Environmental Nutrition: Go plant-forward for the holidays
Published in Variety Menu
There’s nothing like the festive spread of beloved holiday meals to heighten the season’s celebratory gatherings. If you’re looking to enhance this year’s menu, try increasing the amount of plant-based foods. Adding plant foods, like vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils and whole grains, is a great way to make a meal healthier.
And don’t worry, there’s no need to replace or upstage the turkey, ham or roast. You can still delight your guests with complementary plant-forward dishes that are just as satisfying and pack a flavorful and nutritional punch. EN offers a few ways to add more plant-foods to this year’s holiday meals.
Start and finish with plants
Holiday meals can be rich and decadent, so do your guests a favor and skip the heavy charcuterie tray heaped with meats and cheeses and serve appetizers plant style instead. Veggie chips, whole grain crackers, and fresh vegetable slices are great dipped in nutrient-rich hummus, salsa, olive tapenade, or ranch or onion dip made with nonfat sour cream or yogurt. Nuts are always a treat, whether plain, spiced, or sweet.
Dessert is a must in most holiday traditions. Keep with traditional favorites, but add a bowl of fruit, fruit salad, or fruit tart. They’re as naturally delicious as they are beautiful.
Celebrate with seasonal foods
Set your table with the season’s best offerings. Fall and winter produce is packed with nutrients, health-promoting phytochemicals, fiber, and low in calories and they are festively dressed in the colors of the season. Decorate your table with gorgeous cranberry, beet, and pomegranate reds, greens of Brussels sprouts, broccoli, kale, and spinach, winter white cauliflower, turnips, and parsnips, and the bright yellows and oranges of winter squash, carrots, and oranges.
Enhance every dish
Animal-based dishes are even better when paired with plant foods. Root vegetables, onions, winter squashes, and potatoes roast beautifully alongside any cut of meat or poultry. Top any dish — meat- and veggie-based — with sauces and dressings made from plants, such as tomato sauce or pesto. Chopped herbs, nuts, seeds, and dried fruit make excellent garnishes that kick up flavor and texture.
You can embellish and fill out any dish with plant foods, or you can even swap out some or all of the animal-based ingredients. Doing so boosts the nutritional quality of your favorite dishes in ways that can be so subtle nobody will taste the difference. In fact, the plant-forward version may even be better than the original. Using a heart-healthy poly- or monounsaturated fat like olive oil in place of some or all of the butter, which is high in saturated fat, can really kick up the flavor in a dish like mashed potatoes. Add chives or other herbs and spices to those potatoes and other dishes and you won’t need as much salt, or you may skip it altogether.
Holiday food traditions nourish our traditions and connections with loved ones. Why not nourish our bodies too with more plant-based foods at this year’s holiday table?
(Environmental Nutrition is the award-winning independent newsletter written by nutrition experts dedicated to providing readers up-to-date, accurate information about health and nutrition in clear, concise English. For more information, visit www.environmentalnutrition.com.)
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