BHealthy Blog

Three Healthy Side Dishes for the Holidays

Healthy holiday side dish recipes

Holiday events are often filled with rich, less-than-healthy foods. While it’s ok to indulge, you should also balance out your treat-filled diet with some more nutritious options. Add a healthy twist to your next get-together with any of the easy holiday side dishes below.

Brussels Sprouts Slaw

With green Brussels sprouts and red dried cranberries, this crunchy slaw makes the perfect Christmas side dish.

Makes 8 servings.


3/4 pound Brussels sprouts

1 Fuji or Gala apple, peeled, cored and finely chopped

2/3 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1/2 tsp kosher salt

1/8 tsp freshly ground pepper

1/3 cup fresh Meyer lemon juice*

1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

*If Meyer lemons are not available, use 1/4 cup regular fresh lemon juice.


Trim bottom from sprouts, and remove any loose or bruised leaves.

Place shredding disc or fine slicing disc in food processor*, and using feeder tube, gradually shred Brussels sprouts; there will be about 4 1/2 cups. Transfer shredded sprouts to mixing bowl.

Add apple, cranberries, walnuts, salt, pepper and lemon juice, and stir with a fork for 1 minute to combine well. Add oil and stir well.

Cover and refrigerate slaw for 3 hours to overnight.

Re-stir before serving. This slaw is best served within 24 hours.

*If your food processor does not have a shredding disc, quarter Brussels sprouts vertically and place in food processor fitted with a chopping blade. Pulse until sprouts are finely chopped, stopping several times to scrape down bowl. Take care not to leave big chunks or to turn sprouts into mush.


Holiday Quinoa Salad

This recipe brings together quinoa, pomegranate seeds, apple and fresh green herbs to create the ultimate festive holiday side dish.

Makes 4 servings.


3/4 cup quinoa

3/4 tsp kosher or sea salt, divided

1/2 medium Fuji apple, cored and finely chopped

1/2 cup fresh pomegranate seeds

1/3 cup finely chopped cilantro

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh mint

1/4 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

1/3 cup finely chopped scallions, green and white parts

1/4 cup blood orange juice or orange juice plus 1 teaspoon lemon juice

Freshly ground pepper

2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil


Rinse quinoa in strainer; drain well; and place in heavy, medium saucepan.

Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly with wooden spatula until grains stick to bottom of pot and then start to move freely and smell toasty, about 5 minutes.

When grains of quinoa start to pop, move pot from heat and pour in 1 3/4 cups water, standing back as it will splatter. Immediately return pot to heat and reduce heat to medium.

Add 1/4 teaspoon salt, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes or until quinoa is almost tender.

Off heat, let grain sit covered for 10 minutes.

Using fork, fluff quinoa and transfer it to mixing bowl. There will be about 2 1/4 cups cooked quinoa.

Let quinoa sit until it is room temperature. Add apple, pomegranate seeds, cilantro, mint, parsley and scallions to grain, and, using a fork, mix to combine.

In small bowl, whisk orange juice or two citrus juices with remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt until it dissolves. Add 4 to 5 grinds pepper; then whisk in oil.

Pour dressing over salad, and toss with fork to distribute evenly.

Serve within 2 hours. The quinoa and dressing parts of this salad can be made up to 8 hours ahead and then covered, refrigerated separately and combined shortly before serving.

Pumpkin Mac and Cheese

This side dish features all the comfort of creamy mac and cheese while also packing a nutritional punch.

Makes 6 servings.


Canola oil cooking spray

1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided

1/2 cup panko bread crumbs

1 tbsp canola oil

8 ounces whole-wheat rotelle pasta

1 cup low-fat (1 percent) milk

1 tbsp unsalted butter

1 tbsp all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups (2 1/2 ounces) sharp light (50 percent) cheddar cheese

1 cup canned unsweetened pumpkin

1/2 tsp mustard powder

1/4 tsp ground black pepper

Pinch of cayenne pepper

1/8 tsp ground nutmeg (optional)


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Coat a six-cup baking dish with cooking spray, and set aside.

Add 2 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese to breadcrumbs, and toss to combine. Add oil, and using your fingers, toss to coat breadcrumbs. Set mixture aside.

In large pot, boil 4 quarts of water. Add pasta and cook for 10 minutes, until slightly al dente. Drain in colander, and set aside.

While pasta cooks, in microwave or small saucepan, heat milk until it steams, and set aside.

In large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Whisk in flour, and cook for 1 minute, whisking slowly.

Off heat, gradually add milk while whisking to avoid lumps. Return pot to medium-high heat, and simmer sauce until it thickens to consistency of stirred yogurt, about 3 minutes.

Add cheddar cheese, remaining Parmesan cheese, pumpkin, mustard, black and cayenne peppers, and nutmeg, and stir until cheddar melts. Mix in cooked pasta.

Spread mac and cheese in prepared baking dish. Sprinkle seasoned breadcrumbs over top.

Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until breadcrumbs are crisp and golden brown. Serve immediately.

Healthy side dishes for the holidays may seem hard to come by, but there are nutritious options available that still bring plenty of flavor. Invest in your wellness this season by learning more about healthy eating during the holidays, or learning more about healthy versions of your kids’ favorite foods. Of course, you can always find even more healthy recipes in our health library.