Between now and the end of the year, we’ll have all had more than our fair share of special meals, potlucks, cookie exchanges and holiday buffets. Even for the most nutritious eaters among us, it’s a challenge to keep a clean diet throughout the notoriously food-filled winter festivities.
So, when it’s your turn to bring a dish or host a meal, we’ve got some excellent recipes that are guaranteed to impress your friends and nutritionists alike with their use of healthy seasonal foods. However, don’t worry — these dishes aren’t tasteless — far from it. Read on to find some excellent alternatives to the typical gravy-laden, high-fat, sugar-glazed holiday foods that are normally lurking around the banquet table.
1. Spaghetti Squash Can Absolutely Rock Your World
Yes, lasagna is a classic crowd pleaser. However, here’s an alternative that will have your holiday guests asking for seconds. It’s baked spaghetti squash with organic marinara sauce. You’ll find this dish easy to make and incredibly tasty, featuring healthy seasonal foods.
- 1 large spaghetti squash
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 8 ounces organic marinara sauce
- 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
- Sea salt, to taste
- Ground black pepper, to taste
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Wash the spaghetti squash.
- Cut off the top of the squash just below the stem. Then, cut the squash in half lengthwise.
- Use a spoon to remove the seeds and stringy flesh from each side of the squash.
- Rub the insides of both sides with olive oil and sprinkle them with salt and black pepper.
- Place the two sides of the squash cut sides down on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet.
- Bake for 40 minutes or until you can pierce the skin easily with a fork.
- Let the squash cool for 15 to 20 minutes or until cool enough to handle.
- Use a large spoon or ice-cream scooper to scrape out the flesh of the squash.
- Put the spaghetti squash “noodles” into a large serving bowl and top with heated organic marinara sauce.
- Add freshly grated Parmesan cheese if you wish.
2. Brussels Sprouts Are Much Better Than You Think
As with most healthy food, it’s all in the preparation. Brussels sprouts are often prepared steamed and can be a bit lackluster at best. But, wait until you try them slightly blackened and cooked with fresh, minced garlic.
- 1 pound fresh Brussels sprouts
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- Sea salt, to taste
- Ground black pepper, to taste
- Heat the olive oil over medium heat for about 2 minutes.
- Wash the Brussels sprouts and cut each one in half.
- Add minced garlic to the pan, and then add the Brussels sprouts cut side down in an even layer.
- Cook for around 3 minutes. Turn one over to check for slight blackening. Once you have a nice char on the cut side, flip them all over and cook for a few minutes on the other side.
- Once tender, season with salt and black pepper to taste.
3. Who Needs a Cheese Ball When You’ve Got Guacamole?
Once thought to be on the naughty list, the humble avocado has proven that fat is not always a bad thing. In fact, avocados are high in oleic fat, similar to what’s found in olive oil. Studies have shown that this fabulously fatty stone fruit — you knew it was a fruit, right? — can help lower overall cholesterol levels and blood triglyceride levels. It packs more potassium than a banana. Avocado consumption is linked to a decreased risk of cancer.
Here’s a great recipe for guacamole that’s a cinch. Be warned: you may need to double or triple this recipe because it’ll be gone quickly, featuring healthy seasonal foods.
- 3 medium ripe avocados
- 1/2 small red onion
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1/4 cup fresh minced cilantro
- Juice from 1/2 a lime (or more)
- Sea salt, to taste
- Cut each avocado in half. Remove the pits and spoon out the flesh.
- Place them in a food processor or blender. Add the onion, garlic, cloves, cilantro, lime juice and salt.
- Blend for about a minute for a chunky guacamole or process it longer if you prefer a smoother dip.
- Serve with crackers, baked tortilla chips or vegetables.
- Serve red bell peppers with the guacamole for a festive display. For added heat, add fresh or pickled jalapeños and process them in the food processor with the avocados.
4. Enjoy a Mouthwatering Dessert With No Refined Sugar or Artificial Sweeteners
Pears are so good this time of year. While you can find many recipes that call for copious amounts of butter and sugar to dress up apples or pears, we’ve got one that relies on the sweetness and flavor of the fruit alone, featuring healthy seasonal foods.
This recipe can be used with any variety of pear. Many times, around the holidays, stores will bring out some of the prettier pear varieties like sweet, red Starkrimson, red and green Bartletts and the multicolored Comice pears. Try using several, more colorful pears for a colorful presentation.
- 6 ripe pears
- 2 cups apple or orange juice (or 1 cup of each)
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 350F.
- Wash and dry the pears. Cut them in half, lengthwise, leaving the stem intact.
- Place the pear halves, cut side up, in a 9×13-inch baking dish.
- In a bowl, add the juices and spices and whisk them together.
- Pour the juice mixture over the pears. Sprinkle cinnamon on top of the pears. Add dried cranberries on top if using.
- Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 15 minutes, or until the pears are tender and slightly caramelized.
5. Cranberry Relish Doesn’t Always Have to Give You a Toothache
One of the staples of a holiday meal is a deliciously sweet and tart cranberry relish. The unfortunate ingredient in most cranberry sauces or relishes, whether store bought or prepared at home, is sugar — usually a lot of sugar.
Why not try a healthy version of cranberry relish without any refined sugar at all? We’ve got a recipe that you won’t want to lose. It’s full of healthy, delicious fruit and has tons of flavor. You’ll never want to go back to normal cranberry relish after you’ve tried it.
- 1 cup fresh cranberries
- 1 large orange
- 1 sweet apple
- 1 teaspoon orange zest
- 1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)
- Wash and dry the cranberries, orange and apple.
- Grate the orange and then peel it. Core the apple.
- Add the fruit to a food processor and blend until the fruit is chopped into similar sizes.
- Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
- Top with chopped pecans just before serving.
6. Serve a Festive Holiday Beverage That Everyone Will Love
Holiday drinks often pose a particular dilemma for the health conscious banquet host. The traditional eggnog is tasty but loaded with fat and sugar. Soda is obviously out of the question and alcohol is not the best choice for everyone.
We’ve got a very simple recipe that will please every guest on your list, and it’s absolutely delicious.
- 1 liter sparkling water
- 1/2 liter 100 percent cranberry juice
- 3 sprigs of fresh peppermint
- 4 cups ice
- Combine the water and cranberry juice.
- Garnish with the peppermint leaves.
- Serve over ice.
- You can substitute 100 percent blueberry, pomegranate or cherry juice for the cranberry juice. Another option is to use a combination of two or more 100 percent juices with the sparkling water.
So, give yourself permission to shake things up a little this holiday season. Don’t be afraid to try swapping out some of the more fattening and sugary holiday favorites for a few of these flavorful and healthy alternatives this year. You’ll love them. Chances are, your guests will be glad that the big jolly guy will see them eating one less naughty meal over the holidays, featuring healthy seasonal foods.