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Home and Healthy for the Holidays: Lower-Carb Side Dishes to Round out Your Meal

By Catherine Newman

For many families, the holiday season is about big, fancy meals, which can be challenging for people with diabetes. Here are four recipes for delicious side dishes that your whole family can enjoy

Even for folks who are not carefully watching what they eat, the holidays can prove challenging. The richness! The excess! The delicious offerings and heaped plates and good company! My son once ate so much on Thanksgiving that he almost literally burst apart on the stairs (don’t work too hard to picture it), and, post-turkey, I routinely lie on the couch in a groaning stupor in the dark of winter’s early evening. You know you’re going to make various exceptions for these meals, and that’s fine. That’s what exceptions are for.

But that’s also where these pick-your-battles recipes come in. If you’re planning to blow a bunch of carbs on a well-earned slice of pie, then don’t waste them on the cranberry sauce or stuffing—or that’s my feeling, at least. The dishes below are hardly spa food, but they chip away at carb counts so that your plate can feel a little wiser, a little more balanced: squash swapped in for yams; low-carb bread instead of regular; a bit of sugar-replacement (erythritol) in the cranberry sauce. None of it really feels like a compromise in the end.

A couple of notes. 1) These recipes all scale up easily, so if you’re feeding lots of people just double them. 2) Don’t worry too much about the oven temperature. If your turkey’s in at 375, fine. Just give everything a little more time. Or plan to roast stuff while the turkey is resting, before you carve it. That magic hour is when almost everything happens in my kitchen. 3) Enjoy yourself. You’re with your people! There’s food on the table! We are so, so lucky.

1. Crispy Lemony Brussels Sprouts

These are so good, honestly—so burnished and zippy and perfectly bittersweet—that even without the cheese they’re (nearly) perfect. So if you’re looking to eliminate a single ingredient/step/rich thing from your holiday meal, the parmesan is a fine thing to skip. But it adds a lovely salty crispness, so go ahead and use it.

View the recipe.

2. Classic Sage and Onion Stuffing 

This is an excellent pan of a very classic style of stuffing. There are no oysters in it. No chorizo or truffles or kale. And in this way, it is pleasing to holiday traditionalists. The key is to season it quite aggressively, since most low-carb bread seems to taste mainly of egg, which is not inherently bad, but you need lots of sage and onions to make your brain think stuffing instead of quiche.

View the recipe.

3. Butternut Squash Baked with Cream and Thyme

AND CHEESE is not in the title, because it was getting too long, but rest assured there is plenty of cheesy deliciousness in this gratin. I love to make a rich, filling vegetable side like this because it can do double duty as a main dish for the vegetarians. But if lots of folks are going to eat mostly this, then double the recipe.

View the recipe.

4.  Spiced Orange Cranberry Sauce

The orange zest and cloves make this tangy, gorgeous cranberry sauce taste like the smell of a pomander—you know, one of those oranges stuck with cloves that you maybe made your grandma when you were small. And I mean that in a good way.

View the recipe.

Other holiday recipes:

Rosemary Roasted Pecans

Creamy Mashed Cauliflower

Lemony One-Pan Green Beans

Everyone’s Favorite Salad

Double-Crunch Kale Slaw

About Catherine

Catherine loves to write about food and feeding people. In addition to her recipe and parenting blog Ben & Birdy (which has about 15,000 weekly readers), she edits the ChopChop series of mission-driven cooking magazines. This kids’ cooking magazine won the James Beard Publication of the Year award in 2013 – the first non-profit ever to win it – and a Parents’ Choice Gold Award. She also helped develop Sprout, a WIC version of the magazine for families enrolled in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), as well as Seasoned, their senior version. They distribute over a million magazines annually, through paid subscriptions, doctor’s offices, schools, and hospitals. Their mission started with obesity as its explicit focus – and has shifted, over the years, to a more holistic one, with health, happiness, and real food at its core. That’s the same vibe Catherine brings to the diaTribe column.

[Photo Credit: Catherine Newman]