'Tis the season for comforting casseroles and sugary treats! If you want to enjoy seasonal flavors and foods without all the calories, we’ve got good news. Three of the Y’s Registered Dietitians put a healthier spin on their families' favorite holiday dishes. Read on for recipes you can feel good about bringing to gatherings or serving at home.

Green Bean Casserole — Jen Hartman

Growing up, I remember several dishes my family served at every big holiday gathering. One of them was the ever-popular green bean casserole. I helped mom and grandma make it every year.

Nutritionally speaking, traditional green bean casserole recipes are high in unhealthy fat, sodium, and calories. Most versions are made with canned creamed soups, processed and fried French onions, and sour cream or shredded cheese for extra creaminess.

In my recipe makeover of this classic dish, I use fresh, whole ingredients to create a healthier, lower fat and lower calorie version without sacrificing the beloved flavor.

  • 1 pound green beans (fresh or frozen)
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil or butter
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 8 ounces mushrooms, sliced (baby bella mushrooms work great, but white button mushrooms are good, too!)
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth (you could substitute vegetable broth)
  • 1 cup reduced fat milk
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For the crispy onion topping:

  • 1 medium onion, quartered and sliced
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Heat 2 teaspoons olive oil or butter in a pan. Add 3 cloves of minced garlic and sauté until fragrant.
  2. Add mushrooms to pan and cook for 5 minutes.
  3. Add 1/2 cup broth and simmer. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Slowly add 1 cup milk. Whisk and bring to boil.
  5. While stirring milk with whisk, add flour slowly. Stir until smooth. Simmer until thickened.
  6. Add green beans. Stir mixture gently until combined. Pour into 9x13 casserole pan.
  7. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.
  8. Take casserole out of oven and top with crispy onion topping. Return to oven for 5 minutes.

To make crispy onion topping:

  1. Heat olive oil in pan over medium heat. Add onions and heat until caramelized.
  2. Combine 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs, 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese in a small bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Once onions are caramelized, toss them with the bread crumb mixture until evenly coated.
  4. Spread onions evenly on a baking sheet and cook in oven at 350 degrees until crispy (5-10 minutes).

Cranberry Compote — Christy Tapocsi

Thanksgiving is one of my favorites. It focuses on family, gratitude, and traditions. Most of the traditions come in the form of food.

Growing up, my family ate the kind of jellied cranberries where you just open up the can and dump the sauce on a plate. As I began cooking more and learning about nutrition, this was one of the dishes I wanted to update.

I came up with a lower-sugar, fresh recipe as a cranberry sauce substitute—cutting the calories and keeping the tradition. This cranberry compote comes together very fast and is super tasty. We now serve my recipe at Thanksgiving meals.

  • 12 oz bag of fresh cranberries
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest; (save 1 teaspoon for garnish)
  • 1/2 large orange, juiced
  • 4 ounces unsweetened applesauce
  • 2/3 cup apple juice
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  1. Put all ingredients into a sauce pot over high heat.
  2. Bring to a boil.
  3. Once it begins to boil, reduce to simmer and cook until cranberries burst and thicken (or about 20 minutes). Cover or use splatter guard to reduce splattering and potential staining.
  4. Garnish with orange zest and cinnamon stick and enjoy!

Sweet Potato Casserole — Lindsey Joe

Casseroles are a southern staple, especially during the holidays. Even growing up second generation Chinese-American, my siblings and I always enjoyed the all-American sides my mom cooked for us during this most wonderful time of year. One of my favorites was her sweet potato casserole.

Sweet potatoes are a great source of fiber and potassium, and are high in vitamins A and C. Unfortunately, all the nutritious qualities get covered up by the extra sugar and fat called for in her original recipe.

But with just a few simple tweaks, I made a favorite family recipe healthier while still maintaining a great flavor. Now we can enjoy the reason for the season and celebrate guilt-free!

  • 3 cups sweet potato, mashed 
  • 1 egg + 2 egg whites
  • 1/3 cup applesauce
  • 1/2 cup fat-free milk
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

For the topping:

  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons almond flour
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup pecans, chopped
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the sweet potatoes, eggs, applesauce, milk, sugar, salt, vanilla and cinnamon.
  3. Pour the mixture into a greased casserole dish.
  4. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the remaining sugar, almond flour, butter and pecans until the butter has melted and the ingredients are well combined.
  5. Spread over the top of the casserole mixture.
  6. Bake for 25 minutes and enjoy!

Hungry for more?

View more delicious, nutritious recipes on our healthy living blog. Let us help you reach your wellness goals!