Healthy Hacks, Side Dish Recipes for your Holiday Dinners

The holidays are always associated with lots of food!! And usually the food is unhealthy and fattening! My Thanksgiving dinner consisted of a lot of different dishes to choose from, and who can choose just one or two? I know I can’t… I have to try them all! That is why I like to lighten up at least a few of them so that I and my guests don’t feel so overly stuffed like my turkey always is! Here are two of my favorites and they are not only for the Holidays but really for any occasion!

Healthy Cauliflower Gratin

For the Gratin:

  • 2 medium heads of cauliflower
  • 4 TBS butter (divided) this ingredient optional. The butter makes it a little richer in flavor since there is very little fat in the entire dish
  • 3 cups of no salt added or low sodium chicken stock or broth (if you use regular chicken stock or broth just use half the amount and add water so it isn’t too salty)
  • 1/2 Cup of grated cheese such as parmesan, Swiss, or cheddar (any kind you like)
  • 1/2 tsp dry mustard
  • A dash of nutmeg
  • A dash of cayenne pepper
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp cornstarch dissolved in 1 tsp cold water
  • Garnish such as fresh chives, scallions, parsley, etc. (optional)

For the topping:

  • 1/2 Cup whole wheat Panko bread crumbs
  • 1/2 Cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1-2 tsp dried parsley (optional)


If you don’t want to use breadcrumbs you can just top it with grated parmesan or whatever type of cheese you use for the gratin.

Trim the cauliflower from the core and slice the steams off of the florets. Carefully cut the florets if necessary so they are all about the same size. This insures they cook evenly.

Chop the core, the stems, and about 3 cups of the florets (the broken and the really small pieces) and put them into a pot along with the chicken stock and the water and butter (if using), Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for about 20-30 minutes or until very tender. Let cool.

Take the remaining florets and steam or microwave them until they are al dente as they will cook more in the oven. Let cool and put them into a large mixing bowl.

While the cauliflower is cooking, melt a TBS of butter (optional) in a small pan and add the panko stirring until it’s nicely browned. Don’t walk away!! It will burn quickly! Set aside and let cool completely. When it is cooled, add the dried parsley and the parmesan. Set aside.

Pour the cooled cauliflower stem mixture into a blender and add the cheese, nutmeg, cayenne, and pepper. Blend until smooth. Taste and add salt if necessary. Blend again and add the cornstarch slurry while the blender is running. Pour it onto the florets and gently mix until well incorporated. Pour into a 9 x 13 casserole sprayed with cooking spray. Arrange the florets so they all face up (you don’t have to, but it looks pretty!) Top with the panko mixture and bake for 15-20 minutes until it is browned and bubbly. Let cool slightly before serving. Garnish with scallions, chives, or parsley. Enjoy!!

Double Baked Sweet Potatoes

  • 5 or 6 nicely shaped sweet potatoes to make 8 servings
  • A few dashes of cinnamon to taste
  • A pinch of nutmeg
  • 1/2 Cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1-2 eggs depending on the size of the sweet potatoes
  • Paprika (optional)
  • Chopped chives or parsley for garnish (optional)


Scrub the potatoes and prick them a few times with a fork. Place them on a cookie sheet and bake at 375 for 45 minutes to an hour or until the flesh is very soft. Let them cool.

Cut the cooled potatoes in half lengthwise and carefully scrape the flesh into a bowl. Reserve 8 of the skins halves for stuffing.

Add the cinnamon, nutmeg, pepper, and cheese. Blend with a mixer and taste to see if it needs salt. Add the egg and blend it again until it is silky smooth. Stuff the skins and create a rough texture using the back of your spoon. You don’t have to do this but I think it looks nicer. Put them on a cookie sheet and sprinkle with a little paprika. Bake at 350 until they are puffed lightly browned. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

These dishes are not only healthy, but taste great too and will be a great addition to your Holiday table.

The opinions shared in this article are those of the contributor and not Total Gym Direct.

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