St. Patrick’s Day, ‘tis a grand occasion for these healthy Irish-inspired recipes

March 12, 2018 Providence Health Team

  • Healthy eating should also extend to holiday meal planning
  • There are several heart-healthy food recipes that identify with St. Patrick’s Day
  • Use your creativity in the kitchen to celebrate a healthy holiday meal

In all likelihood, early Irish-American immigrants had no idea St. Patrick’s Day would become one of America’s most celebrated holidays.  Today, as a way to honor their heritage while embracing their homeland, those with and without Irish decent enjoy a day packed with festivals, parades, and yes…traditional Irish food. Corned beef and cabbage, shepherd’s pie, and dreamy Irish desserts can make healthy eating a challenge. However, with a little imagination and a small dose of Irish luck, there are several flavorful recipes which are lower in sodium, carbohydrates, and unhealthy fats.

Like most traditional meals for this Irish holiday, shepherd’s pie is popular for its robust flavor and saucy texture. Yet, this hearty dish can also include higher levels of what we don’t want, such as fats from meat or sausage, and high amounts of salt and carbohydrates. The vegetarian shepherd’s pie below is sure to be palate-pleasing, while also reducing what we don’t want too much of. For example, compared to most other shepherd’s pie recipes, this take on the traditional recipe reduces total fat from 13 g to 7 g, saturated fat from 6 g to 3 g,  and cholesterol from 57 mg to just 9 mg. It also offers a nice bump up in fiber, from just 2 g with a traditional meat-based pie, to 10 g with this recipe.

For those who are looking to boost their vitamin E and calcium intake, try swapping out white potatoes for sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes offer eight times more vitamin E and nearly twice the amount of calcium. 

Corned beef and cabbage is another favorite on St. Patrick’s Day, but three ounces of corned beef contains 827 mg of sodium, 36 percent of the recommended daily value of 2,300 mg. To bring sodium down without sacrificing flavor, try rubbing ground pickling spice into a lean skirt steak instead of salt. Pickling spice offers a tasty mix of herbs and spices that can include peppercorns, dill, mustard seeds, cloves, and bay leaves.  When added to the brine they create a zesty flavor few can resist. Like barbecue sauce, pickling spice can be tailored to your personal style or preference. Typically you can include between six to eight spices in various combinations. Williams Sonoma provides details on crafting your own salt-free pickling spice in just 10 minutes. In addition, you also benefit from a nutritional profile that comes in under 450 calories per serving, with 28 g of protein, and just 27 g of carbohydrates. provides the details on this crowd-pleasing dish that’s will be warmly welcomed on your St. Patrick’s Day dinner table.

For a delightful finish to your St. Patrick’s Day meal you can enjoy a guilt-free mint chocolate fudge pie. With 0 g cholesterol, 6 g of fat, and only 18.5 g of carbohydrates, you and your guests can feel good about indulging in this chocolate lovers dream topped with a mint vegan cool whip. Plus, it’s gluten-free.


Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie (courtesy


1 pound Yukon Gold or white potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks

½ cup buttermilk

1 tablespoon butter

¾ teaspoon salt, divided

½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper, divided

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 large onion, finely diced

½ cup finely diced carrot

1 tablespoon water

¾ cup frozen corn kernels, thawed

1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme or ½ teaspoon dried

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 14-ounce can vegetable broth

1½ cups cooked or canned (rinsed) lentils


Place potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with 2 inches of water. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium, partially cover and cook until tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Drain and return the potatoes to the pot. Add buttermilk, butter and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Mash with a potato masher until mostly smooth.

While the potatoes are cooking, position rack in upper third of oven; preheat broiler. Coat four 10- to 12-ounce broiler-safe ramekins (or an 8-inch-square broiler-safe baking dish) with cooking spray. Place ramekins on a broiler-safe baking sheet.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrot and water. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in corn, thyme and the remaining ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper; cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes. Sprinkle with flour and stir to coat. Stir in broth. Bring to a simmer; cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir in lentils and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes.

Divide the hot lentil mixture among the prepared ramekins (or spread in the baking dish). Top with the mashed potatoes. Broil, rotating halfway through, until the potato is lightly browned in spots, 6 to 10 minutes.

Make Ahead Tip: Prepare the filling (Step 3), cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day.

Tip: To cook lentils, place in a saucepan, cover with at least 1 inch of water, bring to a simmer and cook until just tender, 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the type of lentil. Drain and rinse with cold water. 1 cup dry lentils = about 2½ cups cooked. Or use canned lentils: 15-ounce can = 1½ cups. Rinse canned lentils before cooking with them to reduce the sodium by about 35%.

Mint Chocolate Fudge Pie (courtesy


1 (12.3 oz) package Mori-Nu or Mori-Nu lite silk-firm tofu

1 tsp cocoa powder

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

2 tablespoons milk of choice

scant 1/8 tsp salt

1/8 to 1/4 tsp pure peppermint extract (start with 1/8 and add more if desired)

8-10 oz chocolate chips (1 1/2 cups) or Sugar-Free Chocolate Chips

as needed, 2-3 tablespoons agave or sweetener of choice

Optional: cacao nibs or extra chocolate chips stirred in after blending



Melt the chocolate either on the stove or in the microwave. (Google how to melt chocolate if you are unsure, as it’s easy to burn.) Throw everything into a food processor and blend until super-smooth. Pour into a prepared pie crust, or serve in bowls. Fridge until chilled. This gets firmer and firmer the longer it sits. It’s also firmer if you use firm tofu and more like mousse pie if you use silken.


Traditional shepherd’s pie nutritional values come from McCormick spices food kitchens.


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