Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s there’s no shortage of gatherings that will have you sitting around festive tables with family and friends eating a little more than you’re used to.
While it’s important to keep your health goals in mind this time of year, the holidays are also meant to be enjoyed. But because the festivities span over a month long, it’s important to have some smart solutions when it comes to celebrating—without going too far in a direction that derails your hard work and weight-loss efforts.
Here, we’re sharing 10 festive dish inspirations that still taste great but won’t set you back in your efforts to manage a healthy weight. Best of all, your friends and family won’t even know these dishes were selected with your health in mind—that’s how delicious they are!
1. Roasted Mashed Cauliflower
If you’re watching your carb intake but love the creamy mouthfeel of mashed potatoes, then cauliflower is here to save the day (again).There are countless recipes to choose from online but the gist is that you roast sliced, oiled and seasoned cauliflower at 425F for 25 minutes and then blend them up with a little bit of heavy cream until you reach your desired smoothness. Top them as you would normal mashed potatoes and enjoy for a fraction of the calories and carbs found in traditional mashed potatoes.
2. Hearty Squash Salad
Every holiday table should have a fresh, green salad but many are loaded with huge hunks of cheese, fruit, sugary dressings and candied nuts. Get all the sweetness and satiety without the belly-busting calories with a squash- and pomegranate-studded salad with a super simple dressing. Try this recipe.
3. Crispy Brussels Sprouts
Brussels Sprouts make an excellent holiday side because they can be cooked until crispy and flavored a bunch of different ways. Try preparing them in an air fryer if you have one, and if not, in an oven with a convection setting which, if you didn’t know, has the same effect! Try them with chopped bacon and onions or lemon and garlic and if you’re into spicy and sweet, who can resist the combination of honey and sriracha over brussels sprouts? Try this recipe.
4. Broccoli and Cheese Casserole
It’s always nice to have something draped in gooey cheese on the holiday table but most casseroles are loaded with hunks of bread, biscuits and potatoes. Meet in the middle to watch your middle with a broccoli and cheese casserole that’s loaded with good-for-you fiber, a slew of beneficial vitamins and also contains anticarcinogenic compounds that help reduce your risk for a number of cancers.
5. Hasselback Sweet Potatoes
Swap traditional white potatoes for their more nutrient-dense cousin, the sweet potato, and not only will you reduce the amount of blood-sugar spiking glucose you consume thanks to sweet potato’s lower GI Index, you’ll also double down on vitamin A, which is great for immunity, vision and reproductive health. Hasselback potatoes are super impressive to serve but surprisingly easy to make. Top them with rosemary and garlic for a festive flair or traditional potato toppers, sour cream and chives.
6. Butternut Squash Lasagna
Here’s an unexpected dish that’s always first to disappear at festive feasts: Butternut Squash Lasagna. Search one that contains sage for a truly wintery flavor and take comfort in knowing you’re trading in empty-calorie and carb-rich noodles for vitamin-rich layers of squash instead.
7. Mashed Sweet Potato Casserole
No holiday spread is complete without a sweet potato casserole but most are loaded with sugar, butter and milk—most of which isn’t even necessary considering the natural sugar and creaminess in sweet potatoes. Try this recipe with a fraction the sugar and milk that clocks in at just 220 calories per serving.
8. Pan-Roasted Squash Rings
Here’s a super simple side that doesn’t require a recipe, is comforting, sweet and simply screams, “happy holidays!”. Slice a few types of squash—try delicata, acorn and butternut—drizzle with olive oil, honey, salt and pepper and roast in the oven at 350F for 35 minutes. Once ready, top with crispy sage, thyme or chopped pecans for a truly festive dish.
9. Green Bean Casserole
In more “better-for-you casseroles” news, we present the healthier green bean casserole that skips cream of mushroom soup, canned green beans and anything mushy at all and instead opts for fresh beans, onions and mushrooms. Luckily the internet has cleaned this classic up a ton of times, so you’ll have no problem picking a healthier version that best suits you.
10. Roasted Pears with Brie and Honey
You didn’t think we’d skip over a better-for-you dessert solution did you? No chance. If you’re tempted by the dessert table at every holiday party you attend, why not roast up a pan of halved pears topped with cinnamon, sliced brie and honey and bring it as a party offering—and sweet tooth savior for you! It’s the perfect ending to a savory meal and will hit the spot without all the heavy carbs and sugar found in pie crusts, bars and cakes.
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