Holiday Recipe Alternatives

It’s upon us! Holiday season is just about here. Thanksgiving is next week!

As you plan your dish to pass or your family meal, try out some of Dr. Samelak’s favorite recipes for delicious and healthy side dishes.

Not Your Grandmother’s Brussel Sprouts

Brussel sprouts are one of my favorite holiday sides, but not the flavorless, boiled kind I grew up with. Instead, I love oven roasted, garlic brussel sprouts. They are savory, delicious, and have a great crisp yet tender texture.



Brussel Sprouts, trimmed and rinsed

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Garlic Powder

Finely Ground Black Pepper

Coarse Sea Salt


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Trim and rinse brussel sprouts, removing the external leaves so that they are tightly packed and the leaves are green. Cut them in half longways and lay them, cut side up, on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. I like to keep them close together so that they are pretty crowded on the sheet.

Drizzle olive oil over the sprouts- enough to cover them without drenching them.

Sprinkle the sprouts with garlic powder, salt, and pepper to taste.

Place the baking sheet in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until the sprouts are slightly browned at the edges. The side touching the parchment paper should also be browned.

Serve while hot.

These are always a hit at my family gatherings and I can never seem to make enough!

Cauliflower, Garlic Roasted Mashed Potatoes

Mashed potatoes are one of the holiday staples. However, they are starchy and can easily spike blood sugar. I love to combine cauliflower and potatoes to add a little more nutrition to the dish, while keeping the same great taste.


1 head of Garlic

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 head of Cauliflower

4 cups of peeled, diced Red Potatoes

Butter or facsimile

Milk or non-dairy alternative

Salt/Pepper to taste


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.


Take a head of garlic and slice off the top. Drizzle it with olive oil and wrap it with aluminum foil. Bake until the garlic is translucent and soft.

While the garlic is roasting, steam the cauliflower until it is soft and boil the potatoes until they are fork tender.

Squeeze the garlic out of the cloves. Place the cauliflower, potatoes, garlic, butter, and milk into a stand mixer and whip until smooth. Add salt/pepper to taste.

Real Cranberry Sauce

Forget jellied cranberries or cranberry sauce from a can! You won’t look back once you try this recipe. One thing I love about it is that I can make it as sweet or tart as the audience prefers.berries-1851161_1920


Fresh Cranberries

Apple Cider

Sugar or Agave Nectar to taste


Place a saucepan on the stove and add in rinsed and sorted cranberries. Add in 1/4 to 1/2 cup of apple cider. Turn on the heat to medium and stir continuously until the berries pop. When the berries are all soft, taste the cranberry sauce and begin to add your sweetener of choice by the teaspoon until it is sweetened to taste.

Cranberry sauce will thicken as it cools. It will keep several days and is an excellent dish to make ahead of time.

These are a few of my favorite holiday dishes. They trim some of the sugar and starch out of the holiday, while keeping all the flavor.

And, who knows, you may just find that you LOVE brussel sprouts!!!


Holiday Survival Guide

The Holidays are upon us! Thanksgiving has passed and we are welcoming the onslaught of holiday parties with Family, Food, and Cheer… Though if we are honest most of us have a love/hate relationship with the holidays.


Love the family time → hate how family knows how to push all the right buttons

Love the food → hate how clothes fit later

Love the cheer →  but who can be happy all the time?

Thankfully, I have devised tactics to combat this love/hate relationship to leave us with bigger smiles and (hopefully) intact waistlines after the holiday season.

Family Time

I love family meals. I love the people. I love spending time with loved ones who know all my stories and love me for them… but this is also the downfall. Many times family can’t help but bring up the embarrassing or hurtful stories in a way that is meant to be funny, but awakens some old hurt you swore was gone long ago.

After years of this, I have finally found a counter-tactic. Rather than reminiscing about days past, I come prepared with a game to play (a prize is a plus) These help to build our relationships rather than relying on past interactions.  I also bring at least one question to ask each family member- who doesn’t like to be an expert in their own topic or talk about themselves!



The food at the holidays is nothing less than decadent.  It is entirely too easy to over-indulge. There are work parties, neighbors give cookies, family parties, friends have ugly sweater parties, and the list goes on. With all of this, our good habits from the rest of the year are often thrown out the window and we eat more cookies than we planned, drink in excess, and have just one more helping at dinner.

In past years, I have gained a rather large amount of weight over the holidays which I immediately try and banish with workouts and an endless march of salads in January.

The last 2 years I have planned ahead. When going to parties, I eat a small salad or some veggies before leaving the house. I offer to bring a dish to pass that is low in sugar and high on taste. If the meal is buffet style or appetizers only, plate food instead of grazing and always choose the smallest plate. If seated, put your fork down between bites! Cookies… I haven’t found anything too fool-proof here. The variety is my Achilles heel- I want to try them all! What I attempt to do is take only 1-2 cookies and split them with my husband.

Holiday drinks are often high in sugar and very rich, so I always aim for a glass of dry wine that is easier to sip than drink or a fill a glass with ice before adding any cocktail. Staying hydrated is also key- always have a glass of water at your place in addition to your drink.

Moderation in all things is the goal- with food and drink, you get to have some of the decadence but can keep a modicum of control over consumption.

Holiday Cheer

I am an introvert.  A Meyer Brigg INFJ. Holiday cheer is uplifting and exciting. It provides an opportunity to celebrate and connect with people. It also leaves me feeling drained and wanting to crawl under a rock. As an introvert, self care is incredibly important, so I make sure to sleep enough, mediate regularly, use a gratitude journal, regular adjustments, and remind myself that it is OK to come late or leave a party early.

Holiday cheer can also be a financial burden with gift exchanges and lots of eating out. Understanding what is within budget and what is affordable can be a downer, but will ultimately make holidays more gratifying in the end. No one likes to go into debt for the holidays. Amongst my friends and family, we use white elephant exchanges, games, and handmade gifts to keep the costs down on entertainment.

The take home on cheer is to understand your own limits and respect them. Whether you are an introvert like me- who needs to recover after being social- or an extrovert who thrives on community, it is important to stay within your boundaries.

Who doesn’t love the holidays?! It is a time when we celebrate with loved ones, new friends, and old. By maintaining good practices with family, food, and merry-making- we can ensure that we are healthier at the end of our holidays both mentally and physically.

What helps you survive the holidays?