You’ve probably heard the saying, “calories don’t count over the holidays.” While this time of year comes with an abundance of opportunities to indulge – who can say no to a slice of grandma’s famous pie? – the extra temptations don’t require you to put your health goals on hold. The holidays are meant for festive get together with friends and family, and as you’re gathered around the table, don’t sweat the calories – find a balance.
At your next holiday get together, focus on moderation and creating a balanced, nutritious plate. Often, what’s included are foods with little nutritional value. We aren’t here to play Scrooge and ban cookies all together; rather, here to help you stick with healthy habits over the holidays and into the new year. So after grabbing a piece of the pecan pie, make sure your plate is balanced with nutritious choices, such as vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and lean proteins.
Not confident your next holiday party will have healthy options? Here are four recipes that incorporate more whole food, plant-based choices from the Premise Lifestyle Medicine team. Eating healthy doesn’t have to be boring over the holidays!
Party Starter: Dairy-Free Spinach and Artichoke Dip
Prep time: 20 minutes
Yield: 2 cups
- 1 ¼ cups unsweetened, unflavored plant milk
- 3 Tbsp. all-purpose or oat flour
- 1 tsp. onion powder
- 1 tsp. garlic powder
- 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
- 2 cups finely chopped spinach (fresh, or frozen and thawed)
- 1 (14 oz.) can artichoke hearts, drained and finely chopped
- Sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Baguette, tortilla chips, or pita chips for serving
- Combine the plant milk, flour, onion powder, garlic powder, and lemon juice in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then simmer for five to seven minutes, stirring frequently, until the sauce thickens to a spreadable consistency.
- Add the spinach and artichoke hearts. Mix well, then season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook for two more minutes, until the spinach has wilted. Add one to two tablespoons of water if the sauce gets too thick.
- Let the dip cool completely.
- Serve the dip warm or cold with the baguette, tortilla chips, or pita chips.
Light Entrée: Crockpot Butternut Squash Soup
Prep time: 20 minutes
Yield: 5-6 servings
- 3 cups vegetable stock
- 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 medium apple, cored and quartered
- 1 medium (about 3-4 lbs) butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and chopped
- 1 red or yellow onion, diced
- 2” nob of ginger, peeled and sliced
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
- ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
- 1 15 oz. can coconut milk
- Sea salt and pepper, to taste
- Fresh thyme, to garnish
- Add all ingredients EXCEPT the coconut milk and fresh thyme to a slow cooker.
- Toss gently to combine ingredients well.
- Cook on LOW for six to eight hours or on HIGH for three to four hours.
- Remove and discard the bay leaf, then stir in the coconut milk.
- Blend the soup until smooth (an immersion blender is great for this).
- Garnish with fresh thyme and serve warm.
Main Meal: Roasted Veggie Enchilada Casserole
Prep time: 45 minutes
Yield: 6-8 servings
- ½ medium head of cauliflower, cut into ½-inch chunks
- 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes (about 2 cups)
- 2 red bell peppers, cut into 1” squares
- 1 medium yellow onion, sliced into wedges about ½” wide
- 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 tsp. ground cumin, divided
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 ¼ cups (18 oz.) red salsa
- ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus extra for garnish
- 9 to 10 corn tortillas, halved
- 1 can (15 oz.) black beans, rinsed and drained
- 2 big handfuls (about 2 oz.) baby spinach leaves
- 2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees with racks in the middle and upper third of the oven. Line two large, rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper to prevent the vegetables from sticking.
- On one pan, combine the cauliflower and sweet potato. On the other pan, combine the bell peppers and onion. Drizzle half of the olive oil over one pan, and the other half over the other pan. Same with the cumin.
- Sprinkle both pans lightly with salt and pepper, then toss each until the vegetables are lightly coated, adding another light drizzle of olive oil if necessary. Arrange the vegetables in an even layer across each pan. Bake until the vegetables are tender and caramelized on the edges, about 30 to 35 minutes, tossing the veggies and swapping the pans halfway.
- When ready to assemble, reduce the oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a 9″ square baking dish. Stir the cilantro into the salsa.
- To assemble, spread ½ cup salsa evenly over the bottom of the baking pan. Add a single layer of halved tortilla pieces, arranging so they completely cover the salsa.
- Top with ½ of the beans, ⅓ of the vegetables, ½ of the of spinach, and ⅓ of the cheese.
- Make a second layer of tortillas (press down on the mixture to make room for the next layers). Top with ½ of the remaining salsa, all remaining beans, ½ of the remaining vegetables, all remaining spinach, and ½ of the remaining cheese.
- Make a third layer of tortillas (press down to make more room). Top with remaining salsa, vegetables, and cheese.
- Cover the pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Bake for 20 minutes, then remove the parchment paper or aluminum foil and bake for 10 more minutes, or until heated through.
- Let cool for 10 minutes, to give it time to set and reach a cooler temperature. Before serving, sprinkle top lightly with additional chopped cilantro.
Sweet Treat: Carrot Cake
Prep time: 30 minutes
Yield: 16 slices
- 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour or all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ cups white whole wheat flour or regular whole wheat flour
- 1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
- 2 tsp. ground ginger
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- 1 ½ tsp. fine sea salt
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1 ½ pounds peeled and grated carrots (about 4 cups)
- 1 cup raw pecan or walnut halves
- ¾ cup mild extra-virgin olive oil or melted coconut oil
- 1 ¼ cups maple syrup or honey
- 1 cup milk of choice
- 4 eggs
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- Double batch classic cream cheese frosting or naturally sweetened cream cheese frosting
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease two 9″ round cake pans. If you’re making cream cheese frosting, pull the cream cheese and butter out of the fridge so they can warm to room temperature.
- Toast the pecans on a rimmed baking sheet in the oven until fragrant, about five minutes. Once cool enough to handle, transfer to a cutting board and chop into small pieces. Reserve a couple tablespoons chopped pecans for garnishing the cake, if desired.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine both flours, cinnamon, ginger, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Stir until blended. Add the grated carrots and chopped pecans, stir to combine.
- In a medium mixing bowl, combine the oil, maple syrup, milk, eggs, and vanilla extract. Whisk until fully blended.
- Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients. Mix with a big spoon, until just combined (a few lumps are ok). Divide the batter evenly between two cake pans and spread batter in an even layer on top.
- Bake the cakes on the middle rack for 45 to 50 minutes, or until the center of the cakes is springy to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Place the baked cakes on a cooling rack and let cool completely before frosting.
- When ready to assemble, prepare the frosting as directed. Carefully invert the cakes to release from their pans. Frost the top of one cake with about a third of the frosting. Place the second cake on top, and frost the top with another third of the frosting. Finish by frosting around the side of the cake with remaining frosting. If desired, sprinkle the reserved chopped pecans on top.
- When ready to serve, use a sharp chef’s knife to carefully cut into slices. The cake will keep at room temperature for one day, and up to four days in the refrigerator.