The holidays are all about family and good food, but you don’t need to abandon your mindful eating and lifestyle habits just because it’s the holiday season. You can still feel your best and enjoy the holidays all season long while enjoying your favorite recipes. Here are seven ways you can put a healthy spin on holiday classics.
#1 Choose Fresh Green Beans Instead of Green Bean Casserole
Instead of baking up a traditional green bean casserole laden with layers of cheese, cream and other dairy products, keep this classic side dish simple by serving fresh steamed green beans. For an added crunch of taste and texture, add a sprinkle of crushed pecans, walnuts or slivered almonds.
#2 Ditch the Store Bought Stuffing and Make Your Own
Nothing says the holidays like a heaping spoonful of stuffing, but instead of buying store-bought stuffing, which can be loaded with sodium and other artificial ingredients, make your own at home. Simply saute carrots, celery, onions and any other cubed vegetables of your choosing in 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil. Combine the vegetables with cubes of grain-free bread, broth and your favorite holiday herbs and spices like black pepper, sage and thyme then bake at 350 degrees for one hour or until bread crumbs are golden brown in color. Serve and enjoy!
Tip: Need some recipe inspiration? Check out this Easy Six-Step Sausage Stuffing or this Paleo Sausage, Apple and Chestnut Stuffing.
#3 Get Some Gravy
This holiday season, leave the jarred gravy on the grocery store shelves where it belongs and make your own instead. It’s easy! Just follow these three simple steps.
- In a large saucepan, combine one cup of broth (beef, chicken, turkey or vegetable broth), seasonings like pepper, salt and thyme and the drippings from your roasting pan assuming you are using it to cook up a delicious holiday dinner.
- Place the saucepan on a stovetop burner and set the burner to a medium-high heat.
Stir until gravy is brown in color then add 2 tablespoons of arrowroot powder, tapioca flour or another natural thickener of your choice until mixture is thoroughly combined then dish up and serve.
#4 Go Grain Free
It’s easy to fill up on the bread basket long before your favorite holiday classics make their way around the dinner table to you, so either skip the bread basket entirely or opt for grain-free options instead like almond flour, coconut flour or other nut/seed mixes. You can even make a basket of freshly baked homemade sweet potato rolls.
#5 Select a Sugar-Free Cranberry Sauce
Although the canned shaped cranberry sauce is a staple at the holiday dinner table, that store bought can of cranberry sauce can also be laden with artificial sweeteners, corn syrup, preservatives and refined sugar. (Yuck!) Instead, cut out the processed sugars and make your own sugar-free cranberry sauce made with fresh cranberries from the local community farmers market (if available).
#6 Swap Out Sweet Side Dishes for Sweet Vegetables
This holiday season, instead of serving candied yams, try serving another sweet side dish like oven-roasted acorn squash or sweet potatoes.
- Acorn Squash: Wash your acorn squash then cut it into cubes. Place acorn squashes on a baking sheet and drizzle with avocado oil and a dash of cinnamon. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes or until acorn squash is tender.
- Sweet Potatoes: Simply dice and slice the desired amount of sweet potatoes then toss in avocado oil with a dash of pink Himalayan salt or sea salt. Roast them in the oven at 350 degrees for 40-60 minutes. Sweet potatoes also pair really well with other roasted vegetables like Brussel sprouts.
Tip: The natural sugars in the acorn squash and sweet potatoes will quickly cause them to burn if you cook them on too high of a temperature, so remember low and slow wins the holiday race!
#7 Say So Long to Processed Sugar
One of the best parts about the holiday season is the array of Christmas cookies on display at every holiday party. This year, skip the Christmas cookies that are filled with processed sugars and other artificial ingredients and enjoy some sweet treats that have been prepared with real, whole food ingredients. You may even opt for a simple, yet delicious, holiday pie like pumpkin pie and sweeten the recipe with a natural sweetener like honey or maple syrup.
This holiday season, don’t skip the simple joys of your favorite classic holiday dishes. Instead, elevate them by being more mindful of how you prepare them so you and your holiday guests can feel their best from now until the New Year. Happy holidays everyone!
Browse more tips and recipes on the Discover Blog.
Meet The Author
Ashley Martens is a Health and Wellness Writer based in Chicago, IL. With a background in digital marketing coupled with her knowledge of general nutrition and a lifelong passion for all things health, wellness, fitness and nutrition, Ashley offers a healthy alternative to traditional writing. You can learn more about Ashley and her writing over at her blog, Three to Five a Day.