By Ashton Jackson, RD, LD/N
It’s estimated that between 6 and 8 million Americans abstain from consuming meats like fish, beef and poultry. There is an escalating movement toward plant-based diets, and the evidence to support the cornucopia of health benefits is growing!
As a Registered Dietitian, I find that despite this trend, patients who are attempting to make this dietary transition often note accessibility to balanced (and delicious) foods outside of their own home as a challenge. The holidays can be particularly cumbersome, not only for those who are following a plant-based diet, but also for the host who is planning and preparing the meal. While I wholeheartedly respect the desire to keep family traditions and recipes intact, I think it’s time that we all start taking note of the benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and let the holidays be no exception.
Allowing seasonal produce and protein-packed grains more room on your holiday table will wow your relatives and make your heart happy… that’s something we can all celebrate!
Here are a few recipes and suggestions for alternatives to those traditional high-fat, starchy sides and meats:
START IT OFF RIGHT:
- Skip the dairy-filled dips and cheesy bites for appetizers.
- Create a crudité platter: pile on the carrots, radishes, tomatoes, peppers, and any other vegetable you can get your hands on.
- Get the kids involved and keep it fun with this creative turkey veggie platter.
- Serve a colorful salad. Top “massaged kale” with roasted butternut squash, red cabbage and pumpkin seeds.
- Here’s a recipe for inspiration: fall harvest superfood salad.
LET YOUR SIDES SHINE!
- Resist the urge to hide your veggies in a casserole. Those haricot vert are just as tasty sautéed in a pan with a smidge of olive oil. If you are looking for extra “oomph,” try adding the zest of an orange or a few slivered almonds.
- Brussels sprouts are back! These cruciferous veggies are delicious when roasted with garlic.
- Eat the rainbow! Rather than white potatoes or rice with gravy, incorporate winter squash or roasted carrots with rich spices like cinnamon or cumin.
- Don’t forget the fruit. Apples are a great complement to roasted sweet potatoes, and pomegranate seeds add crunch.
- Try this simple, low sugar cranberry relish. No can opener required.
ALLOW MEATLESS MAIN COURSES TO TAKE CENTER STAGE:
- Stuff acorn squash, butternut squash, sweet potatoes or mushrooms with greens and grains like quinoa for a beautiful entrée.
- These savory stuffed sweet potatoes are packed with tofu as a meat alternative.
- Whip up a vegetarian chili and load it with seasonal vegetables.
- This black bean and sweet potato chili is sure to be a hit.