Healthy holiday foods can be just as satisfying, without the consequences
As a dietitian and someone who eats a plant-based diet, I often get this question: “What do YOU eat over the holidays?” Well, the simple answer is, “The same as I always do!” But this has not always been the case.
Once I was able to stop thinking of the holidays as a reason to splurge on cookies, candies and heavy dishes, I actually started to enjoy them more.
Usually the holidays meant eating to my heart’s desire, but not without the consequences! I would feel sick after meals, then regret and anger would settle in. It was just a bad cycle.
When I learned to be mindful about my choices and really enjoy the flavors and meaning of the holidays, holiday meals were amazing. I use them now as a chance to try new recipes on my family.
Here is a menu that incorporates whole, plant-based foods — and it’s even vegetarian! (Yes, Christmas can go on without the turkey and ham.) You will still feel amazing and extremely satisfied after this meal.
- Beverage/Cocktail — Eggnog Smoothie
- Appetizer — Herbed Goat Cheese Dip with Veggies
- Vegetable — Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Grapes
- Starch — Farrotto (Farro with Peas and Parmesan)
- Protein — Pistachio and Black Pepper-Crusted Tofu
- Dessert — Dark Chocolate Cherry Bites
- 2 cups almond milk
- 2 cup ice cubes
- 2 bananas
- 2 tsp. cinnamon
- 1 tsp. nutmeg
- 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
- ½ cup pine nuts (could also use hazelnuts or almonds)
- 1 tbsp. almond butter
- Cinnamon sticks to garnish
- Rum (optional)
- Blend all ingredients together in a blender until smooth, and pour into glasses.
- Sprinkle with cinnamon and nutmeg, add in a cinnamon stick and enjoy.
Herbed Goat Cheese Dip
Makes about 1 cup of dip. Serve with veggies or bread.
- 5 oz. soft goat cheese
- ⅓ cup plain Greek yogurt
- 1 tbsp. chopped fresh dill
- 1 tbsp. chopped parsley
- 1 tsp. lemon juice
- In a blender, food processor or with a spoon, blend together all ingredients until smooth.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Grapes
- 2 pounds brussels sprouts, whole
- 1 cup organic red grapes, whole
- ¼ cup maple syrup
- ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
- 2 tbsp. walnuts, chopped (optional)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1½ tbsp. of fresh thyme
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 tsp. sea salt, to taste
- Ground black pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small mixing bowl, combine balsamic vinegar, olive oil, maple syrup and spices/herbs. Stir until combined.
- On a lined baking sheet, evenly spread Brussels sprouts and grapes. Pour the liquid mixture on the baking sheet, covering the Brussels sprouts and grapes.
- Using a spoon or your hands, make sure everything is coated in the liquid mixture. Bake for 45 minutes or until Brussels sprouts and grapes are soft and blistered. Garnish with more fresh thyme as needed. Sprinkle chopped walnuts on top.
Serves 6, serving size ½ cup
- 1 tbsp. olive oil (or coconut oil)
- ⅓ cup chopped onion
- 1 cup farro (spelt)
- 4 cups no-salt-added vegetable broth, warmed in a saucepan
- 1 tbsp. coconut butter
- 1 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese
- 1 cup frozen peas
- Put the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion; cook and stir for 5 minutes or until tender. Add the farro and cook and stir for 2 minutes or until toasted.
- Using a ladle or measuring cup, begin adding broth to the farro, about ½ cup at a time. Cook and stir after each addition until liquid is absorbed. Continue adding broth, stirring frequently, until the farro is tender but not mushy (should take about 40 minutes total).
- Stir in the coconut butter, Parmesan and peas. Cook and stir to heat through. Serve immediately.
Pistachio and Black Pepper-Crusted Tofu
- 1 block (14-16 oz.) tofu, drained
- ¼ cup apple cider
- 3 tbsp. soy sauce (or tamari)
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 tsp. honey
- 1 tsp. garlic powder
- ½ tsp. dried thyme (or 1 teaspoon fresh)
- 1-inch chunk ginger, peeled and grated
- ¼ cup shelled pistachios
- ¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Wrap the tofu in a paper towel or clean tea towel and set on a plate; put a flat, heavy object on top and leave for 15 minutes (to drain out excess water). Cut in 5 equal slices on the shorter length.
- In a shallow dish, whisk together the cider, soy sauce, olive oil, honey, garlic powder, thyme and ginger. Turn the tofu pieces in the marinade to coat and let sit for at least 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, pulse or chop pistachios until finely ground. Mix in the black pepper.
- Arrange the tofu on the baking sheet and sprinkle on the pistachio mixture, gently pressing it onto the tofu. Bake for 20-25 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through. If the pistachios are getting too brown, lightly cover with a sheet of tinfoil.
- Top with pomegranate seeds for a beautiful and sweet garnish.
Dark Chocolate Cherry Energy Bites
Makes 24 small bites
- 1 cup whole raw almonds
- 8 pitted Medjool (not honey) dates
- 1 cup dried sweetened cherries
- 3 tbsp. dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips
- Kosher or sea salt, to taste
- In a food processor, process the almonds until finely chopped. It’s OK if some bigger pieces remain. Just be sure not to pulverize the almonds into a flour, as you want some texture. Remove ⅓ cup of the processed almonds and set aside for the final step.
- Add the pitted dates (along with the almonds already in the processor) and process until finely chopped and sticky. The mixture will likely form into a large ball. If this happens, break it up with a spoon and process more if necessary.
- Add the chocolate chips and cherries and process until they are just chopped. Add salt to taste.
- Pulse in the reserved ⅓ cup almonds for texture, being careful not to process them too much. Roll into small balls.
Happy “unprocessed” holidays!
Eat Smart. Be Well. is brought to you by Martin’s Super Markets, in partnership with Beacon Health System. To subscribe to this column and receive email updates when new posts are published, visit our Subscribe page and select Eat Smart. Be Well.