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Traditional Favorite Sides with a Healthy Twist

Recently, Grant posted a helpful article on alternative low carb side dishes. I wanted to share some other great side dish ideas that you might want to consider.

We all look forward to our traditional holiday side dishes like mashed potatoes and gravy, green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole and don’t forget the cranberry relish. It’s the same thing year after year but what happens when you start to focus on a healthy diet? It’s really simple, just change things up a bit. Let’s check out how we can redo those old favorites and continue to enjoy a healthy midlife all year long.

Sideline Mashed Potatoes and Gravy and Think Cauliflower

Try mashed cauliflower as an alternative to mashed potatoes.
Try mashed cauliflower as an alternative to mashed potatoes.

Ditch the potatoes and embrace the cauliflower. I started making mashed potatoes with cauliflower a few years back and everyone loves it. It’s a great way to get more cruciferous vegetables in your diet and still feel the comfort food joy of the mashed potatoes.

Boil a head of cauliflower, then mash or put in food processor with a little cream cheese or fat free sour cream until you have a smooth potato-like texture. You can thicken the “potatoes” a bit with a tablespoon or so of almond flour if you wish. I like to add garlic, Parmesan cheese, onion, salt and pepper to add even more flavor.

Now, the gravy is simple. All you really need is the pan drippings, a little water, a sprinkle of whole wheat flour and a saucepan over medium high heat. Get the liquid bubbling and let it reduce by half and you’ll have a tasty, rich gravy with hardly any carbs.

Here is a video from Ocean Mist Farms I found on creating Roasted Garlic Mashed Cauliflower.

Create a Healthier Green Bean Casserole

If you must have the creamy crunchy traditional green bean casserole, you can with just a couple small changes. All you need to do is eliminate those processed ingredients and substitute the real things.

Once you have your green beans cooking and your seasonings ready, you just need the creamy sauce to bring it all together. You can create your own creamy soup by making a simple white sauce using milk and almond flour to thicken. Try stirring in a bit of cream cheese to give it an even creamier texture. I start with a cup of milk and slowly add the flour until I get the desired consistency.

As for those crunchy onions on top, oven fry some thinly cut onion that has been coated lightly with olive oil. When they get golden brown, toss them into and on top of the casserole for all the flavor without heavy carbs.

Here is another way to create a green bean casserole that is diabetic friendly from Tova Searleman of Diabetic Survival Toolkit.

Sweet Potato Casserole with a Pumpkin Twist

This favorite side dish is a bit of a challenge but can be done. Sweet potatoes are loaded with carbohydrates. One quick trick for bringing the carb count down is to mix pureed pumpkin in with the sweet potatoes. You’ll maintain the texture and flavor (pureed pumpkin doesn’t have any flavor of its own), and bring the carbs down within a reasonable amount.

In an effort to avoid as much sugar as possible, one alternative is to stir in a bit of artificial sweetener, just enough to bring the sweetness to a level that you’re used to. Try topping your casserole with cinnamon sugar pecans. I like to coat my pecans with egg white, cinnamon and a little sugar and bake them on low for about 40 minutes until crunchy and then sprinkle on top of your casserole.

Cranberry Relish with an Orange A”peel”

We usually don’t fill our plate with cranberry relish but the sugar in the traditional side is so high it doesn’t take much to pack on the calories. Keep your cranberry relish simple and fresh.

Try bulking up your bag of raw cranberries with low carb ingredients like oranges and orange peel. Surprisingly, the peel of the orange is lower in carbs than the fruit itself. Fill your food processor with raw cranberries and the peels of several washed oranges and process until finely chopped. Next, add sections of the orange, tasting after a few are processed, and stop adding when you have a nice blend of tangy and sweet. Lastly, add a sprinkle of artificial sweetener until you’ve gotten the sweetness you like. You’ll be surprised how little sugar you’ll have to add if you taste it first.

So, you can still have the things you love with a few minor modifications. But isn’t that true with just about everything once you enter midlife? Just stop and rethink your ingredients, make a few substitutions and viola you have something healthier and just as tasty. Just think, you may even be creating new healthy holiday dinner traditions for the next generation.

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