This article was created in partnership with GreenPan.
Keeping holiday meals from turning into a total junk food fest might seem tough. (Really, who can resist creamy mashed potatoes, fluffy rolls, and one more slice of pie?) But it doesn’t have to be. Instead of saying no to traditional favorites, try making them better for you. The key is making clean swaps that cut out the not-so-healthy stuff but don’t sacrifice flavor.
That might sound about as likely as avoiding another awkward conversation with weird Uncle Ned. But it’s totally doable, and the results can be delicious. We partnered with our friends at GreenPan to help you get a delicious, clean holiday meal on the table that’ll still have everyone clamoring for seconds.
Make it yourself.
Say goodbye to the boxed stuffing mix and jarred gravy, and commit to cooking more dishes from scratch. Your homemade version is practically guaranteed to have less added sugar and sodium—and you’ll automatically cut out the sketchy additives and preservatives found in many packaged varieties. Oh, and it’ll almost certainly taste better. Can’t argue with that!
But don’t think you have to make it all yourself.
Deep breath! Homemade doesn’t always have to mean made by you. Celebrate potluck style by asking each guest to bring a dish of their own to share. Just make sure to assign each person a specific course in advance. That way you don’t end up with, say, four salads and no dessert. (Because that would be a shame.)
Take a look at your cookware.
Cooking with nonstick pans makes it easy to cut back on the butter or oil. But you might want to upgrade your old ones. Traditional nonstick pans use plastic coatings that can release toxic fumes when overheated. And no one wants plastic ending up in their food (gah-ross). Try a toxin-free option like GreenPan instead: Its ceramic, nonstick coating is made from naturally derived materials, so your food stays clean no matter what you’re making—roasts, desserts, sauces (yep, GreenPan basically does it all).
If you need another incentive to make the switch, GreenPan is offering discounts on a wide range of cookware, from the Lima Bronze Anniversary Set (which comes with two pans, a spatula, lid, and cookbook) to the 18-piece Lima Set—a full assortment of elegant (stainless steel handles and a matte gray finish for the win), oven-safe, plastic-free cookware.
Find fresh ways to add flavor.
Holiday fare doesn’t have to be loaded with unhealthy ingredients to taste delicious. Rather than going crazy with the salt shaker, give savory dishes extra oomph with fresh herbs or citrus juice or zest. Want to cut back on added sugar? Add natural sweetness to desserts with spices like cinnamon or ginger, or use pureed fruit. Apples, plums, and dates all pair well with heartier winter treats.
Say yes to yogurt.
The plain, low-fat Greek variety is rich, creamy, and loaded with protein—making it a clean, tasty sub for higher-fat dairy ingredients. Use it in place of sour cream for mashed potatoes, mix with spices to create a dip, or try it in baked goods (like quick breads, muffins, or cakes) instead of butter. Works like a charm.
Get a little nutty.
Nuts and seeds are a clean-eating cook’s best friend, so stock up. Puréed cashews or sunflower seeds add a rich, velvety texture to soups, sauces, and gravies without the need for butter or cream. And chopped almonds, walnuts, or pistachios shine as a crunchy, nutrient-dense alternative to breadcrumbs: Try them in meatballs or as a buttery coating for chicken or fish.
Go with the (whole) grain.
Use more whole grains for a fiber—and flavor—boost. Make the stuffing with wild rice or whole-wheat bread cubes instead of the usual white stuff. Pick cornmeal over refined breadcrumbs when you need a crunchy coating. And experiment with whole-grain flours for dessert: Try swapping some of the refined white flour out for oat, spelt, or whole-wheat flour.
Pack in the produce.
You can never go wrong with more fruits or vegetables, so add another veggie side dish to offset some of the heavier stuff on your menu. Garlicky sautéed kale or shredded Brussels sprouts tossed with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and Parmesan are easy and delicious. Or find ways to work more produce into the dishes you’re already making: Fold sautéed apples into your stuffing, add sautéed wild mushrooms to the gravy, or throw a handful of spinach into the food processor when making hummus. There’s no such thing as too much.
Pass on perfection.
It’s great to healthify recipes when you can, but don’t feel like you have to force it. If silken tofu or whole-wheat flour makes your mom’s famous pumpkin pie taste like cardboard, go ahead and savor a small slice of the real deal. Consider it a holiday gift to yourself.