December 14

5 Healthy Swaps for Holiday Side Dishes

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by Rob Baker

Enjoying a delicious meal with your loved ones over the holidays is truly one of the best experiences in life. However, the average holiday food can easily derail your carefully planned diet, particularly when it comes to side dishes.

Mashed potatoes loaded with butter, cheesy casseroles, and other standard holiday sides taste amazing, but they can also pack on the pounds. Accordingly, many holiday home chefs are on the hunt for equally tasty dishes that don't contain quite so many calories. Here are a few great alternate selections that will have your family singing your praises at the dinner table.

Sautéed Mustard Greens

For such a healthy vegetable, mustard greens certainly don't skimp on the incredible flavors. Sautéing greens really brings out their garlicky goodness, especially when you add complementary ingredients and seasonings. For a bit of brightness, be sure to add some fresh-squeezed lemon juice. You can also cook the greens with some additional garlic cloves to really intensify the dish.

Homemade Cranberry Sauce

Store-bought cranberry sauce is a staple of holiday dinner tables, but it's also packed with tons of sugar. Homemade cranberry sauce is naturally tastier than the store-bought stuff, as you can season it however you prefer. It's also better for you since you can allow the fruit to stand on its own without a ton of added sugar. Your family will never accept store-bought again!

Mashed Squash

Instead of potatoes this year, consider serving up some mashed squash. Squash has a similar texture to potatoes, whether you prefer them chunky or smooth. It's also packed full of lots of fiber, calcium, and vitamins, which makes it the ideal comfort food. To cut back on the butter, use tasty seasonings like sea salt, mustard seeds, and cracked black pepper to turn up the flavor.

Apple and Beet Salad

You really can't beat the flavor pairing of apples and beets in a salad. Surprisingly, this fruit and veggie combo works exceptionally well in terms of the flavor profile, which is rich and rustic. Both apples and beets are a great source of nutrition and are also a wonderful accompaniment to the standard holiday spread. For dressing, consider apple cider vinegar to enhance the tang.

Roasted Vegetables

If you're looking for some rustic flavors to replace stuffing, roasted veggies are the perfect match. Lots of vegetables are amenable to roasting, such as carrots, mushrooms, onions, parsnips, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and many others. You can also whip up some pan-roasted vegetables rather quickly by adding some olive oil to a hot skillet and seasoning veggies according to your preferences.

Pesto Sauce

Despite its deliciousness, gravy is all but devoid of nutrition. It is brimming with lots of fat and calories, so pesto is a flavorful alternative when you want to think outside the gravy boat during the holidays. Homemade pesto is even tastier, as it can be created using fresh, wholesome ingredients. Just use a food processor to finely chop ingredients like pine nuts, garlic, and basil, add olive oil and seasonings to taste, and you're ready for dinner.

Balsamic Green Beans

With your standard green bean casserole, any nutrition afforded by the green beans tends to get lost in the cheesy goodness. Green beans can be incredibly tasty on their own, specifically when caramelized and dressed with balsamic vinegar. Green beans are also quite versatile and pair well with lots of seasonings and cooking methods. Adding a touch of ginger gives your greens a little kick, while lighting charring the veggies creates an intense flavor

It's fine for most people to indulge in less healthy meals occasionally, especially during the holidays. It's also great to experiment with wholesome flavors and recipes, which can combine deliciousness with nutrition in a really exciting way.


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Holiday Side Dishes


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