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The Healthy Food Guide team believe that making small diet and lifestyle changes brings the best long-term gains. We look at the science behind the headlines and promote a balanced way of eating.

They bring comfort and joy to teatime – plus calories, sugar and fat. So if you’re going for a treat, which is better: 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 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% of the maximum recommended for a day!) and slightly more calories than a mince pie. But it’s slightly lower in fat and contains double the potassium, a third more iron and almost four times more vitamin A.

christmas-cake-mince-pie

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 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 strict 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.