The leaves are falling off of the trees and the air is bringing in a familiar chill, accompanied by a sudden desire for hot chocolate and a chunky scarf. Family comes from all corners of the country to be together, and tables fill up with the flavors of tradition and love. It truly is the most wonderful time of the year.
During these two months of holidays, parties and food galore, many people forget about their health goals and the lifestyle changes they worked hard all year to make. Despite what you may think, it is actually possible to enjoy every special moment without adding pounds to the scale or falling back on your health goal progress. One way to do this is to reinvent those traditional recipes on your table to be better for you health. On Thanksgiving, I experimented with a few and came up with four healthy sides that are sure to please anyone at your next holiday party or family gathering.
To start it off, what is a holiday dinner without the traditional creamed potatoes? These are typically full of starches and sugars from the white potatoes, no fiber due to the potatoes being peeled, and a ton of fat from the butter, milk and sour cream. A new spin on this dish is Garlic Mashed Root Vegetables. This recipe cuts out most of the fat, adds a ton of nutrients from the different vegetables, adds fiber, and is much lower in calories. The root vegetables also add a more bold flavor to the dish than the creamed potatoes you may be used to.
Garlic Mashed Root Vegetables
6 red potatoes, diced
1 turnip, peeled and diced
1 rutabaga, diced
2 medium-sized parsnips, peeled and diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups broth, chicken or veggie (try to use “low sodium”)
4 tablespoons light unsalted butter
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
1. Place potatoes, rutabaga, parsnips, turnip and garlic in a medium saucepan. Add broth and enough water to cover vegetables.
2. Bring to a boil then turn heat down to medium. Cover and cook until the vegetables are soft, about 15-20 minutes. Drain, keeping about 1 cup of the cooking liquid.
3. Put vegetables and liquid back into the saucepan or preferred dish, add butter, and mash until smooth. Season with cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and pepper, mixing the spices throughout.
4. Serve with gravy, if desired, or alone. The flavors are bold enough to hold up on their own.
Nutrition Facts: Calories 167; Total fat 6 g; Saturated fat 4 g; Cholesterol 15 mg; Sodium 428 mg; Carbohydrates 26 g; Dietary fiber 5 g; Sugars 6 g; Protein 3 g
The next dish that always deserves a spot at the holiday dinner table is Cranberry Sauce! Instead of grabbing the can at the grocery store, save yourself from the sodium and added artificial ingredients by making it from scratch. Super easy, simple, and way more delicious.
2 cups fresh cranberries
1 cup water
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1. Bring the liquid and sugar to a boil until the sugar is melted. Add the cranberries.
2. Return to a boil and simmer for about 10 minutes, until the cranberries start to pop, or until it reaches the thickness you prefer.
3. Cool and serve!
Nutrition Facts: Calories 47; Total fat 0 g; Saturated fat 0 g; Cholesterol 0 mg; Sodium 4 mg; Carbohydrates 12 g; Dietary fiber 1 g; Sugars 11 g; Protein 0 g
The sauce is perfectly paired with our next recipe, Whole Wheat Pecan Dinner Rolls. Take the extra time to make these from scratch instead of grabbing the over-processed can rolls or rolls from the freezer.
Whole Wheat Pecan Dinner Rolls
2 tablespoons active dry yeast
1 cup + 2 tablespoons warm water
1/3 cup canola oil
1/4 cup raw sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups of 100% whole wheat flour
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup chopped pecans
2 tablespoons light butter
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. In a stand mixer bowl, dissolve yeast in 1 cup + 1 tablespoon water. Add oil and sugar, and let rest for 5 minutes. In a separate bowl, whisk together flours & salt until well combined, and set aside.
2. Turn mixer to medium speed and add one egg and the flour in thirds, or until the dough forms.
3. Dump the dough onto a floured surface and knead by hand until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 2-4 minutes. Be sure to not let the dough rise.
4. Pull apart the dough and roll into 24 balls, or whatever shape you desire.
5. Place dough pieces on cookie sheets about 2-3 inches apart and cover with a dry towel. Let rest for 10 minutes.
6. Beat egg and 1 tablespoon water together, brush over the tops of the rolls, and sprinkle with chopped pecans.
7. Bake for 8-12 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool on a wire rack. While cooling, melt the butter and brush over the top of each roll.
Nutrition Facts: Calories 122; Total fat 5 g; Saturated fat 1 g; Cholesterol 19 mg; Sodium 106 mg; Carbohydrates 16 g; Dietary fiber 2 g; Sugars 2 g; Protein 3 g
To wrap up the meal, serve a delicious, healthier spin on a traditional dessert, Sweet Potato Pie.
Sweet Potato Pie
1 pie crust of choice (make your own if you have time)
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and diced.
2 tablespoons cornstarch, whisked together with 1/4 cup cold water
2/3 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1. Bake sweet potatoes, covered with foil, in a pan at 400 degrees F for 30-40 minutes, or until soft.
2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Mix the sweet potatoes (in a mixer, food processor, or with a hand mixer) with all other ingredients until smooth. Pour batter into the crust and smooth out with a rubber spatula.
3. Bake for about 40-60 minutes, until set and until a knife can pierce the middle, coming out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely. Refrigerate at least an hour before cutting.
Nutrition Facts: Calories 330; Total fat 19 g; Saturated fat 9 g; Cholesterol 10 mg; Sodium 297 mg; Carbohydrates 43 g; Dietary fiber 2 g; Sugars 10 g; Protein 2 g