Holiday meals are generally pretty healthy, considering they are usually fresh and home-cooked with lots of love. Most of the excess calories come from overeating and all the fixings: gravy, stuffing, potatoes, fatty ham, and of course, the yummy desserts!
Since overindulging is ok once in awhile, your special holiday meal is the perfect time to do so. But maybe we can help reduce some of the damage by choosing healthy alternatives to the more traditional holiday fare? This post might give you a few ideas to try this holiday season, or inspire your own creative healthy alternatives!
The Protein Main
For vegetarians: while there are some to-die-for veggie lasagnas and veggie casseroles out there, they are usually high in carbs (the pasta) and loaded with fatty cheeses. Try this recipe from my Naturopathic Doc (ND):
Wild Rice Stuffed Squash
- 2 acorn or buttercup squash, halved and seeded
- 2 cups cooked wild rice (about 1/2 cup uncooked)
- 1/2 tsp. seasoned salt
- 1 cup chopped walnuts (here’s the protein!)
- 1/2 cup apricot juice (unsweetened)
- 2 tbsp apple butter
Fill the squash cavities with a mixture of the wild rice, seasoned salt, apple butter and chopped nuts. Bake, covered at 350 degrees for an hour, basting from time to time with the apricot juice.
For carnivors: ham is high in saturated fats, sodium and may contain cancer-linked nitrates. Try one of the most leanest white meats instead: turkey! Turkey is an excellent source of protein, low in fat, high in folic acid, and a good source of vitamins B, B1, B6, zinc and potassium. Selenium, phosphorous and tryptophan are some of the other lauded nutrients found in this choice holiday bird. Cooking Tip: for juicy meat, keep the skin on while cooking but resist eating it to keep the calories down.
What alternative could I possibly suggest to veggies? None. But, I would like to put it out there that the extra time, effort and cost involved with preparing fresh, local and organic veggies will have your body (and your families’) singing with the added nutrition they provide.
Oh! Actually, there is one alternative I’d like to suggest here: try mashed sweet potatoes rather than the regular white potatoes! Sweet potatoes have way more nutrients, fiber and a lower glycemic index which makes them leagues ahead of their paler counterparts in the health department.
1. Meat gravy is made from the juices of cooked meat (including the fat) and is typically thickened using flour or corn starch. This year, why not cut some calories and forgo the thickeners by trying turkey au jus? Reduce the fat content by putting the juices in a container in the freezer for about 15 minutes. Skim the congealed fat from the surface, discard and make your au jus.
2. Instead of gravy, add some juiciness to your turkey with some healthy cranberry sauce. Most recipes use sugar but this one suggests using natural fruit juices and honey to sweeten this otherwise tart meat complement.
3. For your guests who might not especially prefer veggies, try this cheese sauce recipe (also contributed by my ND):
Nutritional Yeast `Cheese Sauce’
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup brown rice flour
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder
- 1/8 tsp dried yellow vegan mustard powder
- 1 cup water
- 1 and 1/2 tbsp olive oil
- Mix dry ingredients, add water, wisk until clumps are gone.
- Put in pot with oil, and heat on medium until thick.
- This is a very thick “sauce” as it is best suited for things like alfredo, macaroni and cheese, etc… It shouldn’t get as thick as mashed potatoes, though, so be careful. You can add more water if you make it too thick, but it’s supposed to be pretty thick.
4. Turkey stuffing has to be by far my favourite fixing in the holiday meal, but I’ve been passing for years because of the extra calories and carbs. Now, I don’t have to with this recipe contributed by my cousin, Tina Kasaboski:
Tina’s Harvest Delight Dressing
- 1/4 cup shredded carrots
- 1 green onion, chopped
- 1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
- 1 cup multi-grain bread, glutten-free bread and/or rye, prepare in small bits
- 1 apple, chopped
- 1/2 cup cranberries, fresh or frozen
- 1 cup wild rice, half cooked
- 1 tsp poultry seasoning (sage, savoury, rosemary, thyme & black pepper)
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 1 egg, beaten
Mix dry ingredients together. Drizzle beaten egg over mixture and stuff bird.
Here are a couple of healthier alternatives to the traditional holiday meal finishers:
- Hannah Keeley’s Black Bean Brownie recipe
- Even MORE Like Chocolate Pudding (scroll down to the last recipe in the post)
- Healthy Pumpkin Pie recipe
- Healthy Apple Pie recipe
I hope you’ve found something interesting in this post to try this year. If you did and you do try it out on the family, please come back and share your comments!
Do you have any healthy holiday meal alternatives to share?