For many of us, the holiday season means unhealthy eating, overindulgence and weight gain. While it’s fun to enjoy our favorite foods, it’s no fun to try to compensate for overeating after the fact. After all, who really wants to spend the entire month of January dieting and exercising in order to make up for December’s sins?
If you’re tired of eying the buffet table in December, wishing that there was a side dish that wouldn’t undo your diet, you’re in luck. We’ve pulled together six easy, healthy side dishes that you can bring to your next holiday potluck or add to the dinner table at your next holiday gathering. These options are quick and inexpensive to make and use readily available ingredients. Try something new this holiday season. Your guests will enjoy the healthier options, too.
For a fresh, healthy alternative to green bean casserole, consider blanched green beans. These brightly colored beans are boiled until crisp-tender, then quickly dipped in ice water to preserve their healthy crunch. Toss the beans with lemon juice, garlic, and sliced almonds, then add salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm.
The typical green bean casserole with cream of mushroom soup and french fried onion topping packs 110 calories per 2/3 cup, while our lower calorie alternative will only set you back 44 calories for an entire cup.
No holiday dinner is complete without a scoop of mashed potatoes. Unfortunately, a typical holiday recipe made with whole milk and butter carries a whopping 237 calories per one cup serving. Luckily, we’ve got several mashed potato alternatives that will allow you to indulge your taste buds without expanding your waistline.
Boil an entire head of cauliflower, then mash as you would potatoes, using skim milk in place of whole. Add two tablespoons of cream cheese and chives, salt, and pepper to taste. You’ll end up with a reasonable substitute for mashed potatoes, at 128 calories per cup. That will cut your calories almost in half.
Chop and boil one pound of sweet potato and 2 turnips. Mash them thoroughly, using 2 tablespoons of butter and skim milk as needed. Add 3 cloves of minced garlic, then season with salt, pepper, and sage to taste. This alternative carries more vitamins and fiber than traditional mashed potatoes, adding a healthy punch to your holiday table.
If your holiday diners prefer more traditional mashed potatoes, it may be possible to keep them happy and bump up the nutritional content of your side dish at the same time. Instead of mashing plain white potatoes, opt to mash half Yukon Gold and half sweet potatoes. You’ll end up with a dish that’s very similar to the traditional mashed potatoes that they know and love, but with increased beta carotene and fiber, thanks to the sweet potato. Your mashed potatoes will also be a lovely golden color, adding a seasonal touch to your holiday table.
Instead of a traditional sweet potato casserole with marshmallow topping (which will set holiday dieters back 310 calories per cup consumed), why not opt for a savory dish of roasted root vegetables? Chop sweet potatoes, turnips, Yukon gold potatoes, baby red potatoes and onions into large chunks, then toss in a plastic bag with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Remove the vegetables from the bag and bake, uncovered, until tender. Your holiday guests can have their choice of vegetable for around 150 calories per cup.
As there are fewer seasonal vegetables available around winter holidays, salads tend to wane in popularity this time of year. Break tradition by serving a festive green salad accented with winter fruits and nuts. Choose bright greens such as romaine, fennel, and baby spinach. Toss these with sliced grapefruit and almonds, or consider adding thinly sliced pears, almonds and feta cheese. Dried cranberries make a beautiful garnish for a winter salad, adding bright red color to contrast with your deep greens.
Holiday dining doesn’t have to be synonymous with overindulgence. If you’re careful about what goes on your plate, opting for steamed or fresh vegetable side dishes, it may be possible to escape the holiday season unscathed.