41 Healthy Christmas Recipes That Are Delicious and Light for the Holidays
From veggie-packed dishes to sweet treats for dessert!
We’re all about pleasure when it comes to food, and that’s especially true during the holiday months, when the festive parties, Christmas cookie exchanges and family dinners seem never-ending. And while we totally endorse indulging in all of your cravings during these festive months (what other time of year is all about the food and drinks?) we also understand that it’s easy to get a little carried away — particularly when it comes to sugar, salt and Christmas cocktails. To help you enjoy your favorite savory mains, buttery baked goods and soup recipes without eating yourself into a food coma, we’ve put together a list of some of our favorite healthy Christmas recipes that emphasize both big flavors and nutrition.
Along with veggie-heavy sides and Christmas salads, this list boasts plenty of lean, flavorful proteins like turkey and steak, rib-sticking root vegetables and even a few pastas. Wintry, festive ingredients like pomegranate seeds and butternut squash abound, along with surprising add-ins like smoked almonds and grated ricotta salata are all perfect to have on your holiday table. Plus, we even have healthy Christmas treats for a little sweetness after dinner.
Each recipe we’ve included here emphasizes colorful produce, whole grains and legumes, while limiting the use of refined white flour, sugar and ingredients high in saturated fat like butter and heavy cream. Whichever recipes you choose, make sure to keep it fun and festive — after all, that’s what this season is all about!
Mashed potatoes are a staple at the holiday table, and replacing them entirely with cauliflower isn't the same. Try the 50/50 approach instead: Use half white potatoes, half cauliflower. You'll keep the classic texture and taste while sneaking in extra veggies and more volume.
Get the Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes and Cauliflower recipe.
This fudgy gluten-free tart looks extra festive (and gets a burst of antioxidants!) with a garnish of bright pomegranate seeds on top.
Get the Gluten-Free Chocolate Ganache Tart recipe.
RELATED: 10 Top Pomegranates Health Benefits, According to Registered Dietitians
Most green bean casseroles call for heavily processed canned soup and fried onions, causing sodium and saturated fat counts to skyrocket. Instead, opt for this zesty green bean dish that's packed with healthy fats thanks to almonds and olive oil.
Get the Green Beans with Orange and Almond Gremolata recipe.
Sweet potatoes are naturally sweet (it's in the name!), so there's no need for loads of marshmallows and brown sugar. Just cut your spuds into wedges, add a hint of maple syrup and some fragrant vanilla bean and roast to crisp, caramelized perfection.
Not only is traditional glazed ham super high in sugar, but its sodium count can also be off the charts due to brining. This roasted turkey ditches the sugar and much of the salt, and it's even lower in fat. Tip: White meat is a bit lower in fat than dark meat, but we say choose what you like best.
Get the Herb-Roasted Turkey recipe.
This two-step side makes roasted wild fungi the star of the show. Skip the standard button mushrooms and pick up some shiitakes or maitakes for an extra-flavorful kick. No matter which one you try, you'll get a boost of vitamin D and selenium.
Get the Mushroom and Chile-Garlic Green Beans recipe.
RELATED: 7 Surprising Mushroom Health Benefits for Your Skin, Brain and Bones
The Feast of the Seven Fishes, a traditional Italian-American celebration, typically calls for seven separate seafood dishes. This recipe combines all the best parts into one salad stuffed with scallops, mussels, shrimp and more good-for-you protein.
Get the Salad of the Seven Fishes recipe.
A bright, three-ingredient tahini dressing balances out sweet, caramelized butternut squash in this light dinner (or hearty side). When you inevitably want to make it again, feel free to sub in another variety — like acorn, delicata or pumpkin — to mix it up.
Get the Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Tahini Vinaigrette recipe.
Fresh pomegranate arils make any dinner look festive, this one included. A scoop of nutty quinoa plus a citrus-glazed pork tenderloin pack a one-two punch of whole grain and lean protein that will keep you full all night long.
Get the Pork Tenderloin with Quinoa Pilaf recipe.
RELATED: 32 Quinoa Recipes That'll Help You Eat Healthier All Day Long
These sweet-and-savory roasted onions are as simple to prepare as they are delicious. They're also a perfect make-ahead dish, so they're an ideal side for your holiday feast.
Get the Balsamic Roasted Onions recipe.
This vegetarian main dish gets rich, creamy flavor from squash puree, low-sodium cottage cheese and part-skim mozzarella.
Funky blue cheese and a bracing vinaigrette balance out hearty, bitter escarole in this perfect Christmas side salad.
Eating more plant protein like legumes and split peas benefits both the environment and your health. But when you're dipping crudité into this gorgeously vibrant dip, the only thing you'll really be thinking about is going back for seconds.
Get the Yellow Split Pea Dip recipe.
Wintry flavors like citrus, ginger and fennel abound in this roast chicken-and-salad pairing. As an added bonus, a whole roasted bird gives you a choice of dark meat, light meat or a mix of both.
Get the Orange-Ginger Roast Chicken with Fennel and Radicchio Salad recipe.
Give the cinnamon a break and bust out the coriander for this one-pan side. A final toss in lime zest and maple syrup will ensure these root veggies taste anything but bland.
The surprising secret to this creamy-looking soup? It has no cream — just pumpkin, low-sodium broth, and a plethora of good-for-you seasonings like ginger, nutmeg, and garlic. Topped with browned sage and shiitakes, this soup is going to make you glad that you grabbed a bowl instead of a cup.
Get the Savory Pumpkin and Sage Soup recipe.
Roasted Brussels have never let us down, and this recipe is no exception. Add toasted, spiced pumpkin seeds and sweet Mission figs to your list of go-to mix-ins for this classic vegetable side.
Roasted squash and baby kale make for a wintry take on this hearty summer favorite. Serve as a side to meatier dishes, or even as a vegetarian Christmas dinner.
Get the Roasted Squash Panzanella recipe.
Beets and cucumbers are great and all, but mozzarella is the real winner here. Roasting beets brings out their natural, earthy sweetness, while peppery radishes and arugula provide crunch and contrast. For a pretty plate like this one, try using a variety of different-colored beets.
Celebrate Christmas with an Italian flair. Lighten things up by making your own "bolognese" sauce with lentils, chopped onion and carrot, button mushrooms and tomatoes as well as lean ground beef. By bulking up the sauce with hearty lentils and flavorful veggies, you gain nutrition without sacrificing one iota of flavor. Toasted pine nuts add a fun crunch.
Get the Lentil Bolognese Spaghetti recipe.
This dish brings a Mediterranean accent to lean boneless, skinless chicken breasts. A glaze made from tart pomegranate juice, earthy balsamic vinegar, and honey on the chicken will have you licking your fingers, while sprinkles of salty feta, cooling mint, and pomegranate seeds gives cayenne-roasted squash a burst of festive flavor.
This pretty, nutrient-packed soup proves that a warm bowl of goodness doesn't have to simmer all day to taste great. Throw together this creamy vegetable soup while you're waiting for your Christmas ham to finish cooking. If you're even shorter on time, substitute the fresh vegetables with a bag of frozen cauliflower and a grated Russet potato.
Get the 20-Minute Cauliflower Soup recipe.
Just because it's healthy doesn't mean that it's short on flavor. This veggie-packed chicken dish augments lean boneless, skinless chicken breasts with zesty peppers and onions, meaty cremini mushrooms, and briny green olives for a meal that definitely doesn't taste light.
Get the Light Chicken Cacciatore recipe.
OK yes, these potatoes are baked with a sweet sorghum, Dijon mustard, and apple cider glaze then sprinkled with candied pecans so diet food it is not. That said, you can strategize your Christmas dinner by treating this decadent Christmas side as your dessert, for a dose of nutrients that still satisfy the ol' sweet tooth.
Get the Sorghum-Glazed Sweet Potatoes recipe.
Spice is a great way to add flavor without adding salt. Here, fiery cayenne steps in for a burst of heat to contrast the sweet squash and creamy feta.
Get the Spicy Acorn Squash with Feta recipe.
Freshen up your Christmas table with this tangy, crunchy salad that offers a more exciting twist on basic steamed Brussels. Sweet dried cranberries lend a hint of sweetness, while grated ricotta salata or pecorino adds a touch of salt. Sprinkle on some smoked almonds for a nutty crunch and watch the whole bowl disappear.
Get the Lemony Brussels Sprout Salad recipe.
Balance out all of your heavy holiday meals with this light supper. A funky Thai dressing complements peppery mixed greens, sweet pears, and tender flank steak for a main dish salad that satisfies. If you're not a fan of red meat, you can swap out steak for chicken.
Get the Thai Steak and Pear Salad recipe.
Infused with nutty and salty flavors, this chicken dish will stay in heavy rotation even after the New Year. It's fragrant and complex-tasting enough for a fancy meal, yet easy enough for a simple supper, so you can serve it to holiday guests without spending hours in the kitchen.
Get the Braised Chicken Thighs with Almonds and Olives recipe.
On busy evenings, you can't go wrong with Instant Pot meals. This hearty, autumnal stew makes a meal with a side of crusty bread for sopping up the broth. Because let's be real, it's about time you put your Instant Pot (a.k.a. last year's gift) to use.
Get the Pressure Cooker Winter Squash and Lentil Stew recipe.
Balance out meat-forward holiday gatherings with this basic but delicious one-pan roasted salmon with broccoli and crispy potatoes. And if your guests don't eat red meat, this salmon recipe would also make a lovely, casual supper for your fish-loving family and friends.
Get the Roasted Salmon with Crispy Potatoes and Broccoli recipe.