Options for Any Occasion During the Holidays
We all have our traditional favorite recipes that we have to have during the holidays – many of which may not be the healthiest. That, of course, is perfectly fine. It is the holidays after all! But if you’re trying to come up with at least a few ideas that are a little to a lot healthier or at least “healthy-ish,” you may feel stumped as far as where to get some ideas. That’s why I’ve put together this list of 10 recommended healthy holiday recipes. I’ve done the legwork for you with these, and I can vouch for how they turned out. I also offer notes on how to make many of them allergy-friendly if needed and many are already paleo, vegan, or vegetarian as is. You’re sure to find an option here to fit any way of eating and any occasion during the holidays.
This Roasted Beetroot Salad with Goats Cheese & Walnuts from The Cooks Pyjamas is everything you could want in a side salad for a special holiday meal. Since I have not done a lot of cooking with beets before, I’m not sure if it’s the way they are roasted or the dressing that’s used, but I LOVED them in this recipe. I usually think they are too strong and “woodsy” tasting when I’ve had them in restaurants, but these are mild, sweet and delicious! Putting them with the recipe called-for arugula, goat’s cheese and walnuts is the perfect combination. This is so good, I would order it any day in a restaurant, which means it’s very guest-worthy in my book!
Note: If you just want to have it for a single serving lunch, you can prepare everything, just heat up the amount of beets that you need, combine them with a little of the dressing and make the rest of the salad as directed. The beets are definitely best served warm. Also, in case you aren’t familiar with it, the recipe calls for rocket. That’s arugula.
Paleo Sausage Cheese Balls (Can be Vegan and Gluten-free)
Sausage balls were a holiday tradition in my house until we realized that my kids couldn’t eat dairy and my youngest is allergic to wheat. That’s why I was desperate to find a recipe to replace the old version. These Paleo Sausage Cheese Balls from Tessa The Domestic Diva did the trick! I’m sure they are wonderful made exactly as the recipe says, but I substitute garbanzo bean flour (chickpea flour) for the almond flour and Daiya shreds for the cheddar cheese, and it works great. I went with garbanzo bean flour because it has a neutral taste and is just as high in protein as almond flour. That means these babies pack a protein-packed punch for breakfast, as a snack or an appetizer, and they taste great! Now our tradition continues with an even healthier version than we used in the past.
This Protein Packed Vegan Thanksgiving Stuffing from Veggies Don’t Bite isn’t just for Thanksgiving – it’s perfect for Christmas dinner as well. (Check out this interesting articlefor more on when and how people use this traditional dish.) For my side of the family, we usually have at least two or three different types of stuffing on the table because everyone has their favorite recipe or needs something different for their diet. This may just be the one to bring everyone together around one dish. When I made it, I did use gluten-free bread because I’ve been looking for a version for my wheat-free kid. We’ve tried many, but there is simply not a store-bought version that tastes even remotely right. This recipe not only tastes great, but it offers the protein I need, along with the traditional stuffing taste that we all expect.
Note: If you don’t like hot (as in spicy) food, leave out the crushed red pepper entirely or just use a pinch.
This recipe from Veganosity has all of the words that push my buttons during the holidays – healthy… vegan… gingerbread… cookie… and of course, smoothie. They had me at gingerbread! If you’re looking for a festive, whole foods treat, this is it! Because of the oats included, it also leaves you feeling satisfied, but not too full. Perfect for a holiday morning when you don’t have much time but know you won’t be able to eat anything until lunch.
These Vegan Mashed Potatoes from the Simple Vegan Blog are a great alternative to mashed potatoes with butter. My guys agree that they taste just as good if not better than the buttery version, and everyone gets to eat them. I won’t call them a substitute, because that implies that you would only have this if you can’t have something else. These are so good that even if we could have butter, I think we would still choose to do them this way.
Note: I use rice/quinoa milk, but any plant milk will work fine.
This Gluten-Free Pie Crust from A Little Insanity is perfect for anyone with allergies. Not only is it gluten-free, but it’s dairy-free and can be made without sugar as well. There’s also a vegan version too! Honestly, this pie crust looks much better and tastes just as good as the store-bought versions. It’s also surprisingly simple to make. I highly recommend it for baking for the holidays or anytime!
Let me just say it right now. This Vegan Seitan Steak recipe from It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken is FABULOUS! and it isn’t hard to make at all. I have to admit that I was skeptical while I was putting it together the first time, but then when it actually seemed to be doing what it was supposed to, I felt a little better. When I put the finished product in my mouth, I knew we had a winner! Now I don’t have to feel left out when the rest of my family is having steak on Christmas Eve. They also freeze well, so once you’ve made a recipe, you could be set for a while. While they definitely taste fine as is, the recipe’s suggestion of brushing on more marinade before cooking is a good one. That makes them juicier. When it’s not the holidays, I also eat these in a steak bowl or just on a salad.
Sharp White Mac and Cheese Bake (Vegan)
Let’s be honest, kids don’t necessarily like (or don’t want to try) many of the traditional holiday favorites, so we need something that we can fall back on for them. This Sharp White Mac and Cheese from Veggies Don’t Bite is what you’re looking for. The Cheese Sauce itself is to die for!! While you can leave out the cashews to make it nut-free, and you can use gluten-free bread, I made the recipe exactly as is because I knew my youngest wouldn’t be having any. I will definitely be making it again with those variations so that he can try it as well.
Note: I did not have chickpea miso, so I used coconut aminos instead to give the sauce a little sharper taste. I simply omitted the miso in the actual Bake recipe, and it worked fine.
This Roasted Tomato Vegetable Soup from Bowl Me Over is perfect for a holiday luncheon or for a lighter Christmas Eve dinner. While the recipe says it’s a “summer soup,” I can attest to the fact that it’s just fine this time of year as well. If you’ve got a good local tomato supplier with a greenhouse, you’re set. If not, grocery store Romas will work fine too. Either way, this soup is essential to have at some point during the holidays. Warm, cozy and inviting, it’s everything you want your holidays to be!
Paleo Chocolate Gingerbread Bars (Vegan and Gluten-Free)
Yet another way we can work that gingerbread taste into something else during the holidays! These Paleo Chocolate Gingerbread Bars from Hummus Sapien are moist and delicious! Vegan and flourless, they fit my family’s needs perfectly. Looking at them, you’d never know there isn’t a stitch of flour in there, and no one ever has to know unless you just want to tell them. I wouldn’t though until they’ve taken a bite and they’re already hooked. Then see what their reaction is.
Note: I substitute sunflower butter for the almond butter. Chocolate is a great thing to do this with since it hides the fact that recipes can have a green tint from the chlorophyll in the sunflower butter.
Thank you to all of the talented and creative recipe developers whose recipes are featured in this list. I’m sure you’ll enjoy the results of their hard work as much as my family and I have.