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Health & Wellness

9 Holiday Foods That Are Healthier Than You Think

Written by Shelby Torrese

Despite popular belief, not all traditional holiday foods are unhealthy… and good news—these 9 holiday foods are not only delicious, but are actually good for you!

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If you stress just thinking about holiday foods, then this blog is for you. I used to watch my cousin hover over my aunt and grandma in the kitchen, badgering them about calories and the sugar content in their holiday recipes, when really, she should have been focusing on enjoying our time together. The reality was, there was nothing to worry about! I had already converted all the cooks in my family to use my Healthy Holiday recipes. They’re delicious, and of course, undetectably healthy.

Friends and Family gathering for a healthy Thanksgiving meal

1. Turkey

Arguably the holiday-est of holiday foods, is the turkey. Truly, who eats a whole turkey all year-round? No one I know, that’s for sure. Either way, turkey is meant to be loved and enjoyed during holiday time. It’s one of those holiday recipes that you shouldn’t feel guilty about for two main reasonsit’s pure protein, and hardly ever goes to waste because there’s so many ways to eat it. I could write a whole book of Healthy Holiday recipes with just leftover turkey. In short, don’t fear the turkey!

2. Sweet Potatoes

Hands down my favorite of the holiday foods list, sweet potatoes have my heart.They also have a higher vitamin and mineral content than regular potatoes, so if you have an option, go for the bright guys! You can pretty much make any potato recipe and file it under Healthy Holiday recipes just by swapping for sweet potatoes. Plus, they’re less calories and way higher in vitamins A, B6, and C.

3. Green Beans

As the daughter of a former green bean farmer, I’m obligated to tell you to eat your green beans. But as a Nutrition Coach and certified holiday hype-woman, I’m HAPPY to tell you to eat your green beans. They’re at the top of my list of good-for-you and delicious green things.

Take charge of the green beans recipe this year, and watch them become one of your new favorite holiday recipes. Simply saute them with a little avocado oil, some minced garlic, a generous amount of sea salt, red chili flakes, and grass-fed butter. Yes, using a little bit of both oil and butter still allows this recipe to make it to the Healthy Holiday recipes list! Try it out and let me know what you think.

4. Nuts

Nuts can get a bad wrap if you cover them in sugar, however opting for the salted nuts on the table can be a much better option than a second or third serving of dessert. Plus, nuts are so filling that you only need a small amount to fill you up and make you feel satisfied. The key is to not eat them in front of the TV. We don’t pay attention to our body signals when we’re sucked into a program, so try and eat away from screens, or portion yourself out a handful before sitting down. You don’t always need to cut out certain holiday foods, so much as you just need to recognize their portion sizes.

5. Cranberries

The types of holiday recipes you need to be careful of are the ones that claim to be one thing, but are another. For example, there are quite a few pre-made cranberry sauces at the store that don’t even contain real cranberries! They’re packed with juice or concentrate. Be sure to look for real, whole cranberrieswhich are great for you! They’re high in antioxidants and vitamin C. Alternatively, you can make your own sauce with fresh or frozen cranberries.

holiday foods

6. Cruciferous Vegetables

Again, you can’t go wrong with vegetables. So long as they’re not drenched in inflammatory oils, such as canola oil, have at it! The more cooked the veggies are, the better, too. Raw vegetables can be difficult to digest, and can lead to gas. Opt for the cooked cruciferous vegetables like brussel sprouts, broccoli, bok choy, and more. They’re also high in folate which is a key B vitamin. These foods are an A+ as far as holiday foods go.

7. Pumpkin

You can’t make it through the holidays without having pumpkin something, am I right? Whether you have pumpkin pie, roasted pumpkin, or mashed pumpkin, you have my blessing. Pumpkins are actually a great source of vitamins A, C and E. So, yes, while I did mention pumpkin pie—it’s better than a chocolate pie, which has far less nutrients than pumpkin. This is another one of those holiday foods that doesn’t (or should, at least!) go to waste. You can use all of the pumpkin, including the seeds, to make your favorite holiday recipes.

8. Squash

Squash is another one of my favorite holiday foods—unusual, I know, but I love them! There are so many kinds of squash, but also so many ways to make them. Pretty much any squash dish on the table is a healthy choice. Especially when its competitors are bread, stuffing, and sugar! Opt for the squash, you won’t regret it.

9. Red Wine 

Haters will say it’s a beverage, but yes, red wine is on the holiday foods list! It’s anti-inflammatory, contains antioxidants, and it’s just a much healthier option than most holiday drinks. There’s often sugar-filled cocktails, high-sugar champagnes, or other sugar-packed options on the menu. Red wine is the healthiest drink choice to go for. Plus, your hangover won’t be nearly as bad as if you go for a cranberry vodka. Pinky promise.

About The Author

Shelby Torrese

Nutrition, Movement & Meditation Coach

Shelby Torrese is a wellness enthusiast (and matcha fanatic!) from Miami, FL. She attributes her love of movement to her mom, a personal trainer, and her love of food to her dad, a farmer. She studied creative writing in college while getting her yoga certification, and went on to pursue fitness and nutrition in grad school. Her go-to advice is, “Balance,” and she is a firm believer that the ocean can cure just about everything.

  • Yoga Alliance Registered Yoga Teacher
  • NASM Certified Nutrition Coach
  • M.S. in Human Performance


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