Healthier Holiday Cooking (with a recipe!)

The holidays are well upon us, and with that comes neon-lit houses, santa sightings, parties, and of course-- the food. So much food! My approach to eating around the holidays is always one of 80/20. Start with a foundation of healthy, real food (clean eating)- about 80% of the time, and enjoy your treats as they come, about the other 20%. It's about making healthy living the priority, but still enjoying yourself, too. There is a noticeable flaw in this plan, though-- and that is, around the holidays, it seems like the food that appears is 80% un-healthy. So what's a healthy mama to do to navigate the holiday food in a healthier way? We bring our own dish, that's what!

But I know bringing your favorite spaghetti squash topped with turkey bolognese isn't always the most feasible potluck fare (or very holiday-esque). So here are five ways you can make your healthy holiday favorite healthier... or create a new, seasonal delicacy that might just become the new family favorite: 1. Make Healthier Swaps This is probably the simplest way you can transform your dish to a healthier alternative. A few swaps to make to create a healthier dish: -Cut the sugar: like with baked goods, cutting the sugar in half or using more natural sweetener options is always ideal, and better for our blood sugar (and our waistlines). I promise, the cranberry sauce will be just as good with honey! -Switch from white to sweet: sweet potatoes have far more nutrients and fiber than white potatoes, just skip the marshmallow topping. -Boost that salad: Try mixing in kale or arugula with your usual salad mix for an extra dose of nutrients (and a peppery kick) -Swap the toppings: Instead of sodium filled cream of mushroom soup and fried onions, make your own home-fried onions and not-so-cream-filled creamy mushroom soup for your green bean casserole. Or, instead of those marshmallows we mentioned on those sweet potatoes, try some pan roasted chopped pecans. 2. Take advantage of the bounty of seasonal goodness

There are SO many delicious, flavorful seasonal goodies out around the holidays. Sweet potatoes, butternut squash, acorn squash, kale, swiss chard, pomegranates, citrus and more are all in-season around the holidays. Why not try some roasted squash with pomegranates and chopped walnuts, or garlic sauteed swiss chard with toasted almonds? Butternut squash is delicious in soup or stews and the kale salad below- let's just say you'll be loving kale! (Yes, right!).

3. Create volume

Along the same lines as choosing seasonal goodness is focusing on the VOLUME-filled foods. Christmas cookies are not a volume food (unless you're calculating the amount you stuffed in your mouth after dinner, last night, then they might be!). But that awesome seasonal goodness mentioned above, veggies, fruit and the like? These volume foods are filled with FIBER and NUTRIENTS to help us feel FULL and satisfied with our food- helping us all (hopefully) eat a little less, and live a little healthier around the holidays.

4. Ditch the dip

There's nothing wrong with a little dip here and there, but for many of us, dip can be a huge diet downfall. We don't talk a lot about calories around here (because in the grand scheme of things, calories are not going to help you become healthier- real food is) but too much food is too much food, and dip can be a caloric disaster, especially when it's cream cheese or sour cream based. Why waste that precious energy on appetizers and instead enjoy dessert? Try hummus or salsa instead of creamy dips (or use greek yogurt instead of cream cheese, for a lighter treat).

5. Make the main Volunteering to make the main dish at a party guarantees YOU have control over what goes in it! Skip the brined turkey or the unhealthy corn syrup ham glazes, and go for an herb roasted variety, or a stuffed turkey breast with some of those seasonal favorites listed above.

There are always ways to make the holidays a little healthier-- it's all about looking at your recipes, seeing where you can make those swaps, and not being afraid to get your hands dirty by volunteering to help create a healthier meal.

You didn't think I would leave you without a recipe, right? A favorite dish I adore bringing to holiday parties? My favorite Winter Kale Salad:

Winter Kale Salad 1 bag (about 2 heads, stemmed and chopped) curly kale (rinsed and dried completely if necessary) 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped avocado oil as needed cinnamon, cumin, sea salt and garlic powder 1/3 cup dried cranberries (fruit sweetened) 1/3 cup chopped walnuts Dressing: 1/4 cup avocado oil juice of 1 orange 1 tsp orange zest 3-4 tbsp maple syrup 2 tsp dijon mustard pinch sea salt 2 tsp vital proteins gelatin (optional; to thicken) 1. Rinse and dry kale if necessary. Preheat oven to 375.

2. To roast sweet potatoes, drizzle with avocado oil and sprinkle with cinnamon, cumin, sea salt and garlic powder. Toss until well-combined. Spread on a non-stick baking pan and bake in oven for 20-25 minutes, until soft and slightly golden. Let cool slightly.

3. Meanwhile blend or whisk together dressing ingredients. This should make just enough for 1 salad, so no need to work too hard at emulsifying. (If using gelatin, this will thicken dressing slightly). Drizzle over salad and use hands to lightly massage dressing into kale, until kale is well coated.

4. Let kale sit for at least 1 hour to allow dressing to sink in. Toss with warm sweet potatoes, cranberries and walnuts before serving. P.S. Don't forget you can get your healthy holiday ingredients from Thrive Market for 15% off-- and help a family in need eat healthier with our special Healthy Mama Link: Join the movement to make healthy living easy and affordable for everyone!

#healthyliving #healthymamalife #holidays #holidaycooking #healthierholidays

Kristin Dovbniak


I'm Kris! Founder of Healthy Balanced Mama, I'm a holistic health coach, certified intuitive eating counselor, trained chef, and mama of two, and I'm here to guide busy moms like you in stressing less and finding freedom with food through balanced eating and simplified routines around meal planning, meal prep, grocery shopping and cooking with confidence.


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© 2020 Kristin Rugg Dovbniak for Healthy Balanced Mama