Should I Serve Healthy Food For The Holidays?

Have Your Say is a regular feature in which we take a tricky culinary nutrition situation and pass it to our readers for their advice. This week, we received a question from a woman named Susan whose family is expecting the usual (read: unhealthy) fare this holiday season…

My husband and I have been healthy eaters for a while — we eat mostly plant-based and entirely gluten- and GMO-free. We typically go to my sister’s house for the holidays, and we usually just bring along a healthy dish to share that ends up serving as our full meal. Nobody seems to notice or mind, but this year we’re actually hosting! 

I have a feeling my family is expecting the same dishes my sister usually makes — mashed potatoes, turkey, stuffing, gravy from a package and stuff like that. I don’t want to disappoint them or cause drama, but that’s not how we cook and it’s not how we eat. How can I keep the holiday spirit alive while still serving food that aligns with my beliefs? And should I give them some kind of warning beforehand?

– Susan, Midland

The holidays are an especially tricky time when it comes to healthy eating — even when we want to make the right choices, pressure from family members can make it more difficult than it needs to be.

Should Susan serve the healthy, plant-based food she loves this holiday season, or should she abide by her family’s wishes and serve traditional fare?

Culinary Nutrition ExpertsCulinary Nutrition Experts In-Training and readers everywhere, it’s time to have your say!

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5 responses to “Should I Serve Healthy Food For The Holidays?

  1. debbie

    Healthy!!!!! Great holiday fare can be healthy too. Serve a lot of plant based foods (brussel sprouts, sweet potatoes – baked; salads; etc) and still have a protein for the carnivores that is grass fed or free range, etc.

  2. Vanessa Gilic

    The only warning I would give them is that their taste buds are going to be blown away by all the delicious flavours they are about to receive!
    It is your home so I think that you should make foods that you are comfortable with and that reflect your lifestyle. If you are not opposed to meat, you could still prepare a pastured turkey or roast with a healthful gravy made from bone broth instead of a packet. Everybody also tends to enjoy roasted vegetables, gorgeous salads and delicious desserts (that they will never know are healthier). Your table will look so festive and beautiful from all the colours of the food on offer!

  3. Mieke

    First of all, I would like to say: give yourself the permission to be yourself. You’re family will love you for who you are, not for the food you serve.
    Also: Why compromise your own health and your family’s health?
    Serve the traditional fare with a healthy twist (mashed sweet potato? Yum!). If you feel comfortable with it, you can still roast turkey, but make a gluten-free healthier stuffing and gravy. There are plenty recipes around on the internet.
    Good luck and let us know how you’re dinner turns out!

  4. Natalie

    Stick with healthy. We also eat plantbased, gluten free and organic. We chose to serve “our food” and have had 3 Christmases and some other holidays with my brother who is an executive chef at a 4 star restaurant. I make different things every year and he has loved almost all of them. He even added a couple things to the restaurant menu! Hopefully your family can get past thinking about the food and just enjoy the time together. Besides they could bring their “one dish that serves as their meal” just like you did if they really aren’t open to trying some new foods.

  5. Caitlin Iles @NourishedSask

    Hi Susan!
    I agree with a lot of the wisdom already shared above. I often cook most of the meals for my family and friends over the holidays, totally gluten-free and veggie heavy! Adding healthy twists, such as making creamy soups with coconut milk instead of cream; using nut-based pie crusts for delicious sweet potato pie; roasting up delicious veggies with maple, balsamic, and walnuts; and cooking free-range, organic meats with homemade gravy and GF stuffing (no packages here!) often go over way better than any canned, sugary, or gluten-filled dishes. Most of the time you don’t even need to draw attention to the fact that you’ve healthified the meal; just let the deliciousness speak for itself! And if all else fails, whip up some homemade chocolatey treats with raw cacao and healthy fats and you’ll be the Queen of Christmas!

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