Just because it’s Christmas doesn’t mean you have to forego healthy eating. Enjoy your favorite classic Christmas foods, only without the extra calories.
The Christmas season is upon us, and that means decorated trees, colorful lights, beautifully wrapped gifts, and of course, sitting around the table packed with scrumptious platters of food. Many traditional holiday dishes are heavy in sugar and fat and can seriously weigh you down. But by making some smart swaps replacing unhealthy ingredients with healthier ones, it is simple to reduce your calories while satisfying your taste buds at the same time.
Sweet Potato Pomegranate Salad
This health-boosting salad is bursting with the colors and flavors of the holiday season. Starring beta carotene-rich sweet potatoes and the antioxidant powerhouses kale and pomegranate, this dish provides 4 g of fiber and 3.5 g of protein in just one serving.
1 cup cubed roasted sweet potatoes
2-3 cups kale or any dark mixed greens, chopped
1/3 cup pomegranate seeds
1/4 cup toasted pistachios, chopped
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled (or goat cheese, parmesan cheese)
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon grain mustard (or Dijon, honey brown, beer mustard)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 tbsp crushed garlic
1. Roast the sweet potatoes: preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Drizzle the sweet potato cubes with some olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roast in the oven for 20-30 minutes, or until the edges start to turn a slight brown.
2. Make the dressing: Place all of the ingredients into a medium-sized bowl. Whisk vigorously to emulsify. Transfer to a container until use.
3. In a large mixing bowl, combine kale with about half of the dressing and use your hands to massage the dressing into the kale. Add more dressing as needed. Reserve any leftover dressing for another use.
4. Add pomegranate seeds and feta cheese to the salad bowl (saving a little of each for the topping), toss together and season with sea salt and pepper to taste. Add more dressing if needed. Transfer to a serving bowl and top with roasted sweet potatoes, pistachios, additional pomegranate seeds, and feta cheese.
Christmas Portobello Steaks
Portobello mushrooms are a good source of vitamin B6, iron, magnesium, and zinc, and also happen to mimic the chewy, meaty texture of steak when fired up on the grill. Paired together with colorful green and red bell peppers, these steaks make the perfect healthy addition to your Christmas table.
Makes 4 steaks
4 large portobello mushrooms, stems removed
1/4 cup red bell pepper, chopped
1/4 cup green bell pepper, chopped
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 large garlic clove, minced or crushed
1/2 teaspoon granulated onion
salt and fresh cracked pepper, to taste
1. In a large and shallow baking dish, whisk the marinade ingredients together. Taste and add more seasoning if desired.
2. Add the mushrooms to the dish and liberally brush the marinade on all sides. Let it sit for 10-20 minutes, flipping and brushing again midway through the marinating time. Reserve 1-2 tablespoons of the marinade sauce for later.
3. Heat a grill or skillet over medium-high heat. When fully heated, brush with oil and place the mushrooms on top. They should sizzle when they hit the pan. Don't move them once they are in the pan, just gently press down with a spatula or tongs. Cook them a minimum of 4-5 minutes so that they sear. Flip over and sear the other side, adding more oil if needed and the rest of the 1-2 tablespoons of the marinated sauce. Grill until brown and tender, about 4-5 minutes.
4. Sprinkle red and green chopped bell pepper on top of the steak.
Whole-Grain Gingerbread Loaf
Spelt is a nutritious whole grain that is rich in fiber and higher in protein than regular wheat flour. One slice of this delicious, refined sugar-free loaf offers 3 g of fiber and 4 g of protein and can be served as dessert or a yummy breakfast treat.
Makes 12 slices
2 cups spelt flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp powdered ginger
½ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
2 large eggs
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
¼ cup molasses
¼ cup maple syrup
3 Tbsp canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray loaf pan with cooking spray or line pan with parchment paper.
- In a medium bowl, whisk well to combine flour, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
- In a second medium bowl, whisk eggs and then add applesauce, molasses, maple syrup, oil, and vanilla. Whisk well until completely combined.
- Pour wet ingredients into the bowl with the dry ingredients and gently mix with spatula just enough to combine – do not overmix.
- Pour into loaf pan and bake for 45 minutes. Insert a toothpick to make sure it comes out clean when done.
- Remove from oven and let cool. If desired, glaze the loaf with a small amount of honey.
Healthy Banana Nog
You won’t miss the cream, sugar, and egg yolks in this rendition of the classic egg nog. Lightly sweetened by dates and banana, one serving is free of cholesterol, slashes fat intake by a third at 2.9 g, and boosts daily potassium at 357 mg.
2 cups almond milk, sweetened if desired
1 frozen banana, cut into pieces
2 medjool dates, with pits removed
½ tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp rum extract
½ tsp salt
Place all ingredients in a high-speed blender and blend until completely smooth. Add a bit of your favorite sweetener for a sweeter flavor if desired.