As Christmas approaches and the festive preparations take center stage, it’s easy to get caught up in the indulgent allure of traditional Christmas feasts. Sweet potato casserole, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole… However, this year, why not embark on a culinary journey that satisfies your taste buds and nurtures your well-being? In the spirit of embracing a healthier approach to holiday dining, try a healthier twist on two nutritional powerhouses – spinach and carrots. These healthy alternatives can effortlessly elevate your Christmas side dishes to new heights.
Incorporating nutrient-rich ingredients into your festive spread is an excellent way to blend holiday cheer and Better Health. Packed with essential vitamins and minerals, spinach is a rich source of vitamin K, which plays a crucial role in bone health and blood clotting. Additionally, spinach is a low-calorie leafy green that provides an abundance of antioxidants like beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, promoting eye health and reducing the risk of age-related macular degeneration.
Carrots, with their vibrant orange hue, bring not only color to the plate but also a myriad of health benefits. These crunchy root vegetables are an excellent source of beta-carotene, a precursor to vitamin A, which is essential for maintaining healthy vision, skin, and a robust immune system. The antioxidants in carrots help combat oxidative stress, reducing the risk of chronic diseases.
Ditch the casseroles this holiday and try these healthy Christmas side dishes that will add a burst of flavor and contribute to a stronger, healthier you.
Baby Spinach With Golden Raisins and Pine Nuts
Sweet golden raisins and crunchy pine nuts make this a fabulous way to get your spinach.
4 Tbsp pine nuts
2 bags (10 oz each) leaf spinach, rinsed
⅔ C golden seedless raisins
⅛ tsp ground nutmeg
⅛ tsp salt
- In a medium nonstick pan over high heat, cook and stir the pine nuts until they begin to brown lightly and smell toasted but not burnt. Set the pine nuts aside in another dish.
- Return the pan to the burner over medium-high heat. Add ¼ cup water. As it begins to boil, add a small handful of the spinach. Cook and stir just until it begins to wilt. Then push it to the side of the pan, and add another ¼ cup water and handful of spinach. Continue until all the spinach has been cooked, adding the raisins with the last handful of spinach.
- Sprinkle with nutmeg and salt. Cook and stir until all the spinach is wilted and the raisins are warm.
- Remove from heat. Press out excess water. Place 1 cup spinach and raisins in a serving bowl. Top with pine nuts.
Cinnamon-Glazed Baby Carrots
No one will be able to resist this sweet veggie side dish that’s great with most meat, chicken, and seafood.
4 C baby carrots, rinsed and split lengthwise if very thick (or frozen presliced carrots)
2 Tbsp soft tub margarine
2 Tbsp brown sugar
½ tsp ground cinnamon
⅛ tsp salt
- Place the carrots in a small saucepan. Add just enough water to barely cover the carrots. Cover. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium. Cook for 7–8 minutes, just until the carrots are easily pierced with a sharp knife.
- While the carrots are cooking, combine margarine, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a small saucepan and melt together over low heat (or put in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave for a few seconds on high power, until margarine is mostly melted). Stir well to combine ingredients.
- Drain carrots, leaving them in the saucepan. Pour cinnamon mixture over carrots. Cook and stir over medium heat for 2–3 minutes, just until carrots are thoroughly coated and the glaze thickens slightly. Serve warm.
Recipes courtesy of National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; National Institutes of Health; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.