Mashed potatoes, noodle kugels, baked ziti — every culture seems to have its share of stick-to-your-ribs side dishes for wintertime gatherings. Yet too often these treasured dishes rely on simple carbs that are lacking in nutrients and fiber. This holiday season, update traditional white potatoes and noodle recipes  for sides that rely on healthier ingredients, without sacrificing any “comfort food” satisfaction.

“Root” for the Rainbow

As with other vegetables, the more nutrient-dense root veggies can often be identified by the intensity of their color. Side dishes containing orange, green and other intense hues tend to have a wider array of health benefits than mashed white potatoes and creamed onions. Those classic white veggies have their share of nutritional benefits, but in cold months antioxidants are even more important.

Photo by Cala

A number of colorful veggies take well to being mashed or roasted in cubes, from broccoli and eggplant, to carrots, beets, Brussels sprouts, rutabagas and parsnips. Add some smaller roots into the mix, such as ginger pieced or roasted radishes, for color, flavor and an antioxidant boost.

If you traditionally serve yam or sweet potato sides, you’ve already got one great sub for mashed white potatoes. But instead of the “candied” yams, choose a version that doesn’t rely on heavy helpings of sugar and butter. Start with mashed orange spuds that get mixed with minimal butter and low-fat milk, then baked with a topping of oats or pecans, resulting in a dish that’s a bounty of fiber and vitamins.

Pasta Pizazz

Instead of the super-rich noodle kugels of the Chanukah meal — or the cheese-topped, ziti-based behemoths that grace so many Italian-American holiday tables — consider healthier, more colorful versions.

Photo by Eaters Collective

For Christmas colors, cook up some spinach bow-ties, then add sun-dried tomatoes, roasted red peppers, chopped basil, olive oil and part-skim mozzarella. Or reverse the color scheme by topping red pepper ravioli with green pesto sauce.

If you need your kugel or ziti alternative to be hearty enough to serve as the main entree at your festive table, a pasta dish featuring a healthy protein is a great stand-in. Combining whole-grain linguini with shrimp and mussels, and topping with red marinara sauce and green herbs, results in a main course that pairs substance with health.


Header image by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash