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A Healthy Spin on 9 Classic Holiday Dishes

Whether you're cooking for 2 or 12

By ​Carolyn Williams, PhD, RD​ | November 4, 2020 | Rally Health

Holidays are what keep many of us grounded, so keeping those traditions may be more important than ever this year. Yet, for many of us, holiday plans will look a little different, with smaller gatherings and less travel. Fortunately, there are still lots of ways to keep the holiday spirit.  

At my house, holidays center on family and food, so I’ve been staying virtually connected with family members and friends who can’t travel. But I’ve also been in the kitchen, testing new recipes. Don’t worry —  the traditional holiday flavors aren’t going anywhere! I realized that most of my tried-and-true recipes are designed to serve anywhere from 12 to 24 people, not smaller groups. And for the first time, I may be cooking the entire meal by myself, something I’ve never done in the past, thanks to family members’ helping out. 

So, I decided to create healthy holiday dishes reminiscent of the classics I love, but that have fewer servings and require less work. Most of these recipes are designed for four to six people, so smaller gatherings will enjoy plenty of leftovers afterward. Since your head count may vary,  I also made sure the recipes can be easily doubled. 

Check out these nine dishes, from mains to dessert, that can serve both a party of four or a table of twelve. These new holiday favorites also sneak in a few more veggies and cut out some fat and carbs.

Main Courses

Balsamic Rosemary Pork Tenderloin

Need proof that a few simple ingredients are all you need to create an amazingly flavorful entrée? Then, this is the recipe to try. Marinate the pork for up to 24 hours in advance to keep your kitchen time minimal on the day you serve it.  

Butternut Squash & Spinach Lasagna

If you're looking for a change from the typical holiday turkey or ham, try this cozy casserole. It’s meatless, yet hearty and filling, and utilizes frozen veggies and a few convenience products to keep prep and assembly stress free. 

Lemon-Rosemary Cornish Hens

Cornish hens are a great alternative to turkey or ham. Not only are they equally impressive when they come out of the oven, they’re also easy to season and need only about a quarter of the cooking time that a large turkey requires. One hen serves two, making it easy to adjust the recipe for your holiday needs.

Side Dishes

Healthier Holiday Stuffing

You can’t have a holiday meal without stuffing, and this might be my new favorite version. Thanks to rustic multigrain bread, fresh herbs, sautéed vegetables, and low-sodium broth, this updated classic has less fat and sodium compared with traditional stuffing, as well as more fiber and flavor.  

Lower Carb Mashed Potatoes

When they're loaded with butter and cream, mashed potatoes can be anything but healthy, so here’s a variation that you can feel great about eating. Adding garlicky mashed cauliflower to potatoes cuts carbs and calories, yet still creates a creamy texture and flavor. 

Almond-Topped Green Bean Casserole

Classic green bean casserole topped with fried onions is hard to beat, so can a lightened version even compete? The answer is “Yes!” thanks to fresh green beans, a quick creamy sauce, and a crispy topping made with sliced almonds and Parmesan cheese. 

Holiday Winter Salad

Balance the rich flavors in other holiday dishes by adding a green salad tossed in a tangy vinaigrette to your holiday menu. This Holiday Winter Salad adds a burst of color to the table, as well as crunch from the pecans and the fresh flavors of crisp greens and orange sections. 

Desserts

Apple Cranberry Crisp

You can never go wrong with a fruit crisp, and you really can’t go wrong making this one where cranberries are mixed with sweet apples slices. Before baking, the fruit is topped with a brown sugar-oat streusel to add just the right amount of sweetness. Feel like splurging? Top with a small dollop of vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Pumpkin Mousse

Most desserts this light and fluffy rely on heavy cream high in saturated fat, but not this one. Instead, leveraging a few convenience products creates a delicious light and creamy dessert that’s amazingly low in fat and sugar.

​Carolyn Williams, PhD, RD​
Rally Health