Ultimate Guide To Healthy Holiday Eating

Certified holistic health expert, Pamela Salzman gave us the ultimate guide to maintaining weight during the holidays. See below for seven health tips to incorporate into your month, nine easy food swaps, and six healthy recipes to add to your regimen.

The holiday season is both a time to spend celebrating with family and friends, but is also notorious for adding unwanted pounds and steering us away from our healthy eating habits. Even the most disciplined people find it challenging to eat healthfully at this time of year.  But if you plan ahead, you can make smart choices while still enjoying special occasion treats and without feeling guilty about it.

7 Healthy Holiday Eating Tips:

1. Start the Day with a Nourishing Breakfast

Whether it’s a hard boiled egg and some wheat toast or unsweetened yogurt and some fresh fruit, starting your day with some high-quality protein and fiber can prevent overeating later.

2. Don’t Skip Meals During the Day

Never go to a party or other holiday meal starving or you will likely binge. Even noshing on a small snack like an apple with nut butter or a small cup of soup can take the edge off hunger and keep blood sugar stable. 

3. Bring Something Healthy to a Potluck

If you’re not sure what will be served, bring something healthy so you can be guaranteed at least one “safe” item to eat. Focus on fresh salads or simple roasted mixed vegetables.

4. Keep Up Your Exercise Routine

The holidays are usually a busy time of year, but don’t let your exercise routine suffer. It is more important now than ever to be burning those extra calories.

5. Start Your Meal with Soup or Salad

Filling up on a broth-based soup or a large fresh green salad can help you feel satiated from the get-go and less likely to go overboard with higher fat, lower quality options.

6. Watch the Alcohol

The problem with alcohol is that it is high in calories and it also lowers your inhibitions, which could result in eating more than you planned. Try committing to one alcoholic beverage and choose lower sugar, lighter options.

7. Don’t Deprive Yourself

It’s fun to indulge once in a while! Just opt for desserts that focus on fresh fruit or cleaner versions of more traditional recipes.

9 Easy, Healthy Holiday Food Swaps:

Instead of: A cheese board with multiple cheeses, bread, and cured meats

Opt for: A board with 1 type of cheese, crudités or roasted veggies, whole grain crackers and fresh fruit

Instead of: Sour cream or mayonnaise-based dips

Opt for: High-protein, high-fiber hummus or white bean dips topped with caramelized onions, chopped parsley and toasted pine nuts

Instead of : Chips with dip

Opt for: Endive leaves, sliced of jicama or roasted sweet potato coins

Instead of: Prime rib

Opt for: Filet mignon, roasted turkey or roasted fish

Instead of: White bread stuffing

Opt for: Whole grain and vegetable pilaf

Instead of: Double-crust pie

Opt for: Single crust pie with oat topping or mini pies made in muffin pies

Instead of : Sugary alcoholic beverages

Opt for: White wine spritzer with club soda

Instead of: Ice cream with your pie

Opt for: A spray of aerated whipped cream

Instead of: Eggnog

Opt for: Warm apple cider

6 Healthy Holiday Recipes:

Roasted Garlic and White Bean Dip



1 head roasted garlic* (you can substitute 1 fresh clove of garlic if necessary – the flavor is not as mellow and sweet as roasted)

2 cups cooked white beans, rinsed if canned

¼ cup cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil

2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary

Several dashes of hot sauce

½ teaspoon fine grain sea salt

Grind or 2 of black pepper

Freshly shredded parmesan cheese


Squeeze the garlic out of the skins and put that with the rest of the ingredients except the parmesan cheese in a food processor and puree until smooth.  Garnish with shredded parmesan cheese and serve with crudités, crostini, whole grain pita chips, etc.

Another idea is to spread the dip on crostini and top with a roasted cherry tomato or two and shredded parmesan cheese.

*To roast a head of garlic, slice off the top fifth of the head of unpeeled garlic.  Add a drop of olive oil.  Replace the top.  Wrap with parchment paper and then aluminum foil.  Roast in a 350 degree oven for 1 hour.

Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes


Serves: 6


1 medium-large head of cauliflower, about 2 ¼ pounds, cut into florets (about 5 cups)

1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces

kosher salt

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter (optional, but makes them taste better)

½ teaspoon of sea salt or to taste


Place cauliflower, potatoes and a big pinch of kosher salt in a large pot and add enough water to come just below the top of the vegetables.

Bring to a boil over high heat and then lower to a simmer.  Cook until tender, about 15 minutes.

Drain cauliflower and potatoes and transfer to the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade.  Add butter and salt and process until smooth.  Taste for seasoning and serve immediately.

Endive Leaves with Grapes, Hazelnuts and Roquefort


Makes: About 24 Pieces


3 firm, fresh heads of Belgian endive

Dressing (optional)

1 small shallot, minced (about 2 teaspoons)

3/4 – 1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt

freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

2 teaspoons raw honey or 100% pure maple syrup

2 Tablespoons unpasteurized apple cider vinegar or red wine vinegar

2 Tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar

3/4 cup unrefined, cold pressed, extra-virgin olive oil

1/3 pound of crumbled blue cheese such as Roquefort

12 grapes, halved or quartered, depending on size

½ cup chopped hazelnuts, toasted and salted if desired or sliced almonds


Cut ½ inch off the bottom (root end) of each head of endive.  Separate the leaves and keep under a damp paper towel in the refrigerator until ready to use, up to 4 hours.

Make the dressing if using.  Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl or a glass jar with a lid.  This will make too much dressing for the hors d’oeuvre.  Save what you don’t use for a salad.

Fill the white part of each endive leaf with a bite size crumble of blue cheese, a half of a grape and a pinch of chopped nuts.  Drizzle with a touch of dressing if desired.

Gingerbread Biscotti


Makes: About 24


3 Tablespoons coconut oil or room temperature unsalted butter

½ cup cane sugar

½ cup muscovado or firmly packed dark brown sugar

2 large eggs or ½ cup unsweetened smooth applesauce

2 cups whole wheat pastry or all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

¼ teaspoon sea salt

1 cup whole raw almonds or chopped, if desired

½ cup crystallized ginger, chopped (optional)


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Beat coconut oil and sugars with an electric mixer at medium speed until light and creamy.  Beat in eggs, combine well.

Combine flour and next 5 ingredients; add to sugar mixture, beating at low speed until blended.  Stir in almonds and crystallized ginger.

Divide dough in half.  Using floured hands, shape each portion into a log 3-inches wide and 1-inch high.  Place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet.

Bake 25 minutes.  Cool 5 minutes on cookie sheet; remove to a wire rack, and set aside until cool to the touch.  Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees.

Cut each log crosswise into ½-inch slices with a serrated or very sharp knife. Place slices on the same parchment-lined cookie sheet.  If you want long cookies, cut on the diagonal.

Bake 7-8 minutes; turn cookies over, and bake 7-8 more minutes.  If you cut them thick, you will probably have to bake them a little longer.  Cool completely on wire racks.

Green Bean Casserole


Serves: 4-6


Crispy Onion Topping

1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced and pieces separated

¼ cup all-purpose flour or rice flour

2 Tablespoons panko breadcrumbs

1 teaspoon sea salt, plus additional for sprinkling

Unsalted butter

Unrefined, cold-pressed olive oil


Combine the onions, flour, panko and salt in a large mixing bowl or paper bag and toss to combine. 

Warm 1 ½ Tablespoons of butter and 1 ½ Tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Drop one piece of onion in the pan to make sure it sizzles.  Add as many onion pieces as can fit in the pan in one layer.  You may need to do this in batches.

Turn the onions when they become golden on the bottom.  Cook until crispy and golden on the other side.   Transfer onions to a plate lined with a paper towel.  If you have to cook a second batch, you may need to wipe out the pan and start with fresh butter and oil.


1 pound of green beans, trimmed

2 Tablespoons kosher salt

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter

6 ounces cremini mushrooms, wiped clean and sliced

2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour, or flour of your choice

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

1 ½ cups mushroom stock (or chicken stock) + possibly a little more in case the gravy needs thinning

1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

½ teaspoon salt

freshly ground black pepper, to taste


Blanche green beans:  prepare a bowl of ice water for the green beans.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the kosher salt.  Add the beans and set a timer for 3 minutes.  Drain and immediately submerge in the ice water bath.  Drain after 5 minutes or so, pat dry, and place green beans in a 9” square or round baking dish.

Melt the butter in a medium skillet, add mushrooms, season with salt and pepper to taste, and sauté over medium until mushrooms have lost their shape and released most of their liquid (about 5 minutes). 

Stir the flour and thyme into the mixture and cook for another 1-2 minutes. 

Add the mushroom stock, Worcestershire sauce, and salt and pepper.  Bring to a simmer and cook until the sauce has thickened, stirring occasionally, about 6-8 minutes.  Taste for seasoning.

Pour evenly over green beans, top with the crispy onions and bake at 350 degrees until bubbling on the sides and the beans are warmed through, about 15-20 minutes.  Serve immediately.

Maple-Mustard Roasted Vegetables


Serves: 6


¼ cup unrefined, cold-pressed, extra-virgin olive oil or unrefined coconut oil

2 Tablespoons 100% pure maple syrup

1 teaspoon whole grain mustard

2 Tablespoons dry white wine

2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, chopped

½ pound butternut squash, peeled and chopped into ½-inch pieces

2 carrots, chopped into ½-inch pieces

1 red onion, peeled and cut into sixths or eighths (keep root attached)

2 parsnips, peeled and chopped into ½-inch pieces

1 medium sweet potato (e.g. Garnet or Jewel), peeled and chopped into ½-inch pieces

10 medium Brussels sprouts, halved

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.  I’ve noticed that darker sheet pans, even lined with parchment paper, caramelize vegetables better/more quickly than light-colored pans.

In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, syrup, mustard, wine and thyme.  Make sure the maple syrup is well incorporated.  Add all the vegetables and toss to coat.

Spread evenly between the two pans in one layer and sprinkle well with salt and pepper (about ¾ teaspoon salt or more.)

Roast vegetables until tender and slightly caramelized, about 50 minutes, tossing after 30 minutes.  You may need to rotate the pans if they are not side-by-side in the oven or if your oven has hot spots.

Notes: These are just examples of vegetables that work nicely together and with these flavors.  Feel free to concentrate on fewer vegetables, and use more of them.

Want more tips? Check out this quick detox to do in between parties from Dana James or these tips on how to maintain your weight during the holidays.