I recently read that the average American gains one to two pounds during the winter holidays — from Thanksgiving through New Years. With the hearty traditional dishes and scrumptious desserts that usually grace the dinner table for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and other winter holidays, that weight gain is to be expected. It is not even necessarily a bad thing.
The problem is that most Americans never lose the pound or two they gained over the holidays, which means that they could gain one to two pounds every year just from their holiday feasting.
What can we do to avoid the holiday weight gain? Moderate exercise and portion control are always recommended. You can also substitute a not-so-healthy traditional dish with a healthier alternative.
Here are six delicious alternatives to some classic holiday dishes that will let you enjoy yourself.
Fresh Green Beans
Instead of the fat and calorie-heavy green bean casserole, serve up fresh green beans. Buy two pounds of green beans from the store, trim the ends, and cut in half or thirds (if you don’t want them long).
Steam covered on high in a large pan with a few centimeters of water. When the water is almost gone, test the green beans to see if the texture is soft enough. If you prefer softer, add a little more water, cover, and wait until the water is almost gone again. When the beans are to your liking, add a tablespoon of olive or coconut oil and sauté the beans with onion and garlic.
Add salt and other seasonings (parsley, crushed red pepper, and basil) to taste. You can add a dash of soy sauce or Bragg’s Liquid Aminos (gluten-free) or a bit of lemon juice as well. Serve up nice and hot!
Oven-roasted Sweet Potatoes
Can it be the holidays without mashed potatoes? Certainly! You can replace regular potatoes with sweet potatoes for a healthier option but don’t drown it in milk, butter or maple sugar and marshmallows.
Slice the sweet potatoes in half-inch rounds or one-inch cubes (depending on the look you want), add some onion, drizzle with a little olive or coconut oil, add salt and sage, toss well, and roast in the oven until edges are browned or crispy.
Not only is this dish gorgeous, but it is also delicious!
Instead of getting your stuffing from a box, make your own at home and add some extra veggies to it! All you need is day old bread – go even healthier by using a whole wheat, cornbread, or gluten-free bread of your choice.
If you want to limit or avoid the bread, why not try substituting half of the bread with a squash (like butternut), brown or wild rice, or even quinoa?
Saute the veggies of your choice in a little bit of olive or coconut oil. Our family recipe uses onion and celery, and I started adding finely diced carrots. Some recipes add water chestnuts, Brussel sprouts, other veggies, cranberries, nuts, and even green apples! Mix your choice of veggies/nuts with your bread or bread substitute, add vegetable broth to moisten but not so much that the bread gets soggy, add traditional stuffing spices (salt, sage, thyme, pepper, etc.), and mix well.
Pop it in the oven to bake!
Oven-roasted Veggie Delight
Not into the candied or glazed vegetables? Trying to limit the extra sugar (and extra pounds)? Substitute the sugary glazed veggies with savory oven-roasted Veggie Delight! All you need is parsnips, carrots, red onion, and Brussel sprouts. Cut the Brussel sprouts in four pieces (half and then half again) and then cut the remaining veggies in a similar size.
Drizzle with olive or coconut oil, lightly season with salt, sage, thyme, and basil, and toss. Put it in the oven to roast until the veggies are soft enough for a fork to slide through (especially the carrots).
Not into onions? (le gasp!) Try a similar recipe by Produce Geek without them.
Butternut Squash and Baby Spinach
Another delicious veggie combo you could try is butternut squash (cubed) cooked with some olive oil, fresh spinach, and dried cranberries. Sprinkling with some salt and pepper, and you have a wonderful (and colorful) side dish.
I admit that I found this recipe on at a Wegmans grocery store many, many years ago and it quickly became a personal favorite.
Looking to replace the carb-heavy potatoes and/or stuffing? Why not give this Cauliflower Risotto a try? It uses cauliflower, leeks, garlic, quinoa and a broth made from miso, nutritional yeast, and veggie broth to create a hearty and fluffy risotto.
So what is your favorite holiday dish? How do you try to substitute more healthy options into your holiday meals?