Healthy treats to enjoy around the Christmas tree

By October 24, 2017Recipes

Christmas is basically a synonym for tasty desserts and decadent biscuits and pastries. Unfortunately, many of these sugary treats can take their toll on our waistlines and leave us feeling sluggish. One too many and the kilos pile on too as store-bought treats can contain lots of preservative and refined ingredients.

Cape Town-based health coach and food blogger Bernice Griffiths sets us on the right track with delicious, healthy homemade treats. Bernice recommends the freshest, most natural and unrefined ingredients. Choose the best quality chocolate or butter you can find.

Cherry and coconut truffles

These truffles are rich and decadent, but packed full of wholesome ingredients. Use the best quality dark chocolate you can afford. These treats make a delicious gift too.


  • 50g raw almonds
  • 7 fresh dates (pips removed)
  • A generous handful of glace cherries (roughly 17), +/- 100grams
  • 50g 70% dark chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup fine coconut
  • 70-100g dark chocolate (or chocolate of your choice)
  • 2 teaspoons sunflower oil
  • A few maraschino cherries on stalks (optional)


  1. Grind the almonds in a blender until fine and powdery. Once it’s done, set aside.
  2. Place the dates in the blender and blend slightly. Add the glace cherries. Blend a bit more and then add the dark chocolate and blend until very well mixed, chopped and smooth.
  3. Add the ground almonds back into the blender and mix again.
  4. Now add the coconut, little by little, until you reach a pliable consistency.
  5. Roll into balls or mould the truffle mixture around the maraschino cherries.
  6. Melt the chocolate and oil in a glass bowl balanced on top of a pot with a little water boiling below (the glass bowl mustn’t touch the water below). Stir until melted.
  7. Dip the rolled cherry and coconut balls in the chocolate and spoon more melted chocolate over. Place on waxed paper to set.

Recipe note:
There may be a little melted chocolate left over but if you use less you won’t be able to spoon the chocolate over the balls, so spread the leftover chocolate on a separate piece of wax paper and sprinkle with cherries, almonds or raisins. Leave to set, break into pieces and enjoy!

Shortbread biscuits

These biscuits are ideal if you’re practising gluten-free. They do contain real butter, as this is essential for the shortbread consistency. Make and decorate with the children.


3 tbsp Xylitol
90g butter (use real butter, not margarine, as this will have an effect on the texture)
2 teaspoons caramel essence or vanilla essence
3 tbsp corn flour
2/3 cup rice flour (or wheat flour)

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1. Preheat the oven to 150ºC.
2. Beat together the Xylitol, butter and caramel or vanilla essence until smooth and fluffy.
3. Mix the corn and rice flour into the butter mixture and shape into a ball.
4. Roll out between two sheets of wax paper until 5-7 mm thick.
5. Cut into cookie shapes of your choice or roll into small balls and flatten with a fork.
6. Place on a greased and lined baking tray and bake at 150ºC for more or less eight minutes or until light brown. Keep an eye on the cookies as they can burn easily.
7. Remove from the oven and leave to cool before decorating them as you desire.

Banana and yoghurt muffins

These muffins are perfect for a healthy, light Christmas breakfast or a teatime treat in the afternoon.


1/3 cup coconut oil (or a neutral oil like sunflower oil)
2 heaped tbsp honey
4 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp butter
3 eggs
1/2 cup yoghurt
2 cups gluten-free flour mix
1 cup buckwheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 bananas
1/3 cup water
1 cup raisins (optional)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons agave syrup (or use honey)
1/3 cup sunflower seeds
A small handful extra dried fruit (optional)


1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC.
2. In a large bowl, mix together the coconut oil, honey, sugar and butter until smooth and pale.
3. Beat in the eggs one at a time.
4. Mix in the yoghurt. The mix may seem like it’s going to curdle (don’t over-mix, just stir in).
5. Mix in the flours, baking powder and bicarb, adding a bit at a time until all is incorporated. The dough will be thick.
6. Mash up the bananas with a fork and mix into the batter.
7. Add the water and mix until you have nice smooth consistency.
8. Add the raisins, if you are using them.
9. Then add the cinnamon, agave syrup, sunflower seeds and any dried fruit you like.
10. Mix until everything is evenly distributed.
11. Spoon the batter in cupcake liners and in muffin trays. Sprinkle with a tiny bit of brown sugar and bake for roughly 15 minutes until well risen and brown.

Recipe note:

You can premix the batter keep the batter in the fridge in a sealable container until you are ready to bake. The batter should keep up to six days.