Festive Foods: our Naughty and Nice List

Louise Mason BA Hons, Dip CNM Nutritional Therapist, Dip CNM Naturopath, mANP

It’s festive season! A time for family and friends and celebrating with traditional foods and drinks. But for some of us, it can also be tricky to navigate our way through the festive foods without experiencing digestive issues, whether that is due to intolerances or just overindulgence.

We all want to celebrate and enjoy our festive parties and meals, so to help you out we have compiled our Naughty and Nice List with healthier alternatives to traditional festive foods. You can read the whole list or just look for your favourite to read more. Then you can try one of our alternatives, confident that you know why it is healthier.

mince pies

Naughty? Mince Pies

Who doesn’t love a warm mince pie? Or any type of mince pie! I could happily be a mince pie taster. But did you know that shop bought mince pies can be fully of highly processed ingredients that can cause inflammation?1


Homemade mince pies! Use buckwheat or gluten-free oat flour pastry to increase fibre and make it easier to digest, and for the filling, simply nuts and dried fruit soaked in fruit juice, with no added sugar or preservatives. Still delicious and with all your favourite festive spices you won't know the difference!   You could also include chestnuts in your mincemeat mix. Not only are they delicious, but also rich in vitamin C and a good source of fibre. Fibre helps regularity, which can be a cause of bloating. If you suffer from occasional bloating you could try our One Week Flat product.

Optibac One Week Flat
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Naughty? Yule log

A centrepiece for any Christmas tea and a firm favourite with the kids, but it is normally full of sugar and cream. If you have a dairy intolerance this can lead to you avoiding it so you don’t experience any symptoms.2 What could be a healthier alternative?


A homemade yule log filled with coconut cream as a non-dairy alternative. To make it look beautiful you could decorate it with pomegranates and cranberries. Bonus points for providing your family and guests with some superfoods.

Naughty? Eggnog

A festive tradition from the USA which is becoming more popular in the UK. Eggnog is full of sugar which we know can cause inflammation3, as well as being lacking in nutrients.


Make a fruit punch packed full of seasonal fruits and their lovely antioxidants and vitamins. Also include some warming cinnamon and cloves for their seasonal flavours - you can even impress your guests by telling them that cinnamon is derived from the inner bark of specific species of trees.

We have a delicious festive punch recipe in our Guide to a Healthy Holiday Season.

Naughty? Mithai

An important part of Diwali celebrations are the delicious sweets which are offered to all guests. They taste delicious and are so tempting, but are also very high in sugar. So what can we have instead?


Opt for sugar-free versions of classic sweet treats, such as sugar-free coconut burfi. Or, try dipping some satsuma segments in dark chocolate. This is a double win with the fibre and vitamins and minerals from the fruit combined with the iron and magnesium from the dark chocolate.4 Magnesium is important for managing stress, and planning for festive occasions can certainly increase our stress levels!

To get more great tips on how to manage stress you can read: Feel Less Stressed.

Naughty? Rugelach

These are eaten as part of Hannukah festivities but are often made with traditional wheat flour, which can be a problem for people with gluten intolerances.5


Try making your own using a gluten-free flour. You can pack them with chopped brazil nuts, which are a great source of selenium to contribute to immune function. And don’t forget our favourite stress management food, some dark chocolate!

Naughty? Pumpkin pie

No Thanksgiving table would be complete without a pumpkin pie, but often these can be full of highly processed ingredients in the pastry and fillings if they are shop-bought. Not to mention wheat and dairy which rule them out for people with intolerances.


A homemade pumpkin pie made with gluten-free oat flour pastry for all your guests to enjoy, including the traditional spices of cinnamon and nutmeg means you can reduce the amount of added sugar and you know there are no nasty additives in the pastry. You can dazzle your guests with your culinary skills and your knowledge that oats are full of fibre and keep you full for longer........so they can enjoy another slice!


Festive celebrations are an important part of our lives, but knowing how to get the balance between healthy foods and traditional foods can be confusing. We hope this list has helped you to find an alternative that is equally as delicious that will become a new festive favourite. What will you try first?

I’m off to make some homemade mince pies!


  1. Gómez-Donoso, C., Sánchez-Villegas, A., Martínez-González, M. A., Gea, A., Mendonça, R. D., Lahortiga-Ramos, F., & Bes-Rastrollo, M. (2020). Ultra-processed food consumption and the incidence of depression in a Mediterranean cohort: the SUN Project. European journal of nutrition59(3), 1093–1103. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00394-019-01970-1
  2. Micic D, Rao VL, Rubin DT. Clinical Approach to Lactose Intolerance. JAMA. 2019;322(16):1600–1601. doi:10.1001/jama.2019.14740
  3. Satokari R. High Intake of Sugar and the Balance between Pro- and Anti-Inflammatory Gut Bacteria. Nutrients. 2020; 12(5):1348. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12051348
  4. Dark chocolate – rich on flavonoids that protect against CVD and reduce BP. Haritha, K., Kalyani, L., & Rao, A. L. (2014). Health benefits of dark chocolate. J. Adv. Deliv1, 184-194.
  5. Makharia, A., Catassi, C., & Makharia, G. K. (2015). The Overlap between Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity: A Clinical Dilemma. Nutrients7(12), 10417–10426. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu7125541