You can indulge in a little extra holiday cheer with these healthier alternatives inspired by global cuisine.
There is no shortage of delicious treats during the holidays, tempting you to stray from the healthy habits you worked so hard all year to build. A little indulgence is fine, but it may not be necessary if you use a little culinary creativity.
Here are three holiday staples from around the world that have been revamped with a healthy spin, so you don’t have to feel guilty enjoying them.
Give your digestive system a break this holiday by skipping the heavy eggnog. Instead, opt for a lighter alternative: an eggnog smoothie. This version replaces raw eggs, heavy cream and sugar with healthier ingredients like dates, bananas and Greek yogurt. This version of the holiday classic packs in plenty of flavor with much of the creaminess of the old-school treat without packing on the pounds.
- 2 cups of almond milk
- 2 frozen bananas (can be substituted for fresh bananas)
- 3 dates, pitted
- ¼ cup of plain Greek yogurt
- ¼ cup of vanilla-flavored, plant-based protein powder (like Vega Clean Protein)
- ½ teaspoon of almond extract
- ¼ teaspoon of pink Himalayan sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg (plus more for garnish)
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon (plus more for garnish)
- ¼ cup of ice (if using fresh bananas, increase amount to ½ cup of ice)
Using a high-powered blender like a Vitamix or Blendtec, puree the bananas, dates and almond milk until creamy and smooth. Add in the Greek yogurt, protein powder, almond extract, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon, and blend until fully combined. Mix in the ice and blend. Serve garnished with a sprinkle of cinnamon and nutmeg.
Tamales are a holiday tradition in Mexican and many other households around the world. Though delicious, this classic dish is anything but healthy when prepared in the traditional form. Most heirloom family recipes call for an excessive amount of lard, which is used to keep the tamale batter moist, fluffy and packed with flavor, and an unhealthy quantity of salt.
You can put a healthier spin on this holiday classic by swapping out lard for canola oil and cutting the amount of salt used to season the batter and the filling. The result is just as tasty as the classic version, with much less guilt.
- 18 dried corn husks
- 1½ cups of very hot water (plus more for soaking the corn husks and cooking the chicken)
- 2 pounds of organic, free-range, boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 1 teaspoon of extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 1 large ripe tomato, roughly chopped
- 2 teaspoons of dried red chili flakes
- 3 teaspoons of ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon of sea salt
- ½ cup of tomato paste
- 2 cups of masa, also known as corn flour (preferably Maseca brand)
- ¼ cup of expeller-pressed canola oil
- 1½ cups of ricotta cheese (preferably the part-skim variety)
- 1 teaspoon of sea salt
- 1½ teaspoons of aluminum-free baking powder
- 1¾ cups of cornmeal
- ¾ cup of organic, low-sodium, free-range chicken broth
Begin the tamale preparation by soaking the dried corn husks in hot water to make the husk pliable for wrapping the tamales. To ensure the corn husks are completely submerged, you may need to use a heavy plate or the lid of a pan to weigh them down. Allow husks to soak for a minimum of 30 minutes, or until they become soft and malleable.
To prepare the filling, place the chicken breasts in a large pot with a lid and fill it with enough water to cover the chicken completely. Cover the pot and heat until the water reaches a low boil. Lower the heat slightly, making sure to maintain a gentle simmer, and boil the chicken for at least 20 minutes. Once thoroughly cooked, set chicken aside to cool for 10 minutes, reserving ½ cup of the cooking liquid. Once it’s sufficiently cooled, use a fork to shred the chicken breasts into bite-sized chunks.
Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add in the garlic, onion and bell pepper and sauté until tender, about three to four minutes. Stir in the chopped tomato and then season the mixture with the chili flakes, cumin, salt and pepper. Add in the half cup of reserved cooking liquid from the chicken as well as the tomato paste. Bring the resulting mixture to a simmer, covering the pan and cooking at a low simmer for about 15 minutes. Carefully transfer the mixture to a blender and puree it into a sauce or use a hand blender in the pan.
Return the sauce to the pan over low heat and add in the shredded chicken. Simmer for 15 minutes. Remove the mixture from heat and let it cool while you prepare the tamale batter.
In a large mixing bowl, combine two cups of masa with one-and-a-half cups of very hot water. Stir gently with a wooden spoon until the mixture resembles a soft dough, then set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, mix the cheese, canola oil, sea salt and baking powder at medium speed for two to three minutes. The resulting mixture should be fully combined and have a light, fluffy consistency. Gently stir in the cornmeal with a rubber spatula until incorporated completely.
Combine the masa mixture and the ricotta mixture together, mixing gently by hand until the consistency is smooth. Add in the chicken broth a quarter of a cup at a time, until the batter reaches a spreadable, moist consistency. Be sure not to add too much broth, as you don’t want the batter to be runny. Separate the masa mixture into 15 equal parts (or as many corn husk wrappers as you have).
Remove the corn husks from their soak, patting them dry with a kitchen towel. Take three husks and cut them into ¼ inch ribbons. You’ll use these as ties to fasten your tamales once they are assembled. Cover the other 15 husks that you’ll use as wrappers for the tamales with a warm, damp kitchen towel to prevent them from drying out as you finish the assembly.
Smooth out a husk on a flat work surface. With a small rubber spatula, spread a single portion of the masa mixture over the corn husk. Leave a border of about an inch around the edges of the husk. Add about three tablespoons of the chicken filling to the middle of the masa. Then, roll it all up lengthwise to create a cylindrical shape, wrapping it with a husk and fastening the end with one of the corn husk ribbons you trimmed earlier. Repeat this process until you’ve assembled all 15 tamales.
From here you have the option to freeze the tamales or steam cook them to enjoy right away.
To cook fresh, carefully arrange the tamales in the basket portion of a sturdy steamer pot, like All-Clad’s perforated multipot. Fill the bottom of the pot with at least an inch of water. Bring the water to a steady boil and then cover with a tight-fitting lid and steam the tamales for an hour until they are thoroughly cooked. Check the water level periodically to ensure it hasn’t all cooked off and replenish it as necessary.
To cook tamales that have been frozen, begin by thawing them in the refrigerator overnight or on the countertop for an hour and a half. Follow the same instructions as listed above, plus an extra 30 minutes of cooking time and enjoy.
Ambrosia salad is a staple on many holiday tables around the world. But the old-fashioned blend of canned fruits in syrupy, sweet juices and sour cream sauce makes this dish less than friendly for the health conscious.
Here’s a modern take on this classic dish that everyone will surely love.
- 1 small pineapple, peeled, cored and chopped into a bite-sized dice
- 1 cup of strawberries, quartered
- 1½ cups of blueberries
- 2 cups of red grapes
- 2 kiwis, peeled and diced
- 4 mandarin oranges, peeled and separated into sections, with each section cut in half
- ½ teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon of raw honey
- 1¼ cup of plain Greek yogurt
- 1 cup of unsweetened coconut flakes
Mix all of the fruit together in a large bowl. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the vanilla and honey. Add in the Greek yogurt and whisk together until combined. Pour the yogurt mixture over the fruit and gently stir using a rubber spatula.
Top with the coconut flakes and serve cold.