10 Easy Holiday Meal Tweaks


It’s not difficult to shift traditional holiday dishes toward the healthier. Keep these 10 cooking tweaks and recipe suggestions in mind as you prepare your holiday menu this year.

1. Main dish: Instead of a centerpiece dish like turkey or ham, prepare a vegetable and grain loaf, a stuffed squash and rice dish, or a casserole. I’ve also made holiday dinners without a centerpiece dish, just side dishes, and there’s nothing wrong with that. There are no rules about what you should have at your plant-based holiday table; just plan on dishes that you like.

2. Stuffing or dressing: Stuffing can go many directions. Try whole grain bread cubes instead of white, or use rice or quinoa instead of bread. Use water or homemade vegetable broth to sauté stuffing vegetables first instead of high-sodium packaged broth or soy sauce.

3. Mashed potatoes: For white mashed potatoes try Yukon golds instead of Russets. Yukon gold potatoes are smaller and smoother-skinned and have a naturally buttery flavor. When cooking, add some granulated garlic, onion or poultry seasoning for more flavor. When mashing, add some non-dairy milk, roasted garlic, chives or green onions.

4. Gravy: Gravy is a must-have for mashed potatoes and meatless loaves. And it can still be rich and flavorful without the typical processed ingredients found in vegan gravies, such as soy sauce, non-dairy butter, flour, and cornstarch. Try this mushroom Gravy.

5. Yams: Instead of baking sliced or mashed yams with butter and marshmallows, pour on some apple juice or water with cinnamon and nutmeg before baking. Add in a chopped Asian pear or two for something a little extra special.

6. Green Beans: Instead of a traditional green bean casserole prepared with butter and canned mushroom soup (high in salt and fat), boil green beans with freshly minced garlic, and then toss them with some chopped basil and sliced almonds. Or try this flavorful green side dish.

7. Green salad: Serve a traditional green salad with a light dressing, or mix things up with a different type of salad, such as spinach, grain, coleslaw, macaroni, or Caesar.

8. Cranberry sauce: For a healthier cranberry sauce than canned, buy a bag of fresh cranberries and cook them over a low heat with raisins, chopped and pitted dates, cinnamon, nutmeg, apple juice, and/or some chopped apples and pears for about 20 minutes. No added sugar needed.

9. Dessert: Plan on preparing a dessert or two you can feel good about eating and sharing with others, such as a raw or cooked fruit dessert (crisp, crumble, cobbler), pumpkin pie, or carrot cake.

10. Breakfast: I love holiday morning breakfasts. This is the time to break out the special breakfast dishes you don’t eat every day. Whether it’s just you or a big group, try some waffles, pancakes, blueberry muffins, or a potato scramble with homemade ketchup.

Here’s to happy and healthy holiday feasting!



  1. Barbara Esterly says:

    Mushrooms? What’s a veggie I can substitute?

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