How To Turn Classic Holiday Recipes Into Foods You Won't Regret

Sorry mom, great granny's recipe needs an update.

Adult woman and her mother cooking with alternative ingredients Getty images | Unsplash 

In a world faced with uncertainties, we crave our holiday traditions now more than ever. We want to embrace what is familiar.

What is more comforting than a table filled with family, friends, laughter, and foods made using holiday recipes and ideas that have been passed down from generation to generation? 

You don't have to abandon these culinary legacies, even if you're trying to eat healthy.

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A few simple ways to make your family holiday recipes a little healthier 

1. Redesign the sad beige sides

Potatoes are nutrient-rich comfort foods, but most people have traditionally used white potatoes because there weren't many other choices at the grocery store and this was what they were used to eating. However, a healthier choice when preparing a potato dish would be to consider using sweet or purple sweet potatoes in place of white potatoes.

If you're going for that traditional potato flavor, keeping the peels on the potatoes adds protein and healthy fiber! 

If you want to try the recipe with something else, sweet potatoes are delicious and high in fiber and beta-carotene. Kansas State University has been studying the potential health benefits of the purple sweet potato and its anti-cancer properties. Purple sweet potatoes typically contain unusually high amounts of anthocyanin, which is a powerful anti-cancer pigment.


Anthocyanins can be red, blue, or purple depending on the food’s chemical structure. (These anthocyanins of blue, red, and purple color pigment can also be found in many colorful fruits, like blueberries, black raspberries, and red grapes.) Anthocyanins are known to have anti-angiogenic properties. (Angiogenesis means the growth of new blood vessels. Anti-angiogenic means that it stops tumors from growing their blood vessels.)

The antioxidants are the color pigment of the food. These dark purple, blue, and red foods also contain phenols. Phenols are organic compounds naturally occurring in certain foods, that have anti-aging and antioxidant components. Additionally, an American Chemical Society study found that eating purple potatoes may lower blood pressure.

For a healthy stuffing, try making one with organic sprouted rice, wild rice, or sprouted organic bread stuffing (using bread like Ezekiel or Alvarado Bakery) in place of the white, refined bread. Then, bake your stuffing in a separate dish instead of cooking it inside the turkey (where it can absorb a high amount of saturated fat from the meat). Also, use vegetable broth in place of chicken broth. Doing both of these things allows the vegetarian or vegan diners to be able to enjoy that dish as well.

When making cornbread stuffing, purchase non-GMO, organic cornmeal (which is free of the BT toxin, which is found in some pesticides). If you are feeling brave, try using blue cornmeal, which is about 30 percent higher in protein and has more zinc and iron than white or yellow corn.




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2. Make moister meat with healthy fats

Christmas dishes typically involve a type of creature food, like turkey or other types of meat. Try using a little orange juice and coconut oil to add moisture, and try baking them instead of frying them.

If you are baking, frying, or sautéing anything, use organic, pure coconut oil, or avocado oil in place of lard, vegetable oil, or a trans-fat like Crisco. They handle heat well and have fantastic health benefits.


For other types of animals, fish, or fowl, you can grill, broil, or sauté them in a little coconut oil. After you remove them from the heat, you can drizzle some pure, organic, extra virgin olive oil on them and serve with lemon juice or a lemon juice vinaigrette. When dining, choose skinless, low-fat meat pieces and then add just a tiny bit of gravy.

3. Deliver everyone's 'just desserts'

For dessert, try making a pumpkin pie! You can make a whole sprouted grain crust yourself or you can find a whole grain ready-made crust at the store and serve the coconut milk whipped cream for the topping. It’s delicious and it’s a great way to cut down on dairy.

You can also have a simple pitted date as a sweet treat. It’s just fruit and a much healthier choice. Try using non-dairy milk in your recipes or for your coffee creamer. If you want it to be sweeter, blend the milk (like the unsweetened, vanilla coconut or hemp milk) with a little extra added vanilla or maple extract in a blender and add some pitted dates.


I soak the pitted dates in water to make them softer so they will crème up easier, and voilà! You have a healthier version of a sweet, holiday creamer for your coffee or desserts. You can also add a sprinkle of freshly ground nutmeg on top for a beautiful and delicious presentation

4. Add a little nutrition to favorite snacks

When making or serving snacks, try an easy dip option such as a healthy high-protein hummus or nutritious guacamole.

Cut some cucumber, red bell pepper, or celery to use as the dipping chips! If you want to serve crackers or chips, try using a whole grain, sprouted, organic version or an organic sweet potato chip or cracker. (Late July is a good brand for chips and Mary’s Gone Cracker’s is my favorite cracker these days.)

For additional snacks that are easy for travel or on the go, try combinations of organic, sprouted nuts, sprouted seeds, olives, pitted dates, raisins, dry fruits, kale chips, and coconut chips.


happy woman has a snack

Photo via Getty

Here are some easy substitutions:

1. Unsweetened cashew yogurt in place of sour cream

2. Hummus or mashed avocado instead of mayonnaise for sandwiches

3. Unsweetened vanilla coconut, hemp, or cashew milk in place of dairy

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These Christmas dinner recipes and traditions can be such a stabilizing part of our lives.

And yet, some of these foods use ingredients or cooking techniques that may not be as healthy as we might desire. Eating these foods doesn't always make our body feel at its best.

So, one way to promote a healthier lifestyle while still enjoying the holidays is to substitute a few ingredients or make different food choices when making Christmas dinner recipes or dishes that are healthier for you and your family.

Healthy recipes may not be common in most traditional Christmas dinner menus, but it is still possible to enjoy eating healthy food during this 2018 holiday season with these better-for-you dinner recipes and ideas.




With these ingredient substitutions, you can still eat all the delicious flavors you love while enjoying several health benefits.

With a healthy meal, you can feel and look your best as holiday activities continue into January. Instead of regretting what you ate, you will glow with radiant health.

So as we continue our traditions, remember that we can create comforting, wonderful memories with our families and friends by just relaxing, and putting a lot of love into everything we do.


It is the warm feelings in the traditions that we will always cherish. It truly is about being present and being here, right now. Slow down and savor the moment. It is food for our souls.

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Nancy Addison is a nutritionist, educator, best-selling author, international speaker, healthy chef, and radio show/podcast host. She teaches people about living a healthier, happier life through nutrition and lifestyle.