Winter Holiday Recipes Blog Post

Published: December 20, 2021

The winter holidays are often a time to reflect on the year, provide gratitude, spend time with family, and pull out those family recipes for the yearly gatherings. Often during the holiday season we may find ourselves making the same dishes and casseroles over and over that we don’t necessarily love and make just for “tradition” sake. These dishes are often very heavy and are high in calories, sodium, fat, added sugar, and carbohydrates. This holiday season, try making a few substitutes for the dishes that you don’t love or reach for often on the dinner table with some healthier and tastier alternatives. This can also help add a variety of taste, color, and texture to your holiday meals. Making healthier adjustments to your family recipes doesn’t mean you have to lose the taste of the dish. Instead, challenge yourself to include substitutions that are healthier and tastier than the original version that you are used to!

If you would like to see what fruits and vegetables are in season during the fall (as well as a few recipe ideas for how to incorporate them into your meals), check out the following blog post: go.uth.edu/fall produce.

*Note: The Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living supports celebrating the holidays safely and while being aware of COVID-19. This includes social distancing, wearing a mask, and receiving the COVID-19 vaccination if you are eligible. Please check your local COVID-19 guidelines as well as the national recommendations via the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for more information on masking, vaccination, and social distancing.

Substitution Suggestions and Tips for Holiday Meals

When making a recipe that uses a condensed soup, you can make your own homemade condensed soup instead of using the canned version that is found at the store. Canned condensed soup is often very high in sodium and calories, even though it is not a primary ingredient in the dish. The following link shows a great recipe for “cream of anything” soup. By using a “cream of anything” soup, you can modify it to your recipe and your personal preferences, or if you have any allergies or food restrictions you can substitute many of the ingredients to your needs!

“Cream of Anything” Soup Recipe: https://tastesbetterfromscratch.com/condensed-cream-anything-soup/

Try using “low sodium” or “reduced sodium” switches when making your recipes. Holiday dishes are often very high in sodium and eating these meals in excess can easily exceed the ideal intake of less than 2,300 mg of sodium per day. This can be done by preparing your own food when possible (limiting packaged and processed foods), using no-salt seasonings, buying fresh produce and meat, rinsing canned vegetables, and using low-sodium broths and stocks.

Incorporate more whole grains into your holiday meal! If you are making recipes that use pasta or rice, try to use a whole grain pasta or brown rice instead of a regular pasta and/or white rice. This will help to ensure that your meals contain more nutrients, more fiber, and will keep you full for longer.

Embrace fruits and vegetables during the holidays and work on incorporating them onto the table during your holiday meals. This can include fresh produce, roasted vegetables, and any other form of cooking method that you enjoy but still retains their nutrients and that you enjoy! The

recipes in the following section give you a few suggestions for how to incorporate vegetables into your meals in a healthy yet tasty way!


Below are four recipes that you can make this holiday season that can bring healthier, filling options to your dinner table! These recipes are also a great way to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your meal to make it a more rounded overall. Our plates during holiday celebrations tend to be heavy on the meats, bread products, and casseroles, but neglect fruits, vegetables, and whole grains- all of which provide us with our essential nutrients to keep us strong and healthy.

These recipes can be prepared by an adult, however participation from children is always encouraged as it allows the child to become better acquainted with working with vegetables and increases their comfort with trying foods that may be new to their palate Involve your little ones in preparing these recipes to let them see how fun cooking and working with new foods can be. Children also tend to try new foods when they are involved in the cooking!

Bacon and Brussels Sprout Salad

This recipe is a great way to incorporate your green vegetables at the dinner table along with a bit of crunch! You could also add in pomegranate seeds if you wanted to add a bit of sweetness and a fall fruit to your meal.

- Ingredients (yields 8 servings):

  • Dressing:
    • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
    • 1 tablespoon orange juice
    • 2-3 tablespoons apple cider (not apple cider vinegar)
    • 1 shallot, minced
    • 1/3 cup olive oil
    • ½ teaspoon salt
    • ground pepper to taste
  • Salad:
    • 2 pounds brussels sprouts
    • 1 cup almonds, toasted
    • 6 slices cooked bacon, crumbled or chopped
    • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

- Directions:

  • Combine the lemon juice, orange juice, apple cider, and shallots in a small bowl. Add the olive oil in a steady stream and whisk for a minute or two, until it becomes creamy-looking.
  • Slice the brussels sprouts with a mandolin as thin as possible. This works best when you hold the stem, slice from the top, and stop with a little bit left at the bottom, discarding the remaining bottom stem part. Toss the shreds and loosen them with your fingers to they separate and fluff a little bit.
  • Pulse the almonds in a food processor until finely chopped.
  • Toss the brussels sprouts, almonds, bacon, cheese, and dressing together. Serve immediately or within a few hours of tossing.

From https://pinchofyum.com/bacon-brussels-sprout-salad

Tip: You can substitute turkey bacon, an alternative meat, or just remove the bacon all together for a low-sodium, pork-free, or vegetarian dish this holiday season!

Stove Top Green Beans


2 Tablespoons whole wheat flour

1 cup vegetable broth

½ cup whole milk

2 tablespoons minced fresh thyme

½ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

Green beans

1 tablespoon olive oil

½ onion, thinly sliced

4 ounces button mushrooms, thinly sliced

5 garlic cloves, minced

1 pound green beans, ends trimmed

¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

¼ cup panko bread crumbs


1. In a small bowl, combine the sauce ingredients. Mix well and set aside.

2. In a large cast iron pan over medium heat, add oil and heat it until hot and shimmery. Add onions and sauté until lightly browned, about 2-3 minutes. Add mushrooms and garlic and continue to sauté until mushrooms are tender, about 3-4 minutes. Add green beans and continue to cook for another 2-4 minutes.

3. Add sauce mixture and bring to a boil, stirring frequently to prevent sauce from burning. Reduce heat to a simmer a cook green beans until they are tender and the sauce is thickened, abut 15-20 minutes.

4. Remove from the heat and top with Parmesan cheese and bread crumbs.

Recipe courtesy of The Nourish cookbook, How Good Food Works from Seed to Plate. https://howgoodfoodworkscookbook.org/

Parmesan Roasted Cauliflower

If you are looking to switch up your vegetables at the table, try this tasty parmesan roasted cauliflower. It is packed with seasoning and flavor, all while giving you the added benefits of a vegetable on your plate!

- Ingredients (yields 6 servings):

  • 1 large head of cauliflower, cut into small florets
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2/3 cup grated parmesan cheese

- Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 425°F.
  • In a large bowl toss cauliflower with olive and arrange in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet, sprinkle cauliflower with spices, distributing evenly.
  • Set baking sheet on center rack and roast for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and flip cauliflower. Cook for another 20 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Roast in oven for another 5 minutes and serve hot!

From https://themodernproper.com/roasted-cauliflower-1

Cranberry Chutney

This recipe is great for people who are looking to change up their cranberry sauce game during the holidays! This recipe incorporates many different fall fruits including cranberries, apples, and figs, and is full of spices and has a little kick of flavor. It can also be stored for up to two weeks in an airtight container.

- Ingredients (yields 10 servings):

  •  ½ cup apple cider vinegar, unfiltered
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 10 dried figs, chopped
  • 12 oz bag of fresh cranberries
  • 1 small jalapeno, seeded and minced (approximately 2 tablespoons)
  • ¾ cup apple, peeled, cored, and diced

- Directions:

  • In a heavy sauce pan set over medium-high heat, bring the apple cider vinegar and sugar to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until sugar dissolves 2-3 minutes.
  • Add cloves, cinnamon, figs, cranberries, jalapeno and apple. Bring back up to a boil then simmer for 15 minutes or until fruit is soft, stirring occasionally.

From https://themodernproper.com/cranberry-chutney


  • go.uth.edu/fallproduce