The holidays can be a decadent time of the year, and it’s all too easy to indulge in your favorite foods. While you can justify your eating by saying that the holidays only come once a year, a month of excessive meals and sweet treats can catch up with you. If you want to bring some balance into your holiday meals or are just looking forward to enjoying the season with some healthy alternatives, check out this list of super healthy side dishes that will leave you full and satisfied without the ensuing food coma!
1. Smoked Fish Spread
If you’re looking for a tasty, healthy side for you and your guests to nom on while waiting for the main course, try this smoked fish spread! Made with sardines and packed with veggies, herbs, and healthy avocado oil, it pairs great with veggies and crackers!
2. Golden Cauliflower Caesar Salad
This is a dairy-free version of the classic Caesar salad, but it’s not short on filling ingredients like savory roasted cauliflower and pine nuts. It also contains capers and Dijon mustard, and the turmeric the recipe calls for makes it a very bright (and tasty!) addition to your table.
3. Roasted Beet and Citrus Salad
Beets, citrus fruit, and spicy arugula make for a vibrant side dish! This salad also calls for walnuts and is lightly dressed with olive oil and seasoned to taste, making it a super simple salad to whip together–but the taste is sure to wow.
4. Coconut-Pecan Yam Bake
It’s hard to have a holiday meal without your classic favorites! This recipe is an update on yams, and calls for unsweetened coconut milk, raw honey, and shredded coconut blended with yams for a new twist on an old favorite that’s rich in taste, but not rich calories!
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
3 medium yams
1¼ cups light unsweetened coconut milk
1 tablespoon raw honey (optional, not vegan-friendly)
4 tablespoons raw pecans, chopped
4 tablespoons unsweetened shredded coconut
¾ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2. Place the yams on a baking sheet and bake for 1 hour, until soft. Let cool slightly.
3. When the yams are cool enough to handle comfortably, remove the skin, transfer the flesh to a large bowl, and break into small pieces using a fork. Pour in the coconut milk, stirring and mashing until the mixture is smooth.
4. Add honey (if using), 3 tablespoons of the pecans, 3 tablespoons of the coconut, and the nutmeg and cinnamon and mix well. Pour into a medium casserole dish. Sprinkle the top with the remaining 1 tablespoon each pecans and coconut. Serve either warm or cold.
5. Chermoula Cauliflower Steaks
If you’re having a vegetarian holiday meal, or you’re hosting some vegetarian guests, then make sure they fill up on these tasty cauliflower steaks. The cauliflower is roasted with plenty of amazing spices, and then served with fresh chermoula–a wonderful sauce of almonds, parsley, cilantro, tamari, and more!
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6. Cauliflower Hummus
Hummus is one of those dynamic sides that seems like it should be super healthy, but store-bought can be packed with a lot of not-so-great extras. Avoid that worry with this cauliflower hummus full of healthy veggies and tahini, perfect for serving on your appetizer tray!
7. Sunchoke Gratin
If cheesy potatoes are a staple on your holiday table and you can’t possibly imagine an alternative, try this Sunchoke Gratin! Sunchokes look a bit like ginger-root, but when you sauté them they start to taste just the tiniest bit sweet. Add just the right amount of crème fraîche and cheddar and parmesan on top, and you’ve got yourself a healthy tasty alternative to potato au gratin that still feels decadent.
8. Sautéed Asparagus
Sautéeing asparagus gives it a bit more flavor, especially when you add shallots, thyme, and chili pepper, to the pan and then deglaze with sherry vinegar! You might never steam asparagus ever again.
9. Broccoli with Shallots and Red Pepper
Fresh broccoli but with a tiny bit of bite? Yes, please! You’ll steam the broccoli and add sautéed onions, red bell peppers, and just a shake of crushed red pepper flakes to this tasty dish for a little heat!
10. Grilled Cauliflower and Broccoli Steaks with Eggplant
This flavorful dish will be sure to please vegetarians–and maybe even entice meat-eaters, too! The trick to this dish is pairing the broccoli and cauliflower with roasted eggplant and topping with tahini, making for a flavorful and hearty meat-alternative.
11. Stuffed Mushrooms
Stuffed mushrooms make for a great appetizer or side dish, and these mushrooms are full of spinach, artichoke heart, garlic, and avocado mayo, then seasoned well and topped with Parmesan!
12. Asian-Inspired Green Beans
Skip the green bean casserole and jump straight for these Asian-inspired green beans that are crisp and flavorful! The beans are lightly dressed in sesame oil and coconut oil, making for a lighter twist on a heavy Thanksgiving favorite.
Serves: 2 / Time: 15 minutes
2 teaspoons coconut oil
1 teaspoon toasted
2 cups fresh green beans
1. Heat the coconut oil and toasted sesame oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
2. Add the green beans and sauté, tossing often, for 8 to 10 minutes, or until softened.
3. Add the coconut aminos and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the aminos have slightly evaporated. Serve warm.
Nutrition information per serving: 108 calories, 6.9 g fat, 4.3 g saturated fat, 2 g protein, 10.8 g carbohydrate, 3.7 g fiber, 24 mg sodium
13. Cheesy Broccoli
It’s hard to not want to be a little decadent with your side dishes, so this balanced broccoli dish is just the thing. You can opt to make it with coconut oil instead of butter, and just the right amount of cheddar and Parmesan gives it a good cheesy flavor.
14. Baked Zucchini Slices
Zucchini is a hearty vegetable, and these baked zucchini slices make for a warm and hearty side dish that is also gluten-free. Tossed in avocado oil and lightly sprinkled with just a little parmesan cheese and thyme, they are tasty and easy to make!
15. Swiss Chard Greens
This is a full-flavored dish that will definitely be a winner–sauté garlic and simmer it in broth, then add the Swiss chard greens and season for a dark green dish that is heart-healthy and delicious.
Serves: 6 / Time: 1 hour
¼ cup coconut oil
2 tablespoons minced garlic
5 cups chicken or vegetable stock
5 bunches Swiss chard, greens trimmed and chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
1. Melt the coconut oil in a large pot over medium-high heat.
2. Add the garlic and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes.
3. Pour in the chicken or vegetable stock, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes.
4. Add the greens to the pot and increase the heat to medium-high.
5. Cook the greens for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
6. Reduce the heat to medium and season with the salt and pepper. Cook until the greens are tender.
7. Drain the greens and add the red pepper flakes. Serve immediately.
Nutrition information per serving: 267 calories, 12.9 g fat, 8.9 g saturated fat, 34.6 g protein, 2.6 g carbohydrate, 0.8 g fiber, 177 mg sodium
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16. Quinoa-Stuffed Bell Peppers
The trick for ultimate flavor in this recipe is preparing the quinoa in bone broth! Then, the peppers are roasted and stuffed with quinoa, zucchini, garlic, and other seasonings and topped with just the right amount of goat cheese, achieving a taste that feels indulgent but is also healthy.
17. Butternut Bisque
Take advantage of winter vegetables and whip up this savory and warming butternut bisque! This recipe also calls for apples and bone broth, making for a filling dish that will taste like comfort food.
18. Mashed Faux-tatoes
Love the tradition of mashed potatoes but looking to reduce the amount of starch on your plate? Try these mashed faux-tatoes, made from cauliflower and seasoned with ghee, salt and pepper, and parsley.
19. Maple Glazed Rosemary Carrots
Root vegetables are a staple for Thanksgiving meals, and this recipe for carrots seasoned with maple and rosemary is not only very tasty but very simple to make—it calls for only six ingredients and can be made in one skillet in about twenty minutes!
20. Roasted Cruciferous Vegetables
Roasted vegetables are a staple on the Thanksgiving table, and this super simple recipe combines some great fiber-rich vegetables in an easy-to-follow recipe. Just roast on a baking sheet and season for a fantastic side dish!
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Tirzah Price is a writer and contributing editor at Book Riot. Find her on Twitter @TirzahPrice.