Holiday dinner with ham and other dishes

How to Make Your Holiday Meals Healthier

Dec 14, 2020Rise Bar Team

With the holidays coming around, food is always going to be on everyone’s mind. Holidays are known as a time to explore new recipes and indulge in more decadent foods; while we want our food to taste good we also want to make sure we are getting adequate nutrition for the next few months.

Lucky for all of us, there are many easy healthy replacements and holiday substitutes that can make all of our holiday meals a little healthier.

Holiday meal with ham and other dishes

Today we are going to share with you 10 tips for making this year’s holiday meal a little healthier.

  1. Choose unsaturated fat sources over saturated fat. These include foods like avocados, plant oils, vegetable oils, nuts, and seeds.
  2. Limit salt intake by opting for sodium-free spices and seasonings such as turmeric, cayenne pepper, cumin, black pepper, chili powder, garlic powder, basil
  3. Bake or broil protein sources with plant oils instead of frying with butter.
  4. Choose lean proteins over medium-fat or high-fat protein sources. These include foods such as fresh salmon, halibut, poultry without the skin, shellfish, beans, and lentils.
  5. Steam vegetables with water instead of baking or frying with butter or oils – while there are healthy unsaturated oil sources, steaming will help reduce overall calorie consumption.
  6. Choose whole-grains over refined grains. To increase nutrient consumption, experiment with different whole-grains such as quinoa, amaranth, bulgur, farro, or buckwheat.
  7. Instead of a heavier side dish, make a salad with fresh vegetables, and lean protein sources.
  8. Try making a homemade salad dressing by mixing unsaturated fat sources with some citrus and seasonings instead of using a store-bought dressing that tends to be higher in calories, saturated fat, and sodium.
  9. If making a sweet dish, include spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, or ground ginger, and choose small amounts of natural sweeteners like honey or agave instead of regular sugar.
  10. Try including a plant-based meal or side dish to increase vegetable consumption.

Looking to utilize our last tip? Try out this plant-based recipe for one of your holiday dishes. No added sugars, low in sodium, made with healthy unsaturated fat sources, fresh spices and herbs, and is rich in essential micronutrients: iron, vitamin A, folate, vitamin K, magnesium, and potassium!

Mixed Squash Quinoa and Lentil Turmeric Soup

Mixed Squash Quinoa and Lentil Turmeric Soup

Makes about 5 servings (2 cups each) 

  • 1 small butternut squash
  • 1 zucchini squash
  • 1 yellow squash
  • ½ sweet potato
  • ½ white onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 cup dry quinoa
  • 1 cup dry brown lentils
  • 3 cups low sodium vegetable broth
  • 3 cups of water
  • 1 tbsp. turmeric
  • 1 tbsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp cayenne
  • 2 tbsp. nutritional yeast
  • 1 tbsp. dried basil
  • 2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Spinach and kale 


  1. Peel and dice vegetables
  2. Mix squash, sweet potatoes, onions, garlic, and spices together for about 10 minutes over medium heat
  3. Add in vegetable broth and water, mix together and bring to a boil.
  4. Simmer for 25 minutes
  5. Turn off heat and add in fresh greens, lime juice, and apple cider vinegar
  6. Let sit for 10 minutes and enjoy! 

Author: Karli McCarthy
Cal Poly, SLO Nutrition Student

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