Heart Healthy Christmas Meal Menu Ideas

Melanie Thomassian Health Pro

    If you are hosting a get-together this Christmas holiday, you won't want to be spending every single second slogging over a hot stove, right?  


    Well, I've got some easy, healthy Christmas menu suggestions to help you get organised, and fast!


    I've included a few Mediterranean-style suggestions along with the more traditional Christmas fare, because we all know food at this time of year does tend to be heavy and fattening. However, Mediterranean food is extremely heart healthy. 


    So, if you fancy trying something a little different from the norm, here are my healthy Christmas menu suggestions:

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    Holiday appetizer ideas

    You should try to keep appetizers on the simple side to save yourself some time. However, simple doesn't need to mean boring.


    Here are a few appetizer suggestions:


    • Smoked salmon, served on radish slices, topped with reduced fat cream cheese and chives
    • Dates and walnuts
    • Apricot halves, topped with reduced fat cream cheese, and crushed pistachio nuts
    • Dips and vegetable crudites 
    • Mediterranean option — green olive and almond tapenade, served with wholegrain crackers for dipping. Or, Greek salad skewers with cucumber, feta cheese, olives and tomatoes


    Holiday main ideas


    • Apple and leek stuffed pork
    • Herb roasted turkey
    • Whole citrusy salmon
    • Beef fillet
    • Vegetarian ideas — stuffed artichoke, stuffed bell peppers, or a nut roast


    Holiday side dish ideas

    Plan for at least three side dishes, for a well-rounded meal, and to make sure your plate looks colourful and interesting.


    A salad, one green vegetable, like Brussels sprouts or green beans, and some carrots or red cabbage, will work really well. Then add a starchy dish, like squash or sweet potatoes, and you are all set.


    Mediterranean option — try some roasted vegetables, such as zucchini, peppers, eggplant and red onion, drizzled with a little olive oil, some fresh herbs, and cracked black pepper. Also, rather than serving creamy mashed potatoes, you could go for some roasted potato wedges tossed in olive oil and crushed garlic.


    Holiday dessert ideas

    Even if you are watching your waistline, what would your holiday meal be like without dessert? The secret is watching your portion size, and not overdoing it with drinks and snacks at other times — in other words, saving up those extra calories so that you can enjoy a little dessert.


    If you are short on time, choose a dessert recipe that can be prepared in advance, so that you have a few less things to worry about later on.


    Here is a very nice alternative to traditional pie, from Eating Well. This recipe calls for cranberries, but you could also use apples, pears, peaches, plums or any slightly acidic fruit. 


    Cranberry Upside-Down Cake


    Serves 10 

    Prep time: 30 minutes

    Total time: 1 hour 50 minutes (including 15 minutes cooling time)



    3/4 cup packed light brown sugar

    4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, divided

    2 tablespoons plus 1/4 cup fresh orange juice, divided

  • 1 12-ounce bag fresh or frozen (thawed) cranberries (about 3 cups)

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    3/4 cup whole-wheat pastry flour

    3/4 cup all-purpose flour

    2 teaspoons baking powder

    1/4 teaspoon salt

    2 large eggs, at room temperature

    1/3 cup canola oil

    1 cup granulated sugar

    1 teaspoon vanilla extract

    1/2 cup low-fat milk, at room temperature

    Whipped cream for garnish




    • Preheat oven to 350°F.
    • Heat brown sugar, 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons orange juice in a large (12-inch) cast-iron or regular skillet over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the butter melts and the mixture starts to bubble. Let cool. Coat the sides of the skillet with cooking spray.
    • Bring the remaining 1/4 cup orange juice and cranberries to a simmer in a medium saucepan, stirring often, until about half the cranberries have popped. Pour evenly over the cooled brown sugar mixture in the skillet.
    • Whisk whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl.
    • Separate egg whites and yolks. Place the yolks in a large bowl and add the remaining 2 tablespoons butter, oil, granulated sugar and vanilla. Beat with an electric mixer or stand mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Stir in the flour mixture alternately with milk, using a rubber spatula, starting and ending with the flour. Stir just until the flour is incorporated. Beat the egg whites in a clean dry mixing bowl with clean dry beaters on medium-high speed until they hold soft peaks. Fold one-third of the egg whites into the batter, then gently fold in the rest until almost no white streaks remain. Spread the batter over the cranberries.
    • Bake until the top is golden brown and the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan, 30 to 40 minutes. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the pan and carefully invert the cake onto a serving plate. Let cool for at least 30 minutes more before serving. Serve warm or room temperature. Garnish with low fat natural yogurt, if liked. 


    What are your favorite Christmas menu ideas?


    Melanie Thomassian is a registered dietitian, and author of Dietriffic.com. If you need help implementing a healthier lifestyle, check out her new guide, The Healthy Eating Handbook.


Published On: December 11, 2010