The holidays are here. It’s that time of year when we gather with family, friends, and calorie-laden, fat-filled, sugarcoated food. The unhealthy food is hard to resist when it tastes so good. And so starts the cycle of eat, feel guilty, get over it, and eat again. Not this year. It’s time to makeover your favorite holiday recipes into something healthy and delicious. These seven recipe redo’s kick the empty calories, so grab a fork and enjoy this year’s festivities guilt-free.


Recipe #1: Apple Goat Cheese Bites

Cheese balls, mini quiches, and spinach puff pastry appetizers do damage before your meal even begins. Cheese is loaded with saturated fat and just one slice has about 100 calories (but who eats one slice of cheese?). Appetizers from the frozen food aisle often contain harmful trans fats and are loaded with sodium, a recipe for feeling guilty and bloated. Kick the pastries to the curb. You can make a healthier version at home, like these Apple Goat Cheese Bites.


  • 1 box whole-wheat crackers (e.g. Back to Nature Harvest Whole Wheat Crackers or Ak-Mak Whole-Wheat Crackers)
  • 1 goat cheese log
  • 2-4 thinly sliced apples


  1. Spread a thin layer of goat cheese on to each cracker and top with a thin apple slice.
  2. Serve cold.


Recipe #2: Potato Cauliflower Mash

Potatoes get a bad rap, but they aren’t inherently bad. Potatoes are packed with potassium, fiber, and vitamin C. The problem is how you prepare them: skinless and lathered in butter and cream. Leave the skin on, cut the cream, and add some cauliflower for a healthier version of this classic holiday side dish.


  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • 2 medium potatoes (with skin on)
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/3 c nonfat buttermilk
  • 4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Fresh chives or parsley for garnish


  1. Cut cauliflower into bite size pieces and cut potatoes into cubes.
  2. Cover cauliflower and potatoes with water in a saucepan and bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce heat to low and simmer until tender (12-15 minutes).
  4. Mash cauliflower, potatoes, and garlic in a bowl (or combine in a food processor and blend).
  5. Mix in buttermilk, 2 teaspoons of oil, butter, salt, and pepper until smooth and creamy.
  6. Transfer to serving bowl, drizzle the remaining 2 teaspoons of oil, and top with chives or parsley. Serve hot.

(Adapted from and


Recipe #3: Green Bean Casserole

There’s no doubt this traditional holiday dish is tasty, but it makes me cringe. A perfectly healthy vegetable is soaked in fat-filled cream and topped with fried onions. Green bean casserole can retain its delicious taste and nutritional value with a simple fat swap: olive oil for cream and almonds for fried onions. Your arteries will thank you for saying so long to saturated fat (and sodium) and hello to heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. Try out this delicious and guilt-free green bean casserole recipe:


  • 1 lb fresh green beans, cooked
  • 4 cups sliced mushrooms
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 ½ cups low-fat milk
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ cup sliced almonds


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Add cooked green beans to a greased 8 x 8 baking dish.
  3. In a saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and mushrooms and cook until tender.
  4. Add flour, salt, and pepper to onion and mushrooms and stir for about one minute.
  5. Add milk and continue to stir until thickened.
  6. Add thickened mixture to green beans and cook at 350 degrees F for about 20 minutes or until bubbly.
  7. Top with sliced almonds and bake for 5 more minutes or until almonds are toasted.


Recipe #4: Eggnog

Traditional eggnog is a calorie-bomb sure to leave you feeling guilty. With eggs, heavy cream, and alcohol, you can consume an entire meal’s worth of calories in a cup. Tweak this drink by using egg whites, low-fat milk, and skipping the alcohol. With this recipe from Better Homes and Gardens, you’ll be sipping your nog guilt-free.

Better Homes and Gardens Guilt-Free Eggnog


Recipe #5: Apple Crisp

When it comes to dessert, there are worse things to indulge in than apple pie. It does have fruit after all. But, there are ways you can switch up this holiday dessert to cut fat, sugar, and calories without eliminating the delicious taste. Apple crisp is a healthy alternative: it swaps the processed piecrust for fiber-filled oats.


  • 6 medium apples, cored and sliced
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons whole-wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons butter


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Mix the apples and cinnamon and add to a greased 9 x 13 in. baking dish.
  3. In a medium bowl, mix the oats, brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon. Cut in the butter until the mixture is crumbly.
  4. Sprinkle crumb mixture over apples.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees F until apples are soft and topping is golden (30-40 minutes).


Recipe #6: Gravy

Traditional gravy is dripping – literally – in fat, sodium, and cholesterol. Skip the turkey drippings and cream. Instead, opt for turkey stock to cut the artery-clogging fat. This recipe from EatingWell adds flour for thickening and apple cider for intense flavor. Try whole-wheat flour for an even healthier, guilt-free gravy.

EatingWell Cider Gravy


Recipe #7: Sweet Potato Casserole  

This scrumptious side dish is more of a dessert. Traditional sweet potato casserole is loaded with at least a stick of butter, more than a cup of brown sugar, and topped with marshmallows (read: more sugar). Ditch the marshmallows and enjoy the natural sweetness from the potatoes. Top with butter-less pecans for a dose healthy fats.


  • 4 medium sweet potatoes, peeled, cooked and mashed
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup 2% milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Beat ingredients (except for topping) in a medium bowl until smooth. Add to greased 8 x 8 baking dish.
  3. Bake for 30 minutes.
  4. Remove dish from oven. Top with pecans and sprinkle brown sugar. Bake for 5 more minutes.

Enjoy! And let us know which of these recipes is your favorite healthy version.


Written by Lainey Younkin, MS, RD, LDN. Lainey is a Rise Coach and Registered Dietitian who specializes in weight loss, heart health, diabetes and general health and wellness. Lainey loves working with all types of clients, from busy moms, to engineers, nurses, retires, and more! Want to work with Lainey or another Rise coach like her? Get started at