During the holiday season, it can seem that everywhere we turn there’s refined sugar and white flour tossed together with processed vegetable oils—all of which can be inflammatory for our bodies. I used to feel anxious before seasonal parties, fearing I wouldn’t be able to find anything to munch on or drink throughout the night. This went on for way too many years before I started bringing a healthy dish to every get-together so I could relax, knowing there was something I could enjoy.
If you can relate, have no fear. I’ve gathered 30 delicious, clean recipes from across the web that can be used for any holiday gathering or festivity. Each contains healthy ingredients that don’t leave you bloated and lethargic the next day. From savory appetizers to sweet desserts and even mocktails, everything is filled with flavor and perfect for impressing guests. People will never guess these treats are actually good for them!
If you’re looking to create a full holiday menu, I suggest choosing one or two recipes from each category. And if you have any questions, I’m happy to help. Just send me a direct message on Instagram @amievalpone. Here’s to a happy and healthy holiday season!
Dips and Savory Bites
Italian Stuffed Mushrooms
Stuffed mushrooms are a perfect no-utensils option. These are filled with a mix of breadcrumbs, garlic, and Italian seasonings, which provide some antioxidants. For more anti-inflammatory power, try replacing the breadcrumbs with finely chopped walnuts. As a bonus, this will add a meaty texture and omega-3 fatty acids to the dish.
Homemade Vegan Queso
The typical hummus and vegetable platter is lovely, but it can get boring when it’s at party after party. Switch things up with a dip made from sweet roasted butternut squash and creamy cashews, which lend a dose of fiber and protein to every bite. You can serve this queso with any gluten-free, whole-grain crackers.
Mini Tahini Beet Canapes
These cute little canapes are great for a finger food option. They’re loaded with antioxidants from the naturally sweet roasted beets and provide a healthy amount of protein from the fluffy quinoa and creamy tahini. Plus, the combination of protein and good fats means they help stabilize blood sugar—perfect for those hungry guests who arrive ravenous and need something to munch on immediately.
Marinated Green Harissa Olives
These olives are so easy to prepare. It’s amazing how the simple addition of garlic, lemon, and a few herbs can elevate a standard party appetizer. Parsley is one of my favorite fresh herbs because it’s filled with flavor and is chock full of vitamins A and C, both of which are ideal for keeping our immune systems healthy during the chilly winter season.
Easy Goat Cheese Appetizer
There’s something so pretty about black sesame seeds—and they will make guests want to dive into these cute goat cheese balls. But not only do they look fabulous, many people find goat cheese easier to digest than cow’s cheese. Just make sure to check the ingredients on the dried cherries package to ensure they don’t contain added sugars.
Shrimp Cocktail with Smoky Remoulade
You may associate vegetables and fruit with antioxidants, but shrimp are also a good source of these free-radical fighters. In particular, shrimp contain astaxanthin, which has anti-inflammatory properties. They’re also a great source of protein and have high amounts of selenium and B12, which support thyroid health. This recipe uses cream fraiche in the remoulade, but if you follow a dairy-free diet, you can easily use your favorite non-dairy plain yogurt.
Spiced Holiday Nuts
Every holiday table needs spiced nuts, not only because they taste amazing, but also because they’re a nice plant-based source of some protein and fiber. And they’re so simple to make. You just melt butter, add spices, and then coat the nuts before roasting them. When shopping for nuts, purchase raw nuts—the only ingredient should be the nuts, no added oils or salt.
Butternut Squash Tartine
The contrast of orange from the butternut squash and bright green from the arugula makes these tartines absolutely beautiful. I often tell my clients who have PMS or other hormonal imbalances to eat more liver-supporting foods like arugula during the stress of the holidays, as their detoxification powers may help ease those symptoms. These tartines can be served warm when the squash is right out of the oven, so I suggest making them right before your guests arrive.
Roasted Grape Crostini
Roasted red grapes and balsamic vinegar make these crostini perfectly sweet without any refined sugars. Grapes are a source of vitamin K, something we all need for healthy bones. And the walnuts on top add a dose of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids.
This easy holiday guac is another great dip to serve with gluten-free, whole-grain crackers or tender roasted vegetables such as cauliflower. The addition of toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds) and pomegranate seeds gives it a festive touch and, along with the avocado, makes this dip a tasty way to get some much-needed fiber.
Winter Harvest Endive Cups
Endive leaves are an excellent low-calorie package to hold tasty fillings. In this case, it’s a festively colored blend of celery, pomegranate seeds, pistachios (I recommend raw nuts to avoid added oils and salt), parsley, and blue cheese, all drizzled with a honey-mustard vinaigrette. Given that many party apps are on the heavy side, these are a welcome light option.
Basil Chicken Meatballs
Guests will never know that these delicious meatballs with spinach, garlic, feta, and basil are actually healthy! They’re baked rather than fried, and a good source of iron and choline. Choline is an essential nutrient that our bodies need to regulate mood, memory, and muscle control, and to make the membranes for our cells.
Vegan Jalapeño Poppers
Most popper recipes call for cream cheese and deep frying. Not these—but they taste just as good. These hot peppers are filled with a homemade cashew-based cheese made with nutritional yeast, which adds that umami flavor and some vitamin B12, a nutrient that can be hard for vegans to get.
Sweets and Desserts
Dark Chocolate Chunk Oatmeal Cookie Bars
The best part about these cookie bars is that they’re loaded with roasted cashews, which lend so much flavor. Add to that a cup of quinoa and walnuts, and you’ve got a fair amount of protein and fiber in every bite. Lastly, there are no refined sugars in sight—these bars get their sweetness from dates and vanilla extract.
Vegan Brownies with Chocolate Ganache
These no-bake brownies are made from nuts, unsweetened cocoa powder, and dates, which are an excellent natural sweetener that won’t spike your blood sugar. The ganache contains a little added sugar, but we all need a treat once in a while, right?
Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies
Who doesn’t love a chocolate chip cookie for the holidays? Rather than refined sugars and flour, these are made with maple syrup plus coconut and almond flours. What I love about almond flour is that it’s full of biotin and vitamin E, both of which are ideal for healthy, youthful skin.
These taste like the foil-wrapped brand you know, but they’re so much better for you. Cashews, coconut oil, agave, almond milk, and peppermint extract combine to make the filling. Then all you do is melt some chocolate, dip, and let them freeze. If you avoid dairy, use dairy-free chocolate chips.
This might just be the easiest dessert you’ll ever make. It calls for three ingredients: bananas, unsweetened cacao powder, and almond butter. You’ve got natural sweetness, crave-able chocolate flavor, and even a touch of protein in one dish. Try serving it in shot glasses for a crowd.
Making these tiny snowballs is one of the quickest ways to whip up a dessert when you’re in a pinch and scrambling to make something sweet to serve your guests. The base is lots of coconut: shredded coconut (make sure to purchase unsweetened so you don’t end up with refined sugars in your dessert), coconut oil, and coconut milk. Don’t be scared: Coconut may help increase “good” HDL cholesterol.
Orange Walnut Bread Bites
These sweet bites are super cute to serve on toothpicks for the holidays. The almond flour base adds a natural hint of sweet, while orange juice and zest make them super citrusy. Best of all, there’s the holiday note of cinnamon and cloves—and no refined sugars.
You would never mistake these for Fig Newtons. Made from figs, sunflower seeds, oats, coconut oil, and spices and drizzled in dark chocolate, they are a great snack or dessert. Naturally sweet figs are a source of potassium, a mineral many of us need more of because there’s so much sodium in many of the packaged, processed foods we eat. Consuming more potassium and less sodium can benefit heart health.
Coconut Cream Bars
If you love coconut, you’re going to love these bars. They’re creamy and decadent because they’re made from coconut butter, and the flour-less base by itself would make a great bar. Coconut is a good source of fiber, plus it contains lauric acid. This fat may promote better sleep.
Superfood Chocolate Bark
Consider gifting this to the host of any holiday get-together. Pistachios and almonds add crunch, fiber, and some protein, while chewy superfood goji berries add antioxidants. Be sure to use dark chocolate chips for more heart-healthy flavanols and less sugar. (Read the ingredients list on the chocolate chip bag if you avoid dairy, as some dark chocolate chips contain milk.)
White Hot Chocolate
White hot chocolate is the ultimate comfort on a snowy day—or for a party. This dairy-free version is made from coconut milk and cashew butter, both of which add a creamy consistency, satisfying healthy fats, and a lot of flavor. Maple syrup and vanilla extract add a touch of sweet, and, if you wish, you can top with marshmallows for an extra treat.
Warm Christmas Glogg
You don’t need wine to make this warm, spicy beverage. Just use unsweetened fruit juice instead and load it with fresh ginger, cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods, and cloves. The smell alone will make your mouth water. But stirring in almonds, walnuts, and raisins makes for beautiful presentation and adds even more antioxidants.
It’s certainly not the holidays without eggnog. But many people cannot tolerate dairy or eggs. This recipe uses coconut milk instead and gets its yellow hue from turmeric. This root is one of the most powerful ingredients for fighting inflammation, so give yourself an extra pinch or two, and be sure to include the black pepper too. Research suggests it increases your body’s ability to absorb the antioxidant in turmeric by 2,000 percent.
A traditional Michelada is made with beer. This version uses the fermented drink kombucha instead, so you get some gut-friendly probiotics. These “good” bacteria help with gastrointestinal problems such as irritable bowel syndrome and diarrhea and also help support a balanced microbiome when taking antiobiotics.
Choco Banana Chai Latte
You’ve never had a latte like this one! A lovely alternative to coffee or cappuccino, it gets its creaminess from overripe bananas and almond milk. Sample it before adding the coconut sugar—the bananas may add all the sweetness you desire. Have it alone or with dessert after your holiday meal.
Virgin Garden Mary
For those looking for a savory drink option, look no further. The vegetable juice base (choose a low-sodium brand) is loaded with vitamin C, while celery, cucumbers, and carrot juice add some fiber. And don’t forget the classic touch of heat from horseradish, hot sauce, and black pepper.
Homemade Spiced Apple Cider
I guarantee your home will smell incredible from making this cider. And it tastes even better because it’s made from apples, orange, cinnamon sticks, nutmeg, and cloves—nothing fake or processed. Finally, a cider where you can taste the apples rather than a bunch of added sugars!
>>Amie Valpone is the founder of AmieValpone.com and best-selling author of the cookbook Eating Clean: The 21-Day Plan to Detox, Fight Inflammation, and Reset Your Body.