Sides + Starters

Make Your Holidays Lighter With Dietitian-Approved Recipes

Holiday gatherings are known for family, friends, and fattening food. Navigating the festivities while eating healthy can be a challenge. But it’s not impossible.

A little dietary know-how can go a long way. Nutritional education is personal for Joanna Sheill, RD, community wellness dietician at Hurley Medical Center. When her father had a triple bypass, her family learned how much changing your diet can improve your health. Whether you’re dealing with a serious health condition or just watching your weight, Joanna said some simple planning and ingredient swaps can make a big difference.



First, plan your plate. Joanna’s tips for a healthier holiday plate are:

  1. Start with green. Put veggies and salad on your plate first.
  2. Go lean. Choose skinless, white meat over dark-meat drumsticks or wings.
  3. Indulge sparingly. Add other favorites to your plate and be mindful of heavy sauces.

“A lot of our holiday food can be high in fat and sugar. So, if we can still have some of our favorites but make them a little healthier, that’s nice,” Joanna said. “I love being able to still eat your comfort foods, but making them a little bit healthier.”

Below are her two picks for healthy holiday side dishes.


Simple Creamy Mashed Cauliflower

From the Dietitian
“Usually, mashed potatoes are high in carbs, high in fat. The cauliflower mash is going to be a lot lower in carbohydrates and a lot lower in fat. … That’s with the mindset that you’re probably going to be having other carbs at that dinner. … It’s picking and choosing what carbs you want at that meal.”



  • 1 medium cauliflower or 4 cups of cauliflower florets
  • 1 ½ ounces of cream cheese
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • A pinch of ground or grated nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon of sliced green onion (optional)


  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  2. Cut cauliflower into florets, then add them to boiling water.
  3. Cook for 8–10 minutes or until a fork can easily pierce the cauliflower.
  4. Drain the cauliflower, then throw the florets back into the hot pot (off the heat) and cover with lid. Let stand 2–3 minutes.
  5. Add the cream cheese, a pinch of salt, and freshly ground pepper to the cauliflower.
  6. Use a potato masher to smash the cauliflower.
  7. Stir in a pinch of nutmeg.
  8. Serve with sliced green onions on top.

Cook’s Tip

If you don’t want to fully give up the spuds, consider using half potato and half cauliflower in the recipe so you can have the best of both worlds. Note: This will increase the number of carbs in the dish.

Short on time? Skip a step by buying frozen cauliflower florets in a steamable package. Simply microwave according to the directions before mashing.

Serving size: 1 cup
Calories: 74
Fat: 4 g
Carbs: 8.2 g
Protein: 3.5 g



Veggie Deviled Eggs

From the Dietitian
“With the deviled eggs, usually mayo is involved. We chose Greek yogurt instead and different spices and vegetables so you are getting something to fill you up and really lower the fat and calories while adding a little bit more protein, vitamins, and nutrients.”



  • 6 boiled eggs
  • 1/4 cucumber
  • 1/4 green bell pepper
  • 1/4 red bell pepper
  • 2–3 tablespoons of plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 tablespoon of mustard (Dijon or yellow)
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Cut the boiled eggs in half lengthwise and remove the yolks.
  2. Chop the vegetables into very small pieces.
  3. Combine the vegetables with the cooked egg yolks, Greek yogurt, mustard, salt, and pepper.
  4. Spoon the mixture into the egg whites.

Cook’s Tip

Spice it up. Customize the recipe with your favorite herbs and spices. Consider paprika, a classic deviled-egg spice.


Serving size: 1 egg
Calories: 84
Fat: 5.6 g
Carbs: 2.1 g
Protein: 6.6 g


Joanna’s Healthy Cooking Substitutions




The information herein may not be construed as medical advice. The medical information on this site is provided as an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes. It should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment. It is best to obtain medical recommendations from your physician.