Mention to family you’ll be serving healthier holiday fare and you may receive a comment such as your dishes will lack good taste. However, creating a delicious holiday meal doesn’t mean you will be eating un-healthfully. In fact, adding nutrient-rich ingredients will create delicious taste with simply an added bonus of health benefits. Think about what you can add into your dishes, not what you should take out. Use these steps to create a healthy holiday meal!
Many holiday dishes tend to be heavy on the carbohydrates or laden with saturated fat. Adding dairy or plant-based protein-rich foods and ingredients to dishes can satisfy your taste buds as well as encourage satiety – possibly preventing one from over indulging. Protein-rich foods, such as beans, Greek yogurt, skyr (an Icelandic dairy product similar to Greek yogurt, but less tart), and cottage cheese can replace richer dishes higher in saturated fat foods, such as those made with cream and butter. These dairy add-ins also will create a creamier consistency to dishes that may be heavier in carbohydrates and lacking protein, or both! Protein-rich foods such as beans will add creaminess and richness to dishes, such as in our Mashed Cauliflower with cannellini beans. This side dish is a twist on a holiday staple, packed with nutrients and protein that will satisfy all of your guests tastes. Add skyr, Greek yogurt, or whipped cottage cheese to vegetables, soups, casseroles, or dips for a creamier, more tasty dish that’s protein-rich, too – such as in our Asparagus with Lemon Skyr recipe. Even desserts, will benefit with the creamy consistency of these protein-rich add-ins, such as this classic Carrot Cake. Other protein-rich nutrient boosters include nuts and seeds. Adding nuts and seeds to dishes will pack in protein, vitamins, and minerals, too. Toss nuts and seeds into stuffing, vegetable, cranberry sauce, and on top of desserts. They not only add protein and nutrients, but delicious flavor too!
Rather than packing on the salt and butter, try seasoning your dishes with spices and herbs first. Adding the right spices and herbs to dishes brings out so much flavor while keeping the dish healthy. Did you know that herbs and spices are packed with antioxidants? Ground cloves, oregano leaves, ginger, cinnamon, and turmeric – to name a few – are all rich in antioxidants to provide your dishes with a dash of flavor and disease fighting properties. Our Glazed Acorn Squash is simple, yet packed with flavor due to the addition of garam masala – a blend of ground peppercorns, mace, cinnamon, cardamon, and nutmeg. We also added a sprinkle of turmeric to our Roasted Cauliflower for a pinch of flavor and color.
Antioxidants help strengthen body cells and tissues to become more resistant to dysfunction, disease, anti-aging, or free radical damage. Various fruits and vegetables are full of antioxidants and work well on your holiday table! Add diced apples or kale to stuffing, mix in spinach or butternut squash to salads or soups, bake zucchini or carrots into breads and top sliced turkey with cooked sliced pears or cranberries. We added apples to our Sorghum Stuffing with Apples and Mushrooms. And don’t forget about dessert! Add dates, cranberries, or pears into cookies and pastries. Adding fruit and vegetables to holiday dishes adds great color, texture, and taste.
Healthy fats such as avocado, nuts and olive oils are high in monounsaturated fatty acids and may help lower the risk of heart disease, stabilize insulin levels, and lower ones bad cholesterol and raise one’s good cholesterol. Incorporating these healthy fat ingredients not only add these health benefits, but incredible taste too! Top off soups and salads with sliced avocado, add nuts to stuffing and vegetables, and sauté vegetables or finish dishes with olive oil. We added avocado to this Broccoli and Avocado Soup for a boost of healthy fats and creamy consistency!
Diets rich in whole grains have been shown to have a reduced risk of stroke, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Whole grains contain vitamins, minerals, fiber, and some protein. The protein and fiber may help you feel fuller longer and may better control your blood sugar. Switch out refined carbohydrate dishes by adding whole grains to your stuffing, such as in this Rosemary Sage Freekeh and Wild Rice Stuffing or incorporate whole grains into vegetables dishes or salads, such as in this Roasted Cauliflower Pomegranate Sorghum Salad. Whole grains flour blends bake a delicious bread or cookie, too!
Add some color to your meals – this will boost nutrient content, too! Think about adding colorful fruits and vegetable and spices as well. Add cranberries to cornbread for a colorful pop or add color to your plate with Mashed Sweet Potatoes or Roasted Colored Fingerling Potatoes instead of plain mashed potatoes. Add cranberry to turkey, spinach to soups, or paprika on deviled eggs or turmeric on parsnips, and so much more. Not only will this add more nutrients to your meals, but will add beautiful color to your festive table.
Too often consumers purchase pre-packaged food items that are filled with ingredients and preservatives that we can’t even pronounce. Remember to be mindful of the ingredients you are buying and serving this holiday season. Ultra processed foods can also be packed with sugar and food dyes, be sure to read your ingredient lists. Even better, try making your favorite dishes yourself! Our Pecan Sweet Potato Pie is perfect for this holiday season and filled with healthy and delicious ingredients that you can pronounce.
It’s easy to drink and serve beverages like ciders, wine, cocktails, sodas – you name it! Remember to always serve water throughout the party. Did you know that 60% of your body is made up of water, and that the recommended amount of water is between 9 and 13 cups per day? Make sure you and all of your guests have a water glass next to them at all time and that a pitcher of water is available throughout the event. For added flavor, infuse your water with lemons, limes, strawberries or any other fruit!
Serving dishes that are already portioned controls helps contain overeating and ensure that everyone can taste whatever is on the menu. Follow the serving size that is on the recipe can help too! For example, serve a cup of soup per person, portion appetizers on individual plates instead of serving a larger cheese platter or antipasto.And for dessert serve small bites and finger foods, you get to taste a few different treats without overindulging. Our Popped Sorghum Peanut Butter Balls (pictured above) are a great example of serving size, each serving is one ball!
You want your guests to feel comfortable and safe at your holiday gathering. Learning about their dietary restrictions ahead of time will allow you to make the necessary adjustments. If you’re feeling uncomfortable cooking for serious restrictions, such as celiac disease or certain food allergies, ask your guest for help. Most importantly, be prepared to let your guests know the ingredients in dishes before serving.