Anybody else leave Christmas dinner with a grumbling food baby at the pit of their stomach?
There are certain flavour rituals that have become so ingrained in our Christmas traditions that to go without them seems unthinkable. However, leaving the dinner table feeling so full that you wished you’d changed into sweatpants before you even started might be saying something. All I’m saying is, wouldn’t it be amazing if we could still stuff our faces on Christmas without feeling like we’re about to explode afterwards?
Here’s the thing–all you need to do is make a few swaps in the ingredients you’re using and you can easily cut hundreds of calories off of the meal. All a recipe needs is to preserve the traditional flavours and textures of our well-loved Christmas sides. From there, we can swap root vegetables for starches and creams, switch up creamy dressings with plant-based alternatives, and simply opt to have more vegetables on the table. You’ll be cutting the bulk, but keeping the flavours, and I promise that you’ll leave that evening breathing easier than last year. Enjoy!
I don’t know about you, but I try to eat very lightly during Christmas day in anticipation of a massive dinner meal. So when those appetizers start rolling out, my appetite knows that it’s go time. You can help everyone preserve their willpower by going light on the appetizers. Instead of serving that asiago cheese dip and crostini combo that is literal heaven but may result in hangry guests like me going all in before dinner is served, try serving up a colourful veggie platter and impressing your guests with some creamy plant based dips like Mediterranean Balsamic Hummus, or get fancy and serve up some light, but flavourful appies like this Cauliflower ‘Caviar’ with Frizzled Prosciutto.
We tend to focus on everything that we’re eating during the holidays, but lest we forget all of the sugary beverages we consume that contribute to our pants getting a little tighter during the cold months. Again, you don’t need to cut it out, but seeking out a cocktail recipe that’s a little less sweet will slightly reduce your calorie intake (and avoid a headache in the morning).
Similar to your appetizer, you don’t want the soup to fill everyone up before the turkey is served. Thus, try to avoid recipes that use sour cream or creme fraiche, and stick to recipes that use root vegetables as their creamy base, like this Roasted Beet Soup with Fennel and Orange. You’ll still be enjoying the Winter flavours that you love, but without the belly ache.
Instead up greasing up your salad with creamy dressings and thick croutons, bulk up your salad with fresh herbs, nuts and seeds, and root vegetables or a hint of fruity sweetness, like a chopped up pear or pomegranate seeds. We love the Fall Harvest Salad, which is built up with greens, chunks of butternut squash and pecans, and topped with a sweet dijon vinaigrette.
Mashed potatoes are classic, and a Christmas dinner wouldn’t be the same without them. But all that starch and butter could really get in the way of you being able to save any room for pumpkin pie. For the sake of dessert, I would sincerely recommend giving Creamy Garlic Mashed Cauliflower a try–you’ll hardly notice the difference. Cauliflower is an incredibly nutrient-dense vegetable, and has the ability to take on the same flavour and consistency as potatoes if prepared properly. It also still tastes great with gravy!
The original version of green beans may have started out as a healthy dish, but over the years it has evolved into a dish that gets smothered in butter, cream, creme fraiche, and white flour. If you’re looking for a healthier way to serve your beans, switch up your flavour strategy by focusing on herbs and garlic, instead of cream and flour. Try Lemony Green Beans with Almond Breadcrumbs.
We actually have an entire blog post dedicated to healthier stuffing recipes, and for good reason. Stuffing, especially when made from a box, contains trans fats, preservatives, and tons of unnecessary starch. And what’s more is that there are so many modifications you can make to traditional stuffing to make it healthier and tastier at the same time. Think less bread, but more oomph: cauliflower and hazelnuts, polenta and sausage, mushroom and leek. There are so many possibilities!
Whether you are genuinely trying to healthify your Christmas dinner, or are just trying to lessen the load on your way to pumpkin pie, I hope that you incorporate a few of these switches into your Christmas this year. What are your favourite ways to lighten up your sides?