Healthy Living

Get Your Holiday Meal on the 'Nice' List

Dec. 15, 2015

Holidays are a time to indulge a bit, but keep in mind even during this time of year, incorporating more plant-based food into your diet can have many benefits. UR Medicine registered dietitian Joanna Lipp says it might be easier than you think to integrate a few fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes to your holiday meals.

roasted root vegetables

Take sides: Make the most of your side dishes. You can still have the traditional turkey or other type of meat, but supplement it with a variety of vegetable-based side dishes that also include nutrients you need. Squashes and root vegetables are fabulous roasted. To roast, peel (if needed) and cut the vegetables or squashes. Coat or mix with a little olive oil and garlic or spices if you like and roast in the oven for 45 to 60 minutes (or until soft). Brussels sprouts or cauliflower are also very good roasted. Traditional sides such as potatoes, yams, and green salads are already veg-friendly. Just be conscientious of how much butter and sugar you add; avoid them when possible.

For the New Year’s Day meal, consider having Hoppin’ John, a southern dish that is supposed to bring good luck for the year. Traditionally, it’s made up of peas, rice, black-eyed peas, chopped onion and sliced bacon. To make this dish healthier, you could try this version that nixes the bacon and includes plenty of vegetables. Cooked greens (try Emerald Greens with Orange ) and fish are other healthy options that are considered lucky for the new year.

Season’s eatings: Add seasonal plant-based proteins. If you’re feeling adventurous, try a plant-based protein at your holiday meal. Easy options include green peas sautéed with caramelized onions topped with finely chopped mint, black-eyed peas sautéed with chopped shallots and topped with chopped fresh parsley, or lentils with sautéed mushrooms, leeks and red wine. You could also make pumpkin soup with pureed white beans. You’ll still get tons of flavor with more nutrients your body needs. Yum!

Go with the grain: Incorporate whole grains, which lend themselves well to winter menus. Consider using barley, farro or wheat berries as your meal’s “stuffing.” There are so many ways to prepare them and add-ins like nuts, apples, pears, raisins or pomegranate arils will make you glad you tried something different and more wholesome than regular stuffing.

Don’t forget dessert: Give it a healthy twist! Pumpkin pie flavors come together in healthier way with this maple pumpkin “pie” parfait . You could also use the dessert course to enjoy fruit, such as poached pears, a delicious option that’s on the lighter side.


Joanna Lipp, RD


Joanna Lipp, MS, RD, CNSC, CSO, is a registered dietitian and a board certified specialist in Oncology Nutrition at UR Medicine’s Wilmot Cancer Institute. She regularly counsels cancer patients and survivors on nutrition and eating healthfully.