Healthy Holidays Around the World

Delicious, lighter takes on traditional festive fare.

No matter where you are in the world, holidays are marked by rituals: decking halls, lighting menorahs, trimming trees, giving gifts—and preparing festive food. Most traditional tables are laden with rich meats, creamy sauces, savory breads, cakes, and pies. It may be a spread, but it’s no feast in terms of nutrition. Here’s a quick look at holidays celebrated in other countries, with some light and healthful twists on traditional favorites. (Click here for more recipes available online only!)

Cabbage Borscht with Mushroom Confetti and Parsley Cream
Serves 4

This rich, ruby-red soup is based on traditional cabbage and mushroom dishes from the Eastern European twelve-dish Christmas Eve supper. This version uses vegetable broth instead of beef, for a vegetarian option.

1 Tbs. olive oil

1 medium yellow onion, chopped small

3 cups vegetable broth

1 medium red potato, chopped small (about 1 cup)

1 pound small beets, chopped (wear gloves to prevent staining your hands)

½ pound shiitake mushrooms

1 Tbs. melted butter

½ pound green cabbage, chopped into 1-inch pieces

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 Tbs. red-wine vinegar (optional)

½ cup crème fraiche, reduced-fat sour cream, yogurt, or vegan sour cream alternative

2 tablespoons finely minced parsley

  1. Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, and cook until just tender, 3—5 minutes. Add broth, potato, and beets. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, covered, until vegetables are soft, 15—18 minutes.
  2. While beets are cooking, remove stems from mushrooms and very thinly slice caps. Toss with coconut oil or butter, and spread in single layer on large baking sheet (mushrooms should not be touching). Roast in 400°F oven until browned and crispy, about 15 minutes, stirring halfway through. Remove from heat, and let cool on pan.
  3. Transfer soup to food processor, and purée in batches until smooth. Return soup to pot, and add cabbage and garlic. Simmer until cabbage is tender, 8—12 minutes. Season to taste, and add vinegar, if desired. While cabbage is cooking, stir parsley into sour cream until mixed well.
  4. To serve, divide soup between four individual bowls. Scatter mushrooms across the top of each. Garnish with a dollop of parsley cream, and serve. *To make your own vegan sour cream, combine 1 package of silken tofu with 1 tablespoon grape seed oil, 1—2 Tbs. lemon juice and ½ teaspoon honey or agave. Puree until smooth and creamy.

per serving: 299 cal; 4 g prot; 18 g total fat (9 g sat fat); 31 g carb; 48 mg chol; 218 mg sod; 6 g fiber; 14 g sugars

Parsnip Latkes With Sage
Serves 4 (makes 12 latkes)

A more healthful take on traditional potato latkes from Israel. We’ve added parnsnips and carrots, and substituted baking for deep-frying. Pan-frying in a small amount of oil makes a traditional crispy outside, with little added oil.

2 large eggs

¼ cup all-purpose flour (or substitute gluten-free all-purpose mix)

3 medium parsnips, scrubbed and coarsely grated

1 medium carrot, scrubbed and coarsely grated

1 tablespoon minced fresh sage

½ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. pepper

1 medium russet potato

2 Tbs. grape seed oil

Sour cream for garnish

Apple sauce for garnish

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Beat eggs and flour together in large bowl. Add parsnips, carrots, sage, salt, and pepper. Grate potato. Using hands, squeeze out as much water as possible. Add to bowl and mix well.
  3. Heat 1 Tbs. of the grape seed oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Drop four scoops batter, about 3 Tbs. each, into pan. Fry 1 to 2 minutes, until golden and crispy, pressing down gently with spatula to ¼-inch thick. Turn, and cook on remaining side 1—2 minutes. Transfer latkes to large baking sheet, and repeat with remaining batter, adding additional 1 Tbs. oil if pan gets too dry.
  4. Bake 15—20 minutes, turning once during cooking, until latkes are cooked through and crispy on outside. Remove from baking sheet and drain on paper towels.
  5. To serve, arrange latkes on large serving platter. Garnish with additional sage, if desired. Serve hot with sour cream and applesauce.

per serving: 206 cal; 6 g prot; 8 g total fat (1 g sat fat); 28 g carb; 106 mg chol; 349 mg sod; 5 g fiber; 4 g sugars

Vegan Coconut-Rice Custard with Orange Blossom Water
Serves 6

This simple dessert was inspired by majarete, a Puerto Rican rice pudding. The long, slow cooking time extracts the starch from the rice and concentrates the coconut milk into a creamy, sweet custard, so very little sweetener and no eggs are required. A few drops of orange blossom water add flowery, intriguing undertones. Use brown rice if you’d like a nuttier, chewier custard; just be sure to use the shortest grain possible.

1 cup Arborio rice, or short-grain sweet brown rice

2 Tbs. honey

1 14-ounce can light coconut milk

1 vanilla bean

¼ tsp. orange blossom or orange flower water

Additional coconut milk for garnish (optional)

5 tsp. finely chopped pistachios

  1. Combine rice with 3 cups water and dash of salt in medium, heavy saucepan with tight-fitting lid. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 35—45 minutes, until most of the water is absorbed and rice is just tender, but still very firm to bite.
  2. Stir in honey and coconut milk. Add vanilla bean and orange water, and return to a boil. Immediately reduce heat and simmer, uncovered and stirring often, until mixture is thick and creamy and rice is soft, 15—20 minutes.
  3. Remove and discard vanilla bean, and divide mixture between six individual serving dishes. Drizzle with additional coconut milk, if desired. Garnish with chopped pistachios, and serve warm, or refrigerate for 2 hours before adding additional coconut milk and pistachios, then garnish and serve chilled.

per serving: 109 cal; 3 g prot; 7 g total fat (4 g sat fat); 32 g carb; 0 mg chol; 30 mg sod; 1 g fiber; 6 g sugars

Harissa-Scented Collards with Toasted Peanuts
Serves 8

Kwanzaa, an African-American holiday celebrated from December 26 to January 1, honors the past and celebrates the future with traditional foods such as collard greens, coconut milk, sweet potatoes, and peanuts. This spicy dish gets its flavor from an abundance of garlic and harissa, a fiery-hot African spice; it’s potent, so adjust the amount according to taste. Look for harissa in large natural foods or international markets.

2 Tbs. coconut oil (or substitute grapeseed oil)

1 medium yellow onion, diced

2 bunches of collard greens

8 garlic cloves, finely minced

2— 4 tsp. harissa

½ cup chopped toasted peanuts (or substitute toasted almonds)

  1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat, and cook onions until they’re browned, 10—12 minutes, stirring frequently.
  2. While onions are cooking, bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Fill a large bowl with ice and cold water. Cut stems from collards, drop leaves into boiling water, and cook for 7—8 minutes, until just tender. Remove from water with tongs and drop into ice water to stop cooking. Drain collards and cut out center ribs. Stack leaves and roll lengthwise into a long tube, then slice thinly crosswise into shreds.
  3. Add garlic to pan with onions, and cook 1 minute, stirring. Stir in 1 tsp. harissa, and add additional harissa, 1 tsp. at a time, according to desired spiciness. Add shredded collards. Toss and stir to mix all, then cook 3—4 minutes, stirring and turning frequently with tongs until just tender.
  4. Divide greens between individual plates or transfer to serving bowl. Sprinkle with chopped peanuts or almonds, and serve immediately

per serving: 121 cal; 4 g prot; 9 g total fat (7 g sat fat); 9 g carb; 0 mg chol; 27 mg sod; 3 g fiber; 2 g sugars

Truffled Turkey Breasts with Winter Greens
Serves 6

This is inspired by a traditional Christmas turkey dish, but we’ve skipped the pork, and used wild mushrooms for the stuffing.

2 Tbs. butter

4 small shallots, finely minced (about ¾ cup)

3 cups wild mushrooms, finely chopped

3 Tbs. finely minced rosemary

3 Tbs. finely minced parsley

¼ cup Madeira or sherry

2 Tbs. white truffle oil

One 5-lb bone-in turkey breast, halved at the breast bone

2 Tbs. olive oil

2 bunches winter greens (chard, escarole, kale, or other), stems and any tough center ribs removed, leaves chopped

4 garlic cloves, minced

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Heat butter in large skillet over medium heat. Add shallots, mushrooms, and rosemary, and cook 5—7 minutes, until soft.
  3. Add parsley and Madeira or sherry, bring to a boil, lower heat to medium, and cook 2—4 minutes until liquid has cooked out, scraping up any browned bits from bottom of pan. Mixture should resemble a moist paste. Remove from heat, stir in truffle oil, and transfer to a plate to cool.
  4. Pat one turkey breast dry and carefully lift skin away from flesh, making a pocket between skin and flesh. Using fingers, fill pocket between skin and flesh with mushroom mixture, spreading evenly over entire breast. Cover with skin, smoothing out any lumps, and repeat with remaining turkey breast. Rub skin with additional truffle or olive oil, if desired, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  5. Arrange turkey breasts on large roasting pan, and roast for 50 minutes to 1 hour, until juices run clear and a meat thermometer reads 165°F when inserted into thickest part of breast. Remove from oven, transfer to platter, and let rest.
  6. During last few minutes of cooking time for the turkey, heat olive oil in a large sauté pan. Add greens, turn to coat with oil, and add garlic. Cook 4—8 minutes, until greens are just tender (work in batches if necessary, keeping cooked greens warm). Season with salt and pepper.
  7. To serve, arrange greens on large serving platter. Slice turkey ½-inch thick on the diagonal to expose stuffing under skin. Arrange turkey slices over greens, and serve immediately.

per serving: 444 cal; 61 g prot; 17 g total fat (5 g sat fat); 11 g carb; 187 mg chol; 355 mg sod; 6 g fiber; 3 g sugars

No time to whip up tasty tidbits? Use pre-made appetizers and store-bought shortcuts. Your party’s in the bag with these simple shortcuts:

Antipasto plate. Get these: Appolo organic olive oil, Canyon Bakehouse Gluten-Free Rosemary and Thyme Focaccia, Divina Organic Olives, Organic Valley Provolone Cheese, Native Forest Artichoke Hearts, DeLallo Red Hot Chili Peppers, Tonnino Tuna Fillets. Do this: slice and toast bread; arrange antipasto on a wooden platter, with warm bread served alongside small bowls of olive oil for dipping.

Middle Eastern Platter. Get these: mini whole-wheat pita pockets, baba ganoush from the deli, Tribe Organic Hummus, Mediterranean Organic Dolmas, Divina Organic Kalamata Olives, Mt. Vikos Goat Feta Cheese, Annie’s Goddess Dressing, bunches of fresh parsley. Do this: fill pita breads with hummus and baba ganoush, and sprinkle liberally with parsley; arrange pitas on a wooden platter or large cutting board along with dolmas, olives, cheese, and small bowls of dressing.

Mini vegetarian meatballs with lingonberry sauce. Get these: Nate’s Meatless Meatballs, Horizon Dairy Low-Fat Sour Cream, Felix Lingonberry Jam, flat-leaf parsley. Do this: combine sour cream and jam in a saucepan; add meatballs and heat through, and garnish liberally with parsley. Serve in a shallow bowl with small bamboo forks for serving.




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