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Not-So-Traditional Ways to Make Healthy Holiday Dinners

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THANKSGIVING FEASTS IN LA
Napa Valley Grille

Don't get overwhelmed with too many recipes when it comes to your holiday cooking this year. You may be deciding whether to stick with tradition, or just go with what is easiest and quickest to prepare. Why not go with some simple, healthy options, even if it means breaking a tradition or two? It will not only save you calories and excess fat, but you will have a colourful and balanced dinner on your plate and actually feel great afterwards. Here are some ideas on how to sort through each component of your meal and how to choose wisely:

Appetizers
Instead of a cheesy dip, deviled eggs, or cheese puffs, serve a warming bowl of split pea soup. Soup makes a great holiday appetizer since it fills you up without giving you too many calories. It is also served warm, which means it will give you time to sip it before you eat too many bacon-wrapped breadsticks!

Starch
White mashed potatoes with butter, cream, or milk are a holiday staple, but try making some squash instead this year. There are many varieties available, such as acorn, butternut, buttercup, or even spaghetti squash. All you have to do is cut the squash in half, drizzle it with olive or coconut oil, add a pinch of cinnamon, and bake it for an hour. Squash is delicious alongside any dish, and is naturally sweet with fewer calories and fat than traditional mashed potatoes.

Veggies
I think standard dishes like creamed spinach and overcooked veggies coated with cheese sauce have more calories than necessary for one meal. Instead, choose to lightly steam some green beans, Swiss chard, or broccoli. Be sure not to over-steam though, since you want your veggies to be crisp and green! Drizzle them with olive oil and lemon juice and top it all off with chopped almonds or cranberries for a unique flavour.

Main Course
Instead of ham or roast beef, consider leaner and cleaner options like organic free-range turkey breast baked with rosemary and fresh lemon juice. Or go vegetarian and venture into making a lentil loaf or quinoa pilaf.

Dessert
A good alternative to fruitcake, rich puddings, and parfaits is to opt for a homemade gingerbread loaf or cookies made with spelt flour, maple syrup, and applesauce. You will not only save calories but also actually add fibre and nutrients to your dessert tray!

Stuffing
It doesn't matter whether you have something to stuff or not, because this veggie stuffing recipe tastes great all on its own or on your plate beside some quinoa, squash, or steamed greens.

Apple Walnut Stuffing

Ingredients:
6 cups firmly-packed diced whole kamut bread
1/2 tablespoons light olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped red onion
1 1/2 cups peeled, diced tart apple (granny smith)
3 bunches scallions, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon each: dried thyme, savory
3/4 teaspoon seasoned salt, more or less to taste
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1 1/2 cups apple juice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
1. Place the diced bread on a baking sheet.
2. Bake 10 to 12 minutes, or until dry and lightly browned.
3. Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the red onion and sauté over medium heat until golden. Add the apple and sauté for another five minutes.
4. In a mixing bowl, combine the bread cubes with the onion and apple mixture. Add all the remaining ingredients except the apple juice and toss together. Sprinkle in the apple juice slowly while stirring to moisten the ingredients evenly.
5. Transfer the mixture to an oiled shallow 1 1/2-quart baking pan. Bake 25 to 30 minutes, or until browned and still slightly moist. Stir once during the baking time. Transfer to a covered serving container.