4 Healthy Holiday Recipes That Are Actually Good for You

by Sonita Singh, MD, Family Medicine Physician, MedStar Medical Group
November 27, 2019

Eating healthy is no easy feat for most people—especially during the holidays, when we have family gatherings and work events to attend. One way to combat the urge to eat unhealthy at these events is to bring your own healthy dish or two.

Below are four tasty, easy-to-make recipe ideas to consider this holiday season. Keep in mind that a majority of these recipes are plant-based, accommodating a variety of popular diets that either reduce or eliminate your consumption of animal products.

1. Whole-Wheat Berry Muffins

Muffins are good for practically any occasion, especially breakfast. The problem is that many popular recipes call for too much sugar and other unhealthy ingredients. The following recipe, inspired by Forks Over Knives: The Cookbook, prioritizes whole foods, is relatively low in sugar, and only takes about one hour to make.

  • ⅔ cup unsweetened plant-based milk
  • 1 tablespoon ground flaxseeds
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¾ teaspoon of salt
  • ½ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • ½ cup pure maple syrup
  • 1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup berries (Consider using wild blueberries if possible, as they’re smaller and make the muffin less soggy.)

Before mixing all the ingredients together, heat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. To make the muffins, you’ll first want to create a milk mixture by mixing the milk, flaxseeds, and apple cider vinegar together. Add this mixture to another bowl that has the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt already mixed together. Next, stir the applesauce, maple syrup, and vanilla into the mixing bowl, and fold in the berries.

Using a nonstick or silicone pan, fill each muffin cup about three-quarters full, and bake for 22 to 25 minutes. You can ensure the muffins are done by inserting a knife through the center of a muffin and checking that it comes out clean.

Want to bring a #healthy dish to your next #holiday event? Learn how to make low-sugar whole-wheat berry muffins and other nutritious foods, via @MedStarHealth

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2. Rainbow Chard

Rainbow chard, a green leafy vegetable, is among the most nutrient-dense foods. When you combine this with its delicious taste, it makes for a terrific side dish or main course. Use the following ingredients, inspired by Local Flavors: Cooking and Eating from America’s Farmers’ Markets (A Cookbook), to make rainbow chard:

  • 2 pounds of chard, including half of the stems
  • 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter
  • 1 chopped onion
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • ½ cup of fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 3 tablespoons of chopped dill or parsley
  • 1 tablespoon of flour
  • 1 cup of milk or cream
  • 1 cup of crumbled fresh goat cheese

First, separate the chard leaves from the chard stems and wash them. Then, trim the edges off the stems, dice them into small pieces, and chop the leaves into thin pieces. Next, melt two tablespoons of butter in a skillet over medium heat, add the onion and chard stems, and cook for about 20 minutes (or until the onions begin to brown). Add the chard leaves and one teaspoon of salt, and cook for about ten minutes (or until the chard is tender).

Now, you’ll want to heat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and oil a two-quart gratin dish. Melt half the remaining butter in a small skillet and add bread crumbs, garlic, and dill, and stir for about a minute. Then, scrape the crumbs into a bowl and return the pan to the heat. Melt the last tablespoon of butter, stir in the flour, and whisk in the milk. Simmer for about five minutes, season with ½ teaspoon of salt, add the chard mixture and cheese, and season with pepper.

Finally, grab a serving dish, pour the mixture into it, and cover the rainbow chard with breadcrumbs. Bake it for about 25 minutes (or until heated through and golden on the surface).

3. Vegan Pumpkin Bean Chili

Chili is a holiday staple, making it a great dish to bring with you to any event. One way to make chili healthier and even more delicious is adding pumpkin and cilantro to it. Use the following ingredients for vegan pumpkin bean chili, inspired by Mark Reinfeld of the Doctor & The Chef:

  • 1 tablespoon of coconut oil or water
  • 1 cup of diced onion
  • 4 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
  • 8 ounces of finely chopped soy tempeh
  • One 15-ounce can of adzuki beans
  • One 14.5-ounce can of fire roasted tomatoes or 1½ cups of diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup of water or vegetable stock
  • 1 teaspoon of chile powder
  • ¼ teaspoon of chipotle chile powder
  • ½ teaspoon of ground cumin (optional)
  • ½ cup of pumpkin puree or 1 ½ cups of roasted and cubed pumpkin (See the last paragraph of this section on how to prepare.)
  • 2 tablespoons of freshly-squeezed lime juice
  • ½ teaspoon of sea salt (or to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon of wheat-free tamari (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons of minced cilantro

Start by placing a medium-sized pot over medium heat. Add coconut oil and onion, and cook for three minutes, stirring often and adding small amounts of water to prevent sticking, if necessary. Then add the garlic and tempeh, and cook for three minutes.

Add adzuki beans, fire-roasted tomatoes, chile powder, chipotle powder, and cumin, and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add water, pumpkin, lime juice, salt, and tamari, stir, and cook for five minutes. Add cilantro, stir, and serve.

To prepare the pumpkin, you can cook it in with the rest of your chili ingredients or roast it. To add it with the other ingredients, peel and chop the pumpkin into 1-inch cubes and add in with the tempeh and cook for an additional 20 minutes. To roast it, heat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and slice the pumpkin into halves or quarters and remove the seeds. Place on a baking sheet with about a half-inch of water and roast for about 35 minutes, or until it’s just tender. Then allow the pumpkin to cool, scoop out the flesh, and cut into half-inch pieces to use in the chili.

4. Vegan Coconut-Glazed Sweet Potatoes With Walnuts

This vegan sweet potato recipe is loaded with nutrients and is sure to be a hit with your family, friends, or colleagues. I suggest using both garnet and purple sweet potatoes for appealing, vibrant colors. The recipe, inspired by Mark Reinfeld of the Doctor & The Chef, uses the following ingredients:

  • ½ cup of water
  • 2 large sweet potatoes, sliced in half lengthwise
  • ½ cup coconut milk
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons of maple syrup
  • ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon of pumpkin spice mix
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • ¼ cup of chopped walnuts

To prepare these sweet potatoes, heat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit, place the water in a 9-inch-by-13-inch casserole dish, and add sweet potatoes (with the cut side on top). Cover the dish with aluminum foil, and bake for about 45 minutes (or until the sweet potatoes are just tender).

Place the coconut milk, maple syrup, vanilla extract, pumpkin spice mix, and salt in a small bowl and whisk. Poke holes in the sweet potatoes with a fork, pour the coconut milk mixture over the potatoes, and place them back in the oven for about ten minutes.

Once you remove the sweet potatoes from the oven, place them on a serving dish, top with walnuts and any of the coconut milk mixture that’s left in the dish, and serve.

Preparing healthy foods for holiday events is an important way to maintain your nutritious diet. Make sure to keep these recipes in mind during the holidays this year.

Would you like to see a specialist about eating a more nutritious diet?
Consider scheduling an appointment with Dr. Sonita Singh.

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Category: Eating Healthy     Tags: Adult Nutritioneating healthyElderly Nutritionhealthy eatinghealthy food choicesholiday eatingnutrition