Feature veggies for healthy holiday meal

Guess who’s coming to your holiday dinner?

Your gluten-free sister, your peanut-allergic nephew, your low-carb aunt with diabetes and your super healthy best friend.

Start planning now!

What do every one of these have in common?

They can all eat vegetables. At the time of year when most of us are searching for new entree recipes, pining for mouth-watering desserts and craving holiday food traditions of the past, we often forget “balance.”

Our buffet table is loaded with sweets and starches, and our healthy foods are loaded with sauces.

By adding vegetables beyond the relish tray, we offer choice. Even better, we offer a colorful presentation full of nutrients. The more color, the more variety of nutrients! Picture a whole steamed cauliflower, topped with a small amount of browned butter and surrounded by a ring of whole green beans. For the kale lover, sauté the firm leafy green in a bit of olive oil infused with fresh garlic and seasoned with a bit of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. It takes only minutes, so prepare this close to serving time. Orange will warm up any table.

Baked, quartered winter squash, sweet potatoes sliced and alternated with golden or white potatoes and topped with caramelized onions, or sliced carrots with a bit of chopped parsley are just a few.

Salads are a common filler. Rather than iceberg lettuce, or a kitchen sink approach with every vegetable you have on hand, make the salad “intentional.” Less can be more when combined with contrasting tastes and colors. Favorites at our table include red leaf lettuce with sliced colored mini peppers and topped with a cranberry vinaigrette (toasted pecans and feta cheese on the side); romaine lettuce with mandarin oranges and a bit of celery and green onion and a mildly sweet vinegar and oil dressing, or some of the great ready-to-use mixes that feature the cruciferous family of broccoli, brussels sprouts and kale, dried cranberries, pumpkin seeds and a poppy-seed dressing.

This year, as you prepare your holiday dinner menu, leave at least two spots for the star food group of the season — vegetables! Add a fruit display for the centerpiece and, as a bonus, eat it for dessert.

Dawn Kind, RD, CD is the Vice-President of Clinical and Operational Informatics at Prairie States Enterprises, and a SCAN (Sheboygan County Activity & Nutrition) member.