The holiday season is well and truly upon us and, for many people, the delicious foods we only enjoy at this time of year are the highlight of our holidays. Perhaps you’re already dreaming about succulent turkey, indulgent side dishes, or decadent desserts.
But what if you are trying to be more health-conscious this year? Don’t panic. The festive season need not spell disaster for your good intentions. Try some of these tasty and healthy twists on traditional holiday favorites, transforming them into wholesome and nutritious versions of their classic counterparts.
Leaner Herb-Roasted Turkey: A Protein-Rich Centerpiece
The good news is that, nutritionally, turkey has many benefits. It’s slightly lower in calories and fat than chicken, and loaded with lean protein as well as important vitamins and minerals.
Begin your health-conscious holiday feast by opting for a leaner herb-roasted turkey. Choose a fresh, organic bird and season it with a generous mix of fresh herbs such as rosemary, thyme, and sage. This flavorful twist not only enhances the taste of the meat, but also reduces the need for excessive amounts of salt and butter.
Roasting the turkey with the skin on (and removing the skin before serving) will keep your turkey moist.
We like this recipe from EatingWell (to make it even healthier, use less oil than the recipe suggests.)
Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes: Creamy Comfort Food with a Nutritional Boost
Turn mashed potatoes into a lighter, nutrient-rich dish by incorporating cauliflower, a nutritional powerhouse that is high in vitamins C and K as well as fiber and antioxidants.
Boil cauliflower florets until tender and squeeze as much water out of them as possible using a teatowel, then mash them with cooked potatoes, a little garlic, and a touch of Greek yogurt for added creaminess. The resulting mash is so delicious you won’t even need butter!
This delicious twist preserves the comforting taste and texture of mashed potatoes while introducing an extra boost of goodness.
Quinoa and Cranberry Stuffing: A Wholesome Alternative
Stuffing is delicious, but it is far from the healthiest item on your holiday plate. It is typically very high in fat, salt, and carbohydrates.
However, you don’t have to forego this festive favorite. Instead, upgrade your stuffing game by incorporating quinoa and cranberries. Substitute some or all of the traditional bread with cooked quinoa, then add dried cranberries, chopped nuts, and a medley of herbs.
This nutrient-rich stuffing is not only packed with flavor, but also provides a protein-filled and fiber-rich alternative, making it a healthy addition to your festive table.
We like this recipe from Tasteful Venture, which also incorporates walnuts. Bonus: it’s completely plant-based, so any vegan guests will be delighted.
Roasted Sweet Potato Casserole: A Nutrient-Dense Delight
Infuse your holiday casserole with the wholesome goodness of roasted sweet potatoes. Instead of drowning them in a traditional sugary marshmallow topping, though, accentuate the potatoes’ natural sweetness by simply roasting them with a drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkle of cinnamon, and a small handful of chopped nuts.
This nutrient-dense casserole not only adds a burst of color to your holiday spread but also offers a hearty dose of beta-carotene, fiber, and an array of essential vitamins.
Green Bean Almondine: A Lighter Side Dish
Give the classic green bean casserole a lighter and more nutrient-packed twist by opting for a green bean almondine. This vibrant side dish is so easy to make and requires only a handful of ingredients: fresh green beans, olive oil, toasted almonds, lemon zest, and a sprinkle of sea salt. You can also add shallots and garlic for extra flavor, if you like.
Serving green beans this way preserves the crispiness of the beans but also introduces a wealth of antioxidants, healthy fats, and a burst of citrus flavor into your holiday dinner.
We like this recipe from Love and Lemons.
Healthier Pumpkin Pie: The Perfect Finale
Staying healthy does not have to mean skipping dessert! Conclude your festive feast on a nutritious note with a healthier pumpkin pie. Swap the traditional pie crust with a nut or oat-based alternative, or even make a crustless pie.
Blending pumpkin puree with natural sweeteners like maple syrup or honey, and incorporating warming spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg, offers a delicious pumpkin pie that not only satisfies your sweet tooth but also provides a dose of fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants, making it a perfectly nutritious way to end your holiday meal.We like this recipe from Ambitious Kitchen, which suggests maple syrup and coconut sugar to naturally sweeten the pie and bring out that rich orange color.