Celebrating the holidays with family and friends is great fun but it can be a huge challenge to the healthy habits you work so hard to cultivate throughout the rest of the year.
When you’re in charge of planning the menu, try one of my three favorite healthy holiday recipes.
RELATED: Your Guide To Healthy Holiday Eating
For those of you who are gluten-free or will be cooking for those who are, the holidays can be especially challenging. My gluten-free Bison-Stuffed Acorn Squash recipe is a hearty holiday meal with a beautifully simple presentation (and with easy clean-up). Considering that according to the USDA National Nutrient Database, a 3-ounce serving of bison contains only 122 calories, 24.2g of protein and 2.1g of fat (including just 0.8g of saturated fat), this recipe is a great low-fat, high-protein alternative to your Christmas Day or New Year’s Eve roast beef.
- 1 acorn squash
- 1/2 pound of bison meat
- 1/4 sweet Vidalia onion
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 ancho chili in adobo sauce (left whole)
- 1 tsp cumin
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tbsp sherry vinegar
- 1 tbsp chives
- 2 eggs
- 6 sun-dried tomato halves (soaked in warm water)
- Preheat oven to 400F. Halve and seed the acorn squash. Paint with a light coat of olive oil and sprinkle with pepper and salt. Bake for 30 minutes.
- While it’s cooking, heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a large saucepan. Add onions and sauté a few minutes until soft and translucent. Add garlic, chili, cumin, and salt and pepper to taste and cook another 1-2 minutes. Add 2 tbsp of sherry vinegar and stir until evaporated. Add bison meat, cooking about 10 minutes until brown all the way through.
- Add half the bison mixture to each acorn squash half. Top with three sun-dried tomato halves, rehydrated for 5 minutes in warm water. Bake another 10 minutes at 400F.
- Remove the acorn squash from the oven. Crack an egg on top to finish each off. Bake for another 10 minutes at 400F, then crank it to a broil for another 3-5 minutes, depending on how you like your eggs.
- Garnish with fresh chives and a generous crank of black pepper.
Lentils are an excellent source of plant-based protein and contain many of the vitamins and minerals that meat-abstainers often miss in their diet. A one-cup serving of lentils has only 230 calories, 16g of dietary fiber, 18g of protein, and 37 percent of your recommended daily intake for iron. Its high soluble fiber content helps lower cholesterol and stabilize blood sugar levels.
- 1 tbsp vegan buttery spread (I like Earth Balance’s Soy-Free Buttery Spread)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 red onion, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp cayenne
- 1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 cup French lentils
- 1 cup pearled barley
- Juice of 1 lemon, plus 4 long strips of the peel
- 2-1/2 cartons of reduced sodium vegetable broth
- 3 cups kale, stemmed and coarsely chopped
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast (or parmesan cheese if you’re opting for a non-vegan version)
- 1/4 cup fresh dill
- Add buttery spread (or real butter if you aren’t vegan), olive oil, onions and a pinch of salt to a slow-cooker and cover on high for 4-5 minutes.
- Add garlic, turmeric, pepper, cayenne and toasted sesame seeds (crushing them between your fingers as you sprinkle them in) and cook on high for another 15 minutes.
- Add lentils, pearled barley, broth, lemon juice and strips of peel (you’ll remove these at the end).
- Layer 3 cups of chopped kale on top but don’t mix it in. Cover and turn to low for 3-5 more hours.
- Turn off your slow-cooker. Remove lemon peels and adjust for seasoning to taste. Stop here if you plan to freeze half and save for later.
- When you’re ready to serve, add nutritional yeast (or parmesan) and fresh dill to taste.
I love the idea of making this soup on Christmas Eve or Boxing Day for a dinner party on the smaller side (4-6 people). Pair it with my recipe for Easy Multigrain Bread and a side salad like my White Asparagus and Shiitake Mushroom, and you’ll have a well-rounded and satisfying meal that won’t preempt a New Year’s resolution.
RELATED: Smart Holiday Beverage Choices
Pumpkin is packed with fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C and a few grams of plant protein. At only 50 calories per serving, it is a perfect balance to all that apple pie and stuffing you devoured last week.
My Pumpkin Spice Granola makes for a thoughtful, tasty and economical Christmas gift or party favor. Just divvy the recipe yield between among jars and tie a ribbon on it for a sweet finishing touch.
- 5 cups gluten-free rolled oats
- 1 cup raw pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
- 1/2 cup coconut oil (liquid or melted)
- 3/4 cup (or half a 15-ounce can) of pumpkin puree
- 3/4 cup maple syrup or honey
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract or 1 vanilla bean scraped
- 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground nutmeg
- 3/4 tsp ground cloves
- 1 inch ground fresh ginger
- Optional: 1 cup dried blueberries, chopped dates or tart cherries
- Preheat oven to 325°F.
- In a large bowl, mix the oats and raw pumpkin seeds.
- In a blender, blend the coconut oil, pumpkin puree, maple syrup, vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves until smooth.
- Pour blender mixture over the dry ingredients and stir until evenly coated.
- Spread the mixture on a lipped baking sheet, pressing it down to evenly cover all the way to the edges.
- Bake for 1 hour, gently turning the granola with a spatula every 15 minutes. Flip in sections so that you’re sure to keep some tasty clumps. Also, move some of the granola from the edges to the middle and from the middle to the edges about halfway through cooking, so that it cooks evenly.
- After an hour, turn the oven down to 300°F and cook another 15-25 minutes. You’ll know it is done when its dry to the touch and pieces left to cool on the counter turn crispy. Remove from the oven and let it cool.
- If you’re adding dried blueberries or cherries, stir them in while the mix is still cooling.
- Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.