Lighten Up Your Holiday Recipes without Compromising on Taste

Posted On Wednesday, 02 November 2016
Lighten Up Your Holiday Recipes without Compromising on Taste

Sometime between Halloween and Thanksgiving, health goals go out the window to make room for treats galore.

We start planning menus focused on traditional recipes, and even with the best of intentions, end up compromising on intake of sugar, unhealthy fats and artificial additives in order to enjoy some family time around the table.

What if I told you that you can stay true to those flavors of the holiday without having to undo all the hard work you put in throughout the year to get healthier?

By swapping a few ingredients here and there, you can still have your sweet potatoes, pumpkin, cranberries and all the other comfort foods this time of year brings to the table. A recipe with just the right pieces can not only deter you from making the wrong choices this holiday, but also add some much needed nutrients to your plate.

After all, the holiday season happens to be when temperatures start to decrease, and the cold and flu season knock on our doors. The last thing you need is a compromised immune system and higher susceptibility to disease. There is just no time to lay in bed and recuperate when there are parties to attend and festivities to plan!

Here are a few recipes by registered dietitian nutritionists with just that in mind. Each ingredient was added with a specific goal for health. They each contribute to keeping you healthy while awakening your taste buds so you can enjoy the culinary pleasures of the holiday season.

Before we dig into the recipes, here are a few tools to create (or recreate) your very own favorite recipes to increase their nutrient value:

  • Use only half of the salt the original recipe calls for.
  • Use Greek yogurt instead of mayonnaise.
  • Applesauce is a great substitute for oil in baking recipes.
  • Use fruit purees, such as date or prune, to sweeten instead of sugar.
  • Add shredded veggies to sauces, in lasagna for example.
  • Use honey or maple syrup instead of sugar.
  • Saute or bake and avoid frying.
  • Replace heavy cream in recipes (where it is used to thicken) with cashew nut butter or tahini.
  • Use whole wheat flour instead of white flour.
  • Increase whole grains as often as possible.

Without further ado, here are some ideas to complement your holiday menus…


By Nutrition A La Natalie

3 cloves garlic, unpeeled
1 head of cauliflower
1 pot of boiling water
1 cup of cooked white beans
1 7-oz.container of 2% plain Greek yogurt
½ cup of fresh parsley, picked off the stems
4 stalks scallions (only the green part)
2 teaspoons of salt
1 teaspoon of black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the garlic in the oven (with the peels on) for 15- 20 minutes.
While the garlic is roasting, bring the pot of water to a boil. Cut the stem off the cauliflower and chop it into large pieces. Immerse the cauliflower in the boiling water. Boil for 10 minutes or until tender.
Once the garlic is roasted, take it out of the oven and set aside to cool. When it’s cool to the touch, peel the garlic.
Pour the cauliflower and water into a colander and strain.
Once the cauliflower is cool, put it in a blender or food processor. Add the garlic cloves, Greek yogurt, parsley, scallions, salt and pepper. Puree until smooth.
Serve warm.

*Optional: add a drizzle of olive oil or pumpkin seeds (as pictured)

By Lindsay from The Lean Green Bean

2 Tablespoons butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup onion, diced
1 cup mushrooms, thinly sliced and diced
3 Tablespoons white whole wheat flour
11/2 cups skim milk
2/3 cups plain Greek yogurt
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon onion powder
3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
black pepper, to taste
2 12-ounce bags frozen green beans
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated (optional)
1/4 cup Panko breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Melt butter in a large saucepan.
Add garlic, onion and mushrooms and saute 5-7 minutes.
Add flour and stir well.
Slowly add milk, stirring constantly to avoid clumping.
Add yogurt and seasonings, reduce heat and let simmer 5-10 minutes until thickened.
Cook green beans according to package directions (in microwave or on the stove). Drain excess water.
Add green beans to sauce and stir to combine.
Pour into a casserole dish. Top with Parmesan if desired. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs.
Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

By Carolina Jantac from Once Again Nut Butter Blog

3 lbs. of sweet potatoes
1 large egg
1 teaspoon of salt
1/3 cup of Once Again Killer Bee Honey
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ginger
1/3 cup of chopped pecans
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon of brown sugar (optional)

Wash and peel potatoes, and then chop them into cubes and steam until soft. Place them in a bowl, and while still warm, puree, using a hand mixer or blender. You may add a couple of tablespoons of water if needed, but when pureed while still warm, you will most likely not need any additional water. Now add a beaten egg, honey, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, salt and mix well. Place in bake-safe dish (8×8 works well). The topping is the mixture of the pecans, sugar and brown sugar. Sprinkle on top of the sweet potato and bake, covered in foil, in an oven preheated at 350F for about 45 minutes. Serve warm.

By Lauren Sharifi from Bite of Health Nutrition

6 ounces (1½ cups) cranberries, washed
2 apples, peeled and diced
¼ cup orange juice
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ orange
2-3 tablespoons maple syrup

In a medium sauce pan on medium heat add cranberries, apples, orange juice, cinnamon, zest and orange segments (pith removed) from ½ orange.
Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes or until apples are tender (almost applesauce consistency)
Mix in maple syrup to taste.
Place in refrigerator for at least 2 hours to cool and thicken.

*NOTES: This recipe can easily be doubled if serving a large crowd.

By Kara Lydon from The Foodie Dietitian

For the crust:
1 cup walnuts
1 cup gluten-free oats
3 tbsp coconut oil, melted
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp cold water
1/8 tsp salt

For the pie filling:
1 can pumpkin
10 oz silken tofu
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup agave syrup
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 tbsp cornstarch

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9-inch pie dish with coconut oil.
In a food processor, pulse walnuts, gluten-free oats, coconut oil, brown sugar, and salt to combine. Add cold water and pulse again to mix.
Transfer mixture to pie dish and using your hands, press the mixture into the pie dish to form the crust.
Pre bake crust for 10 minutes. Remove crust and let cool.
Turn the oven temperature up to 400 degrees.
In the meantime, in a blender or food processor, add pumpkin, tofu, vanilla, pumpkin pie spice, syrups, and cornstarch. Blend to combine until smooth.
Pour pumpkin filling into pie dish.
Bake pie for 60 minutes. Let cool.

Optional: serve with coconut whipped cream. Serving size: 8 pieces.


By Sharon Palmer

4 large apples, peeled, cored, sliced
¼ cup orange juice
½ teaspoon cinnamon

Crumb Topping:
2/3 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon brown sugar
3 tablespoons soft margarine spread

Preheat oven to 350 F.
To make filling: Toss apple slices, orange juice and cinnamon together and arrange in a 10-inch pie dish.
To make crumb topping: Stir oats, whole wheat flour, cinnamon and brown sugar together. Mix in margarine spread with a fork to make a crumbly dough. Sprinkle crumb topping over apple filling.
Place dish in oven and bake for about 1 hour, until topping is golden brown and apples are tender yet firm.
Remove from oven and serve while warm.

Makes 8 servings

*Nutrition Information per Serving: 137 calories, 2 g protein, 26 g carbohydrate, 13 g, sugar, 4 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 4 g fiber, 35 mg sodium

Carolina Lima Jantac, MS, RD, LD

Carolina Lima Jantac, MS, RD, LD, Nutrition Expert, and Social Media Manager is excited to be a part of an important program for mothers, dads, and kids who need so much guidance. As a Registered Dietitian, she has spent most of her career working in pediatric and adult hospitals as well as long term care centers.

She has learned and applied the power of food and choices we make regarding nutrition as the number one impact on health, longevity and quality of life. Her research at University of Florida on Vitamin B6 was published in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism (2007). Carolina brings international flare as she has a dual citizenship (Brazilian and US). She is a brilliant cook.

"I am happily married and have been blessed with two healthy children, Isabela and Daniel. They are great kids and my personal 'experiment' as I introduce them to new foods and educate them on healthy eating, raising them to be good examples of good nutritional choices making a difference for life!"

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