Have a Holly Healthy Christmas – Tasty and Healthy Side Dish Recipes for the Holiday Season By Dr Aimee Harris-Newon, Psy.D., DABPS, C.HT.

Seems like we’ve just digested Thanksgiving and now we are fully underway with the Christmas Holiday season. While delicious but heavy and carb rich foods tempt us at every turn, here are some healthier options for salads and side dishes that will keep the whole family satisfied and healthfully nourished at meals times this busy time of year.

Stuffed Acorn Squash with Hazelnuts, Quinoa, and Kale

For the squash:

  • 2 large acorn squash
  • 1 TBSP avocado oil
  • salt and pepper

For the filling:

  • 1 TBSP olive oil
  • ½ small yellow onion, diced
  • ¾ cup quinoa
  • 1½ cups water (or low sodium vegetable broth)
  • ¼ tsp. kosher salt
  • ⅛ tsp. black pepper, to taste
  • 3 cups loosely packed chopped kale leaves (or chard, or beet greens)
  • ¾ cup roasted and skinned hazelnuts, roughly chopped*
  • ¼-1/2 cup dried cranberries, to taste


For the squash:

Preheat oven to 400Fand halve the acorn squashes lengthwise down the middle. Scoop out the seeds. Place the squash cut-side up on a rimmed baking sheet (line with foil or parchment for easier clean-up) and drizzle with avocado oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper, and roast for about 45 minutes, or until the squash are fork tender.


While the squash is roasting, prepare the filling. In a large skillet, heat 1 TBSP avocado oil. Add the onion, and cook for about five minutes, or until softened and translucent. Add the kale (or chard, or beet greens) and let cook for another minute or two, or until slightly wilted.

Add the quinoa, salt and pepper, and water. Bring to a simmer, then cover and reduce the heat to low. Let cook for about 15-20 minutes, or until the water has been absorbed and the quinoa is tender. Remove the lid and fluff with a fork. Taste, and adjust seasoning with more salt and pepper if necessary.

When the squash has finished roasting, stir the hazelnuts and cranberries into the filling and spoon into the center of each squash. (If you have any extra filling, it can be stored in a small container and is great as is, or over a salad.)Return the squash to the oven for another 5-10 minutes. Serve hot.

Loaded Grilled Cauliflower

  • 2 large heads cauliflower
  • 1/4 c. avocado oil
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 c. shredded cheddar
  • Ranch dressing, for drizzling
  • 8 slices cooked bacon, crumbled
  • 2 tbsp. finely chopped chives


Remove and discard leaves from each cauliflower head, then trim stem so that the cauliflower can lie flat on cutting board. (Leave the core intact!)

Cut each cauliflower into thick “steaks” about 3/4″ thick. Reserve any loose florets to cook with the steaks. In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, garlic powder, and paprika. Season mixture with salt and pepper.

Heat a grill or grill pan to medium. Brush one side of each steak with avocado oil mixture and place the brushed side down on the grill. Brush the top sides with olive oil mixture and cook until tender and both sides are charred in spots, about 8 minutes per side. Top each cauliflower with cheese and cook until melted.

Toss any extra florets in the avocado oil mixture and grill, turning often, until charred and tender, about 6 minutes.

Drizzle cauliflower with ranch dressing, then sprinkle cooked bacon and chives on top.

Crab-Stuffed Mushrooms

  • 24 medium (blank)s fresh cremini mushrooms, stems removed
  • ½ cup chopped hearts of palm
  • 5 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh tarragon
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • ¾ teaspoon Creole seasoning
  • 1 clove garlic, grated
  • 8 ounces fresh lump crabmeat, drained and picked over
  • 3 tablespoons whole-wheat panko breadcrumbs
  • 2 teaspoons avocado oil
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Lemon wedges for serving


Position a rack in upper third of oven. Preheat to 425F. Place mushroom caps, gill-sides down, on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast until the mushrooms begin to release their juices and are tender when pierced with a paring knife, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine hearts of palm, mayonnaise, chives, tarragon, lemon juice, Creole seasoning and garlic in a medium bowl; stir until well blended. Add crab; stir gently to combine.

Adjust oven temperature to low broil. Turn the mushrooms over and stuff each mushroom cap with 1 tablespoon of the crab mixture. Combine panko, oil and salt in a small bowl, sprinkle evenly over the mushrooms. Broil until the crab mixture is warmed through and the breadcrumbs are crisp and deeply browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer the mushrooms to a serving platter; serve immediately with lemon wedges.

Sweet Potato Salad

  • 3 large, sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed (about 2 lb.)
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced into half moons
  • 2 tbsp. avocado oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 c. dried cranberries
  • 1/2 c. crumbled feta
  • 1/4 c. freshly chopped parsley


  • 2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp. honey
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp. ground paprika
  • 1/4 c. avocado oil


Preheat oven to 400°F. On a large, rimmed baking sheet, toss sweet potatoes and red onion in oil then season with salt and pepper.

Distribute them evenly on sheet in a single layer. Bake until tender, about 20 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes then transfer to a large bowl.

Meanwhile, make dressing: In a small bowl or in a medium liquid measuring cup, whisk together vinegar, mustard, honey, and spices. Gradually pour in oil, whisking constantly until emulsified. Season with salt and pepper.

Toss sweet potatoes with dressing, cranberries, feta, and parsley. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Roasted Pear and Gorgonzola Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette


  • 3 TBSP good-quality balsamic vinegar
  • 1 TBSP maple syrup
  • 1 tsp. dijon mustard
  • 1/2-3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • pinch of salt, to taste

Whisk together all the ingredients except the olive oil and salt. While whisking, pour in the olive oil. Start with a half cup and adjust to taste. Add a pinch of salt, to taste. Cover and place in the fridge until ready to use. Whisk well before using. (Dressing can be made up to a week in advance.)


  • 4 firm, not-quite ripe pears (I used bartlett, but use what you like)
  • 1 TBSP butter, melted (or coconut oil)
  • 1 TBSP dark brown sugar
  • 3/4-1 cup walnuts, or pecans
  • 8 cups or so of mixed salad greens (I used arugula, spinach, red leaf lettuce, and baby kale, but frisee, radicchio, chard, and escarole are all in season in the fall, too)
  • 1/4-1/2 cup dried cranberries, or cherries
  • 1/4-1/2 cup gorgonzola cheese, or other crumbly blue cheese
  • Preheat the oven to 400F and line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment.

Cut the pears into wedges and remove the stems and cores. Toss with the melted butter and brown sugar and spread onto prepared baking sheet. Roast for 10-12 minutes, or until just tender (not mushy)

Meanwhile, place the walnuts (or pecans) into a dry skillet over medium heat. Toast for 6-8 minutes, or until warm and flavorful. Give the pan a shake, or stir the nuts, every couple of minutes to keep them from burning — keep your eye on them! Combine your mixed greens, dried cranberries (or cherries), and crumbled cheese. When you are ready to serve, add the toasted nuts and roasted pears, while still warm. (You can keep your pears in wedges, as I did, or cut them into bite-sized pieces for easier eating.) Toss with dressing, to taste, and serve immediately.

About the Author

Dr. Aimee Harris-Newon Psy.D., DABPS, C.HT. is a double board certified integrative and interventional psychologist, entrepreneur, author, speaker, and master success coach. She’s considered an expert in integrative health and believes in a holistic approach-treating the body and the mind. She leads a very successful integrative and functional health and wellness practice, serving clients locally and internationally. She and her multidisciplinary team focus on wellness, preventive care and coaching to help people live healthier, happier and more satisfying lives. What makes her truly unique and exceptional is her broad and deep skill set and her approach to health and wellness.

As the founder and director of Dr. Aimee and Associates, and now The Center for Integrative and Functional Health and Wellness, Dr. Aimee Harris-Newon and her team of experts don’t just treat symptoms, they solve health problems, create better outcomes and change lives. Dr. Aimee Harris-Newon also hosts the popular radio show, Mind Over Matters on AM 820, which airs every Sunday morning at 10 a.m. CST.For more info visit https://www.thecifhw.com/