10 Recipes for a Happy and Healthy Holiday Season!

By: Rachel Go
Feasting with family and friends over the holidays doesn’t have to end with a food coma and sense of regret. Check out these 10 guilt-free classic recipes that involve healthier ingredient options that don’t sacrifice flavor.

With Christmas right around the corner, I’m sure many of us are looking forward to enjoying classic dishes and desserts as we join together with our loved ones to thank the Lord for the gift of eternal life, His unconditional love, and for blessing us abundantly. However, such feasting can oftentimes be followed by crashing and a sense of guilt, especially when you have multiple gatherings to attend Thanksgiving Day. But it doesn’t have to be that way!

I’m here to share some recipes for dishes you’re probably already going to incorporate into your Thanksgiving and Christmas menus that involve ingredient substitutes that still result in amazing flavor. For example, my favorite childhood cookies had Crisco in them, but now I use coconut oil instead, and they taste even better than they did before!
I hope you enjoy trying at least one of these recipes, and I look forward to hearing your feedback in the comment section!
These ingredient tweaks will encourage you to seek out rich, quality ingredients that are minimally processed and are less likely to cause inflammation, bloating, allergies, and aggravate any health conditions you may already have.

I’ve personally tried all these recipes, and I will say that you’re in for quite a treat. So let’s dive into this meal, shall we?

APPETIZERS

As you’re waiting for your family members and friends to arrive, here are some healthy yet delicious snacks your guests can munch on:
 
  • Veggie mediterranean platter with roasted peppers, olives, hummus, carrots, and cucumbers — Aim for organic veggies and fruits if you can! Places like Aldi, BJ’s, Costco, Lucky’s Market, and Living Green Fresh Market have some more affordable organic options. Whole Foods often has good deals for Amazon Prime members as well.

  • Cheese and fruit platter — My background is Italian, so I’ve grown up to appreciate the delight that is cheese. This is more of a treat than a healthy plate, however, I believe it is healthy to treat yourself every now and then with some quality cheese! For your platter, I recommend going with fresh artisan cheese made by skilled cheesemakers as opposed to mass produced cheese; you’ll likely find these two types of cheese in different sections of the grocery store. Not only does artisan cheese taste better, but it’s better for you!

    As far as fruits go, grapes, apple slices, and berries (organic, if possible) are some great options that pair well with cheese. If you want to throw in some crackers, I recommend going the gluten-free route to reduce bloating and improve overall digestion. For this reason, I also recommend cutting out dinner rolls from the menu. Sure, people love them, but with so much delicious food to choose from this time of year, it’s wise to strategize and save rolls for another day.
    Not only does artisan cheese taste better, but it’s better for you!
  • Roasted Butternut Squash Soup — This vegan, dairy-free, and gluten-free savory recipe can be made with a whole butternut squash or pre-cut butternut squash (organic, if possible). Make sure you get canned coconut milk, not the refrigerated kind. You can control the spiciness level with the amount of cayenne pepper you use; a little goes a long way, so keep that in mind. And if you’re feeling extra fancy, feel free to garnish the soup with some roasted pumpkin seeds for crunchy texture and cilantro for freshness!

SIDES

  • Sweet Potato Casserole with Pecan Topping — This is a gluten-free recipe with a dairy-free option that will surely impress your guests. If anyone has a pecan allergy, simply remove pecans from the recipe; you’ll still have a stellar dish. I recommend going with organic sweet potatoes if you can not just for the health benefits, but for the richer, sweeter flavor as well.

    When it comes to sugar in recipes, I personally use substitutes that are lower on the glycemic index such as raw agave or coconut palm sugar. For butter, consider using a quality brand like Kerrygold or substituting it for ghee or coconut oil.
    When it comes to sugar in recipes use low glycemic index ingredients such as raw agave or coconut palm sugar.
  • Green Bean Casserole — This vegan, dairy-free, and gluten-free dish made from scratch is another great way to incorporate nutritious fibrous veggies into the menu. You can make this dish with fresh or frozen cut green beans (organic, if possible). If you prefer to not make the crunchy onion topping from scratch for the sake of time, I recommend Loeb's Gluten Free Crunchy Onion Topping, which can be found at Publix or Whole Foods!

  • Stuffing — Believe it or not, you can make a delicious veggie-filled stuffing without any bread. That’s right! This gluten-free and paleo recipe is very versatile and can be tweaked to your liking. This recipe does include eggs, so I recommend going with ones that are pasture raised.

    This recipe swaps out traditional white flour for almond flour; I like using the brand Bob’s Red Mill for my almond flour, which should be available at Whole Foods, Lucky’s Market, and Target. Some other grain-free flour options to consider are coconut flour and brown rice flour. It’s amazing to see so healthy alternatives available at most supermarkets!
    It’s amazing to see so healthy alternatives available at most supermarkets!
  • Creamed Corn — This creamy vegan and dairy-free recipe is a must-make because of how simple and quick it is to prepare! As we did with the butternut squash soup, be sure to use a can-based coconut milk for this recipe. Frozen organic sweet corn is a good option to consider as well. This sweet side is the perfect transition into our next side . . .

  • A special family recipe that I refer to as “Aunt Marge’s Cranberry Casserole,” which has a walnut crumble on top, is my absolute favorite! For me, Thanksgiving is incomplete without this side dish. Ingredients include:

    • 1 cup sugar (coconut or brown sugar)
    • A 12-ounce bag of cranberries
    • 3 cups of diced and cubed apples (Gala, McIntosh, Fuji, or Red Delicious; organic, if possible)
    • 1 ½ cups of water
    • Coconut oil or coconut oil spray cooking spray

    Preheat the oven to 375 degrees; peel and cut your apples; coat a 9x13 baking pan with coconut oil or coconut oil cooking spray; mix apples and cranberries in the pan; pour water over apples and cranberries; pour cup of sugar over fruit.

    For the walnut topping, chop 1 ½ cups of walnuts finely so they do not burn in the oven. In a medium-large mixing bowl, mix the walnuts with 1 ½ cups of oats, 1 cup of coconut or brown sugar, and ¼ cup of melted coconut oil or melted quality butter. Spread this topping over the apples and cranberries and bake at 375 degrees for 45-50 minutes until the top layer is a light brown shade. Let it sit for 10-15 minutes before serving and enjoy!

DESSERTS

  • Pumpkin Pie — This delicious pumpkin pie is paleo, incorporating simple, natural ingredients . . . and did I mention the crust is gluten free and delicious? Coconut and almond flour are used as white flour alternatives.

    If you’re feeling daring like I was when I tried this recipe, you can cut a whole pumpkin in half, scoop out the seeds (which can be used in your butternut squash soup!), and roast them off for 40 minutes at 375 degrees. Or if you’d prefer to keep things simple, you can use canned pumpkin puree instead. You can either go the organic route, or go for a quality brand like this, which is available at Whole Foods for only 99 cents a can! They also sell healthy frozen pie crusts if you’re in a time crunch, but I highly recommend giving the homemade crust a try if you can; it took me less than 10 minutes to make it!
    . . . and did I mention the crust is gluten free and delicious?
  • Apple Pie — This is another paleo pie you can make from scratch with simple, guilt-free ingredients. I recommend using three to four different types of fresh apples (organic, if possible): Granny Smith, Gala, Honey Crisp, and Pink Ladies are great mix and rich in antioxidants! Please stay away from canned apple pie fillings, which are loaded with sugar and preservatives.

    And what’s an apple pie without some vanilla ice cream on top, right? A delicious dairy-free option you can find at Publix or Whole Foods is So Delicious Very Vanilla cashew milk ice cream. This brand also makes other dairy-free, nut-based ice creams; I do recommend steering clear of any that are made with soymilk, as soy can cause hormone disruptions and other health issues.
The reality is that we’re all probably going to indulge one way or another during the holidays. But if there’s one thing I’m thankful for, it’s delicious ingredients that serve as healthier alternatives. You’ll not only feel better, but you’ll also be doing your body a favor in the long-run if you adapt this healthy substitute mindset with all the dishes you whip up in the kitchen throughout the year.
 
Lastly, I recommend making cooking and baking a family affair! Check out local farmers markets together to pick up fresh, local, and organic ingredients for your recipes — the Parkland, Coconut Creek, Pompano Beach, Coral Springs, and Davie markets are currently in season. Most importantly, remember to be mindful of kitchen safety as you’re making these fun foodie memories. I hope you enjoy trying at least one of these recipes, and I look forward to hearing your feedback in the comment section!

 

Rachel Go has been a high school counselor at CCA since 2013. She is married to her college sweetheart who she met at Liberty University and is passionate about living a healthy lifestyle to maintain spiritual, physical, and mental wholeness and helping others do the same!
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