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Which is healthier: Christmas cake or a mince pie?

Christmas cake and mince pies

The festive season wouldn’t be the same without these fruity baked goods. But if you’re going to pick which treat to enjoy, which is the healthiest option: Christmas cake or a mince pie?

Christmas cake

It’s traditionally made with a large amount of dried fruit, nuts, butter, eggs, sugar, spices plus brandy or sherry. It’s usually covered with marzipan (ground almonds, sugar and egg whites) held in place with jam, and royal icing.

The nutrition lowdown

A slice of Christmas cake has almost twice the sugar (45 per cent of the maximum recommended for a day!) and slightly more calories than a mince pie. But it’s slightly lower in saturated fat and contains double the potassium, a third more iron and almost four times more vitamin A.

Mince pies

Mince pies are typically a simple combo of pastry (flour and fat) and a spoonful of mincemeat (dried fruit with suet, sugar and spices).

The nutrition lowdown

Pastry usually makes up more than half the ingredients in a mince pie, so it tends to be higher in saturated fat but lower in sugar and nutrients than a slice of Christmas cake. The set portion size is an advantage – unless you add a spoonful of cream or brandy butter, which adds considerably more fat, especially saturates, and calories.

And the winner is…

Christmas cake… but you need to be mindful with serving sizes (stick to a 70g slice). To reduce sugar, make or buy a cake with an alternative to icing – for instance, decorate it with unsalted nuts for a nutrition hit. If you’re a mince pie fan, choose a lattice topping to cut down on the pastry – or look out for mini or bite-size mince pies.

First published: Nov 2016
Last updated: December 6, 2021