Yes, Virginia, Holiday Favorites Can Be Healthy – and Still Taste Good

November 24, 2014 Providence Health Team

Holiday food doesn't have to be unhealthy.Make sure there’s a healthy option at this year’s holiday buffet: bring a healthy dish to share with friends and family. Packed with flavor instead of fat, these recipes favor the “nice” over the “naughty” in some of your favorite traditional dishes. And, they’ll leave you satisfied – not stuffed.

Wild Rice Stuffing

Traditional bread-based stuffing cooked inside a turkey can be loaded with fat and calories. This lighter alternative is cooked outside of the bird and bags the bread in favor of the added flavor and nutrients of wild rice.


  • 3/4 cup uncooked wild rice
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 cup mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 cup apple (with peel), chopped
  • 1 cup dried apricots or cranberries, chopped
  • 2 cups celery, chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon poultry seasoning
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1/3 cup chopped pecans or slivered almonds


Prepare wild rice per package directions. Set aside.

Heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and celery and cook for 10 minutes. Add rice, mushrooms, apple, apricots/cranberries, parsley, poultry seasoning, salt and pepper and heat through until tender.

Add mixture, broth and nuts to an oven-safe casserole dish. Cover and bake for 25 minutes at 350°.

Green Bean Casserole

Perhaps more aptly called the “sodium” casserole, the classic green bean recipe typically calls for canned beans, canned cream of mushroom soup and fried onions. For a healthier option, use fresh beans, substitute canned soup for mashed potatoes prepared with low-sodium chicken broth and sliced, roasted almonds as your crunchy topper instead of fried onions. Or give this recipe a try:


  • 2-3 pounds fresh green beans, halved
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2-1/2 cups skim milk
  • 1 cup whole-wheat breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup shredded low-fat cheddar


Heat oven to 425. Roast the green beans with a drizzle of olive oil for 20-25 minutes, stirring once. Set aside.

Sauté onions at med-high heat until golden brown. Stir in salt, pepper and flour to the onions and heat through. Slowly add milk, stirring constantly, and cook for 4 roughly minutes or until thickened.

Pre-heat boiler. Put half the green beans in an oven-safe casserole dish. Spread half the onion sauce over beans and repeat the layers. Top with cheese, breadcrumbs and a drizzle of olive oil. Place under broiler and cook for 5 minutes or until bubbling and brown.

Potato and Parsnip Gratin

Reduce fat and calories from your traditional potato gratin dish by using skim milk and low-fat cheese. Add extra nutrients like fiber, vitamin C and antioxidants by including parsnips in your traditional gratin.


  • 4 russet potatoes, sliced into 1/4-inch slices
  • 3 yellow onions, thinly sliced
  • 3 parsnips, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups skim milk
  • 2 cups reduced-fat cheddar cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste


Layer the sliced potatoes, parsnips and onion into a greased 13 x 9 baking dish. Set aside.

Melt butter in a saucepan over med-high heat. Stir in flour, salt and pepper and heat through. Whisk in milk, stirring constantly until sauce thickens. Add cheese and cook until melted.

Pour sauce over potatoes, parsnips and onions. Cover with tin foil and bake at 375° for 90 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

Deviled Eggs

Many people have a love-hate relationship with deviled eggs. To make these devilish eggs more heavenly, swap out half the egg yokes with cauliflower puree. Give this recipe a try or make the simple swap to your favorite deviled egg recipe:


  • 6 hard boiled eggs
  • 1/4 cup pureed cauliflower (silky smooth and cooled)
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon yellow mustard
  • 3 tablespoon light mayonnaise
  • Chopped chives, black pepper or paprika to top


Carefully peel the hard boiled eggs and cut them in half. Scoop out the yokes and set aside the halved whites. Add the yokes from three eggs (save the other three for another use), cauliflower puree, vinegar, mustard and mayonnaise in a bowl. Combine until smooth.

Spoon the yoke mixture back into the egg whites. Garnish and serve.

Hungry for More?

Give these other healthy substitutes a try in some of your holiday recipes and cut down sodium, fat and calories.

  • Swap sour cream with Greek yogurt in dips, sauces and whipped toppings to add protein and cut fat and calories.
  • Add flavor and reduce sodium by seasoning your food with herbs, garlic powder or citrus juice instead of salt.
  • Use two egg whites in place of one egg to reduce cholesterol.
  • Reduce the fat in gravy by refrigerating until the fat hardens, then skim it off the top, reheat and serve.
  • For added nutrients, fiber and flavor, use whole-wheat flour in place of white flour. Substitute 7/8 cup of whole-wheat flour for every 1 cup of white flour.
  • Make piecrusts with crushed, low-fat graham-crackers instead of cookie crumbs.
  • When baking, use unsweetened applesauce in place of sugar to keep the sweetness, but cut down on calories.
  • Don’t put the (unsweetened) applesauce away yet – use it instead of oil or butter in sweetbreads and muffins.
  • Use walnuts, sliced almonds or sunflower seeds – rather than croutons – to add that extra crunch to salads.
  • Replace the butter, milk and salt in your mashed potatoes with low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth. Or swap out the potatoes completely for mashed cauliflower. This healthy, low-calorie alternative is packed with nutrients.
  • Boiling vegetables can affect their natural vitamins and nutrients. Instead, steam or roast your vegetables and let their natural flavors shine.

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