By Amy Gorin, MS, RDN
When it comes to holiday party ideas, you're in the right place for healthy holiday recipes. These ideas will help you have a healthy Christmas dinner and beyond.
After munching on buttery trail mix, chomping on one cheese appetizer too many, and wolfing down rich desserts at least once or twice a week, you might actually be craving a nutrient-packed dish that's light on the stomach.
But since the holiday season isn't typically synonymous with healthy eating, how can you
celebrate all the festivities and still show your body much-needed love with good-for-you
I've got a few ideas. In this blog post, I'm dishing out a list of oh-so-healthy side dishes perfect for any potluck, plus big-batch punch recipes that will bring life to any party–even the alcohol-free ones! And while some dishes are concocted with the intent to cut calories and sugars, I'm sharing heart-healthy recipes that actually bring nutrients to the table.
I'm going to be serving up many of these recipes at my own holiday-themed parties, even if they happen over Zoom this year! Start taking notes now, especially since we're in the holiday homestretch.
Ready for a healthy, fun holiday? What are your favorite holiday traditions?
Healthy Holiday Side Dishes
When it comes to the holidays, you have much more to think about than holiday lights, the office Christmas party, and gift wrapping galore.
If you're thinking about how to celebrate the holidays and spread the holiday cheer in your own home, here are some ideas. And the best news ever? Leftovers of these healthy side dishes taste great alongside Christmas movies galore and YouTube videos of Christmas caroling.
Thinking about whipping up mashed potatoes, baked Brussel sprouts, and roasted sweet potatoes? There are definitely ways to make veggie sides healthy. Whether you want to stick to your healthy eating plan throughout the holiday season or simply lighten the load for one festive evening, the good-for-you side dishes in this KSL article will do the trick.
Try my healthied-up version of a classic appetizer–hint: It involves avocado–or one of the other warming small plates from my dietitian colleagues.
And no need to serve up extra calories over the holidays! I share easy, one-ingredient calorie-saving food swaps in my NBCNews.com article. If you're entertaining, give these healthy entertaining recipes a spin on the kitchen. How about some more food swaps for healthy holiday eating?
Now, how about more delicious healthy holiday side dishes to whip up?
- Raw Parnsip Salad with Dates from Lizzie Streit, MS, RDN, author of Vegetable Cookbook for Vegetarians
- Make-Ahead Thanksgiving Stuffing from Stacey Mattinson, MS, RDN, of Stacey Mattinson Nutrition
- Make-Ahead Corn Casserole from Megan Byrd, RD, blogger at The Oregon Dietitian
- Homemade Salmon Bacon from my own kitchen
- Sage and Onion Lentil Loaf from Pamela Fergusson, PhD, RD, owner of Pamela Fergusson Nutrition
- Savory Sweet Potato Casserole from Anne Mauney, MPH, RD, dietitian and blogger at fANNE tasticfood
- Roasted Red Cabbage and Shallots with Hard Apple Cider Glaze from Lindsey Pine, MS, RDN, CLT, author of Mediterranean Diet Meal Prep Cookbook
- Butternut Squash with Pomegranate Vinaigrette from my own kitchen
- Grilled Acorn Squash Slices from Monica Nedeff, RDN, blogger at The Traveling Dietitian
- Garlic Parmesan Smashed Brussels Sprouts from Emily Cooper, RDN, blogger at Sinful Nutrition
- Ginger Butternut Squash Bread from Jenna Braddock, RD, co-author of 200 Surefire Ways to Eat Well and Feel Better
- Pumpkin Pie Hummus from Melissa Macher, RD, owner of Grateful Meal Nutrition
What Dietitians Actually Eat For Dessert
While I love gingerbread houses and candy canes, I hand pick what I eat while watching my favorite Christmas movies, hanging holiday lights, playing holiday games, and partaking in other holiday cheer activities–ahem, drinking hot cocoa!
I'll be the first to admit that I love the sweet treats of winter, from peppermint mochas to gingerbread cookies to a good 'ol glass of eggnog. But of course, there's festive food and drink everywhere this time of year, so I can't endlessly indulge.
I decide when it's worth it to have the real thing–yes to a delicious gingerbread cookie!–and when I take healthier shortcuts, like having a glass of eggnog kefir instead of the traditional recipe.
So as my holiday gift to you, I'm taking you to dessert school. That's right! You're about to learn what other dietitians and I designate as "worth it" in the dessert department, as well as the three vocabulary words you must know when selecting a store-bought dessert.
Think dietitians like me don't eat dessert? Think again! That's just a myth. See what treat I whip up year-round and keep in the freezer at all times, via this tell-all article from WellandGood.com. You can also invite your friends and holiday guests to bring healthier desserts to any event you're hosting.
Then see what sweets my nutritionist colleagues can't live without. Miniature cakes are a great sweet treat, too!
Want more healthier holiday desserts? Here you go!
- Gluten-Free Pear Cobbler from Shannon A. Garcia, MDS, RD, nutrition blogger with KISS in the Kitchen
- Cranberry Almond Bars from Jenny S. Passione, MS, RD, blogger at The Creative RD
- Cheesecake with Blackberry Compote from Klara Knezevic, RDN, CLT, co-author of Cooking with Food Sensitivities Survival Guide
- Gluten-Free Gingerbread Cookies from my own kitchen
- Chocolate Pomegranate Energy Balls from Sarah Schlichter, MPH, RDN, creator of Bucket List Tummy
- Vegan Dark Chocolate Mint Mousse from Sarah Gold, RD, owner of Sarah Gold Nutrition
- Dairy-Free Orange Cake from my own kitchen
- Maple Cinnamon Glazed Walnuts from Jenny Shea Rawn, MS, MPH, RD, blogger at My Cape Cod Kitchen
Perfect Holiday Punch Recipes
Appetizers? Check. Desserts? Check. Celebratory drinks? If you're drawing a blank on the refreshments for your company holiday party or family get together, you're in luck—this article from AARP's The Girlfriend is here to help. These holiday drinks make any party look like a winter wonderland!
Break out your punch bowl and whip up a batch of my kombucha-based mocktail, or try one of the other healthier boozy options. With these recipes, you won't mind being on drink duty or hosting the next party-themed happy hour. Now, go get in the holiday spirit. How about some slow cooker apple cider?
And here are even more healthier holiday beverage recipes:
- Skinny Pumpkin Pie Spice Latte from my own kitchen
- Rosemary Latte from my own kitchen
- No-Added-Sugar Sangria from Melissa Nieves, MPH, RD, blogger at Fad Free Nutrition Blog
- Virgin Prune Juice Pineapple Sangria from my own kitchen
- Sparkling Apple Cider Mocktail from Rebecca Clyde, MS, RDN, blogger at Nourish Nutrition
- Tropical Green Tea Sangria Mocktail from my own kitchen
This blog post was updated in November 2020.
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I'd love to hear from you! Let me know which of these holiday party ideas and healthy Xmas recipes you love the most. What do you have up your sleeve in the holiday event planning and office holiday party ideas department? Ever been to a food truck holiday party or another out-of-the-box holiday event?
Want to go shopping with a dietitian? Here's your chance! I just opened up my very own storefront, full of my fave tip sheets, cookbooks, kitchen products, and more!
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