For many families, the holidays are synonymous with indulging in rich meals laden with not-so-healthy ingredients and calories. From casseroles drenched in condensed soup to vegetables smothered in syrup, this is the time of year when many people loosen their belts and forgo their diets in favor of food that’s not exactly healthy. For those who want to incorporate more healthful dishes into their holiday meals, the following recipes are packed with taste without sacrificing nutritional benefits.


Breakfast Scones

Breakfast Scone (Photo by Megan Horst-Hatch)

While these scones are a great addition to the breakfast table over the holidays, don’t let the name limit you. Have these scones at the ready when friends drop by and serve with coffee or tea. Applesauce is used in place of butter, lending to a chewier texture. In addition, whole wheat flour is used, giving the scones more fiber. Finally, cranberries add a dot of color and a tangy flavor.

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 15 to 20 minutes
Difficulty level: Low
Yield: 12 scones


  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup applesauce
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • Half-teaspoon salt
  • Two-thirds cup milk
  • Three-fourths cup raisins, dried cranberries or dried cherries


Sift dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Pour in applesauce and stir until both the dry ingredients and applesauce are well mixed. Next, add milk and dried fruit, then stir just until dough is coarse. Next, roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface, then cut it into wedges or use a glass cup to make circles. Place dough on lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake in oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 to 20 minutes; check after 15 minutes for doneness, then check every few minutes after. To check if the scones are done, insert a clean butter knife into one of the scones. If the dough clings to the knife, it needs more time to bake; if the knife comes out clean, then the scones are ready to eat.


Slow Cooker Applesauce

Applesauce (Photo by Megan Horst-Hatch)

This sugar-free alternative to traditional applesauce is a must for every holiday meal. The beauty behind the recipe is that it uses a slow cooker, allowing a harried cook to work on other dishes while it cooks. Make this dish the night before and serve chilled. If you prefer, you can also serve it immediately after it has cooked. The only trick is to resist peeking at your applesauce while it cooks, as lifting the lid of your slow cooker lets some of the hot air escape, resulting in a longer cooking time.

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 2 to 4 hours on high setting
Difficulty level: Low
Yield: 8 to 12 servings


  • 8 to 10 baking apples
  • Half-cup water
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Dash of nutmeg or allspice to taste (optional)


Wash, peel and core apples, then cut each segment in half. Next, place all apple segments in the slow cooker. Add the water, cinnamon and the nutmeg or allspice. Stir, then secure the lid on your slow cooker and cook on high to desired consistency. Depending on the slow cooker, it might take up to four hours to achieve a pureed applesauce.


Colorful Rice Medley

Rice Medley (Photo by Megan Horst-Hatch)

When it comes to side dishes, this rice medley packs in both nutrients and flavor. Select your favorite package of rice medley and make sure it includes brown rice and wild rice, both of which are excellent sources of fiber. For an extra nutritional punch, this dish incorporates sauteed vegetables, dried fruit and chopped nuts for more fiber, flavor and color. You can make this medley the night before; just reheat it in your microwave right before dinner.

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour
Difficulty level: Medium
Yield: 8 to 10 servings


  • 1 cup dry rice medley
  • Water
  • Half-cup each chopped onions, carrots and celery
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup dried fruits (raisins, dried cranberries, diced apricots or apples)
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Salt, pepper and thyme to taste


Prepare rice medley according to instructions with the water. While the rice is simmering, drizzle olive oil on a skillet and sautee onions, carrots and celery until tender. When the rice is finished cooking, add it and the vegetables to a medium-size casserole dish. Add dried fruits and nuts, then stir. Next, add lemon juice, salt, pepper and thyme. Refrigerate overnight or serve immediately.


Mashed Sweet Potatoes

Sweet Potatoes (Photo by Megan Horst-Hatch)

For many families, the holidays aren’t complete without a bowl of mashed potatoes. This year, change things up a bit with sweet potatoes mashed with plain yogurt instead of butter and milk. Not only will you get a pop of color on the table, but you’ll also increase the nutritional value. These bright spuds are packed with potassium, iron, fiber and several vitamins. Options for both sweet and savory mix-ins are also included.

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Difficulty level: Medium
Yield: 4 to 6 servings


  • 4 medium-size sweet potatoes
  • 1 cup light plain yogurt


Peel and cut each potato into eighths, then place in a pot of salted cold water. Boil until you can easily pierce the potatoes with a fork; drain, then place potatoes in a casserole dish. Next, add yogurt, then mash to desired consistency with a handmixer. For a sweeter take on traditional mashed potatoes, add a half-cup each of dried cranberries and chopped walnuts. If you’d like a savory dish, add garlic cloves to taste.


Megan Horst-Hatch is a mother, runner, baker, gardener, knitter, and other words that end in “-er.” She loves nothing more than a great cupcake, and writes at I’m a Trader Joe’s Fan. Her work can be found at


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