Celebrate Christmas in style without getting sidetracked from your healthy eating goals — yes, it is possible! When it comes to the holidays, you can keep your macros in happy proportions while still enjoying delicious food. There are a ton of richly colored vegetables (the ones we all need to be eating more of throughout the year) and healthy proteins on the table (like lamb and turkey) during the holidays. Even Christmas dessert can have health perks when you opt for a dark chocolate treat.
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Here are seven recipes that will add cheer to your table and are anything but boring. Try them and we promise not only will your Christmas be spectacular, but your New Year's self will thank you!
1. Holiday Gem Sweet Potato Toasts
This holiday appetizer looks fancier than it is, considering all it really takes to make is simple cooking methods and straightforward assembly. Whether you use Red Garnet sweet potatoes or Stokes purple sweet potatoes, you'll get a gorgeous antioxidant-and fiber-rich start to your holiday meal. These "toasts" are topped with Greek yogurt for a refreshingly tart contrast to the sweet potato, and a good dose of lean protein.
The toppings, including persimmon and pomegranate arils, are seasonal in the U.S. If you're not familiar with persimmon, know that most stores carry the Fuyu variety, which is sweet and floral and looks like a small beefsteak tomato. It's more common than the longer Hachiya variety, which are astringent until very ripe, and then they are like butter. Both are excellent sources of immunity-boosting vitamins A and C, which comes in handy during flu season.
Recipe & Nutritional Info: Holiday Gem Sweet Potato Toasts
2. Dark Chocolate Goji Berry Bark
It takes only four ingredients to make this elegant holiday sweet: dark chocolate, goji berries, turmeric and cinnamon. Go ahead, make a double batch. It makes a great gift, but we won't tell if you keep most of it (or all of it) for yourself.
Chocolate is a delicate ingredient that burns easily, which is why the preferred method for melting is by using a double-boiler — but how many people actually have a double-boiler? The good news is that you really don't need one. Simply use a heatproof bowl and set it on top of a pot of simmering water, making sure the edges of the bowl cover the pot when set on top. Place the chocolate into the bowl and let it melt. All you have to do to ensure success is to make sure the water doesn't touch the bottom of the bowl (this can result in burnt chocolate).
Recipe & Nutritional Info: Dark Chocolate Goji Berry Bark
3. Slow Roasted Beets with Basil Pistachio Pesto
This red-and-green dish looks extraordinary and will fuel you through the holidays. Not only are roasted beets one of the prettiest things you can put on a plate, they are natural sources of dietary nitrates, which transform into nitric oxide, which makes your blood vessels more flexible so they can handle more blood-pumping during exercise.
These circulation-related benefits mean beets are also good for everyday heart and brain health. The basil-pistachio pesto adds satisfying plant protein and healthy unsaturated fats. The extra virgin olive oil in the pesto adds phenols that may counteract cognitive decline to keep the mind sharp.
Recipe & Nutritional Info: Slow-Roasted Beets with Basil-Pistachio Pesto
4. Lime and Mint Shredded Instant Pot Lamb
Lamb, a traditional symbol of Christmas, has long been thought of as intimidating to cook — but it doesn't have to be. For a new twist on a traditional dish, this Instant Pot recipe uses one of the leanest cuts of lamb (leg of lamb). It is naturally very flavorful, so you can add a smaller portion of lamb to a plate that is dominated by whole grains and vegetables.
A three-ounce serving of lamb provides approximately half the daily recommended value of protein, as well as iron and vitamin B12, which work together with folate (found in many of the veggies you're going to eat along with the lamb, right?) to keep red blood cells healthy and delivering oxygen to the entire body. Because if you ever needed a moment to take a deep breath, it's the holidays.
Recipe & Nutritional Info: Lime and Mint Shredded Instant Pot Lamb
5. Roasted Butternut Squash “Pasta” With Goat Cheese and Fried Sage
Butternut squash is the star of this dish, with its pretty hue and impressive nutrition credentials. Its orange color is a good hint that it contains a ton of vitamin A, and a cup of cooked butternut squash provides more than the entire day's recommended amount.
A cup of squash is less than 100 calories and has more potassium than a banana, plus the vegetable is an excellent source of digestion-friendly fiber. All of this is good news for weight management, heart health and reducing the risk of chronic conditions like diabetes. Potassium in particular is a blood-pressure-lowering nutrient that the Dietary Guidelines for Americans has singled out as one people aren't getting enough of.
Recipe & Nutritional Info: Roasted Butternut Squash "Pasta" with Goat Cheese and Fried Sage
6. No Sugar, Low-Fat Hot Chocolate
What would Christmas be without a steaming cup of hot chocolate? And why shouldn't you enjoy healthy cocoa flavanols? We aren't telling you to go chug a bunch of store-bought hot cocoa, or the kind from Starbucks that contains hundreds of calories and piles of added sugar. But it's a shame to steer away from the goodness of dark chocolate entirely.
A recent study found that a regular (but not excessive) chocolate habit of about two servings a week helps protects against heart disease, stroke and diabetes. This recipe comes in at a reasonable 140 calories and 8 grams of sugar. Using unsweetened almond milk is an easy way to shave off calories and add a pleasant nuttiness to your beverage. Once you've mastered this basic recipe, play with healthful add-ins like cinnamon or chili powder.
Recipe & Nutritional Info: No Sugar, Low-Fat Hot Chocolate
7. Pistachio-Crusted Rosemary & Fig Goat Cheese Boule
When snack time calls, answer with this festive goat cheese boule. Great for sharing, bringing as a hostess gift or portioning out for the week for yourself, this dish couldn't be easier to make. After combining most of the ingredients and forming into a "boule" (French for ball), it rests in the refrigerator to firm its shape, then it's rolled in beautiful green pistachios before being served.
The secret ingredient in this recipe is firm tofu, which adds high-quality plant protein, brain-boosting beans and calcium to every bite. The sweetness of fiber-rich dried figs paired with aromatic rosemary cut through the tanginess of the goat cheese. It's as delicious as it is fun to cut into.
Recipe & Nutritional Info: Pistachio, Rosemary & Fig Goat Cheese Boule