Health benefits from your holiday dinner menu

When feasting during the holidays, it’s easy to pile your plate high with stuffing, mashed potatoes and pecan pie. It’s a special occasion, right? But by the end of the season, your clothes may be feeling a bit tighter around the waist. 

Americans tend to gain about a pound or two during this festive time, which doesn’t seem like much but these stubborn pounds may not be shed by the following year. A few holiday seasons later, those pounds start to add up. 

This year, consider balancing your plate with some healthier sides that are packed with nutrients like cranberries, sweet potatoes or brussels sprouts. This will allow you to enjoy the holidays while helping your waistline stay in check. 

Here are five staples likely already planned for your holiday menu, that will help you feel less guilty during those family feasts:

  • Cranberries
    Cranberries are often referred to as a “super food” due to their high nutrient and antioxidant content. They are low in calories and high in vitamins C, A and K.
  • Sweet Potatoes
    Sweet potatoes are another nutritious choice for your holiday dinner menu, as they are full of fiber, antioxidants and vitamins A, C and B6, among others. One cup of sweet potatoes is about 180 calories.
  • Brussels Sprouts 
    Brussels sprouts are also a nutrient-dense option that’s low in calories and high in fiber — plus vitamins K and C.
  • Pumpkin
    Pumpkin is low in calories, while being highly nutritious. It’s particularly high in Vitamin A, which is shown to help strengthen your immune system. It’s also a good source of fiber and antioxidants.
  • Green Beans
    Green beans are a good source of Vitamin C, dietary fiber, folate and vitamin K. One cup contains almost 2 grams of protein. 

If you need help with ideas to incorporate these healthier ingredients, try adding this easy and healthy side to your holiday menu: 

Quinoa cranberry salad

Portion: 1 serving



  • ½ cup red quinoa (cooked) 
  • ¼ cup apple, diced 
  • ¼ cup celery, diced
  • ½ cup brussels sprouts, diced 
  • 1 tablespoon cranberries, dried
  • 1 tablespoon green onions, bias cut 
  • 2 tablespoons lemon vinaigrette
  • 1 grilled chicken breast (optional) 
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • ¼ teaspoon shallots, chopped 
  • /8 teaspoon salt
  • ½ ounce extra virgin olive oil 
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest


Quinoa instructions 

  1. Rinse quinoa in a fine mesh strainer, transfer to a medium pot. 
  2. Add 1 cup of water and a pinch of salt to the pot. 
  3. Bring to a boil. 
  4. Cover and allow to simmer until the water is absorbed (approx. 15 minutes)
  5. Remove from heat, uncover and fluff with a fork. 

Vinaigrette instructions

  1. In a blender, add all ingredients except the olive oil and lemon peel. 
  2. Process until smooth. 
  3. Drizzle in olive oil to emulsify. 
  4. Add grated lemon peel. 

Salad instructions

  1. Dice apples, celery and thinly shave brussels sprouts.
  2. Combine apples, celery, brussels sprouts and quinoa in a bowl. 
  3. Drizzle with vinaigrette. 
  4. Garnish with cranberries, green onions and celery leaves. 

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