken with mango and chili salsa, and the roast sweet potato and the quinoa salad with toasted pecans and cranberries. I’ll photograph the dessert on Christmas day and share the recipe for that soon afterwards. It’s a winner for any special occasion ;-)

Grilled chicken with mango and chili salsa

This recipe also works really well with fish instead of chicken. For a great vegan option, swap chicken for tofu or tempeh.

Feeds 4


  • 400g organic free range chicken breast
  • 3 limes
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 mango
  • ½ red bell pepper
  • ¼ medium red onion
  • Large handful fresh coriander and or mint
  • 1 small hot chili (more or less to taste)

Place the chicken breast in a large strong freezer bag, and bash with a wooden mallet or the side of a rolling pin to flatten out to a universal thickness of around 1 cm.

Tip flattened breasts into another freezer bag, add a splash of extra virgin olive oil, the juice of two limes and the soy sauce. Mix well, tie up the bag tightly and put in the fridge to marinade for anywhere between 1 hour to overnight.

Slice the cheeks from the mango, cut flesh into 1 cm dice and tip into a medium salad bowl (if you’re not sure how to do this, check out the video on this page). Wash, core and seed the red bell pepper and dice into similar sizes. Peel and finely slice the red onion. Finely chop the chili- include the seeds if you like it hot. Wash and chop the herbs. Add all ingredients to the mango in the bowl. Top with the juice of 1 lime, a little splash of olive oil, and season with salt.

When ready to serve, heat the BBQ or grill pan until searing hot. Remove the chicken breasts from their bag, shake off all the marinade, place a tiny bit of olive oil on the hot BBQ and immediately lay the drained chicken on the hot surface. Leave untouched for a good 90 seconds or so until the bottom is a gentle golden brown. Turn and cook for another 90 seconds or until completely cooked through.

Slide the cooked chicken onto a plate, top with the salsa and serve.

Roast sweet potato and quinoa salad with toasted pecans and cranberries

Due to the inherent sourness of dried cranberries, they are almost always sprayed with sugar. Search for a variety with the least sugar possible and then leave it at that. Here’s how to figure out how much sugar is in a product. You’ll only add a little and it is Christmas after all ;-)

This recipe is also one that’s great to make the day before. It makes great a packed lunch too.

Feeds 4


  • 800g sweet potato
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 70g pecans
  • 70g dried cranberries
  • 150g baby spinach leaves
  • 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons white wine or cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons raw honey or maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons seedy mustard

Preheat oven at 230C / 450F

Scrub the sweet potato skins under running water until clean and cut into 1cm dice. Toss in a small bowl with 2 teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil and a few twists of a salt and pepper grinder. Line a large flat baking tray with baking paper, tip the sweet potato cubes onto the tray and bake for 30-40 minutes, turning once or twice during cooking. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.

Tip the quinoa into a small pot. Top with 1 ¾ cup of water. Add ½ teaspoon salt and place on the stove over high heat. When it starts to boil, reduce the heat to a low setting, top with a tight fitting lid and set your timer for 15 minutes. When the timer rings the quinoa will be ready. Do not lift the lid during cooking. Just turn off the heat, leave the lid on, and set aside to cool.

Heat a small fry pan over medium heat. When hot, tip into the pecan nuts and toast gently in the dry heat until they are beginning to toast and gain a little colour. Tip them into a bowl and set aside.

In a small jar, combine the olive oil, the vinegar, honey and mustard together. Season with salt. Screw the lid on tightly and shake. Taste and adjust ingredients as needed. It should be a little stronger than perfect because it will lose some of its kick once added to the salad.

In a large salad bowl, mix together the cooked quinoa, toasted pecans, cranberries, spinach leaves and dressing. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Gently fold through the pumpkin and serve.

How do you want to feel this Christmas? What’s on your Christmas menu?

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  • Edel

    Great to see a new post, Melanie! And well worth the wait :) Well, I’m going to try very hard to introduce some of the recipes you suggest but it’s going to be an uphill trek for sure! Trying to introduce changes to the family’s traditional Irish Christmas dinner will not be easy. Stuffed roast turkey, ham, roast potatoes (with lashings of butter) and vegetables (with gravy, bread sauce – and lashings of butter!!) I believe is a sub-clause in the nation’s Declaration of Independence! As for traditional desserts of plum pudding (fried in lashings of butter and topped with brandy butter!!!), fruit cake and sherry trifle – will have 90% of the country’s population burping their way to New Year!! I am, however, steely in my determination (!!) to start a new tradition this year with some healthy alternatives from your menu. And even if none of the other eight family members break with tradition and join me in breaking with tradition, I will skip lightly (vs burp) through the days following our family Christmas dinner knowing that I can still reach my feet to put my socks on in a reasonably dignified manner – without having to resort to mad yoga moves to maneuver past a Christmas belly!!
    My sincerest wishes for a joy-filled Christmas to you, your lovely mum, Geoffrey and Gypsy dog!

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Melanie Stephens, Optimum Nutrition in Paris

I’m Melanie Stephens a qualified nutritionist, chef and workout enthusiast who’s wildly passionate about helping people get healthy, lean and energised so they can lead truly exceptional lives of their own design.

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I help men and women all over the world transform their health, their bodies and their lives through health, nutrition and fitness coaching via Skype.

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