Let’s talk about sticking to a healthy diet during the holidays. You totally just cringed, didn’t you? I even did a little bit, to be honest. When you think about that whole scene, do you see yourself sitting at a table full of turkey, stuffing (or dressing here in the South), cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie and all the other yummy foods we stuff ourselves with ? Your family and friends are all around you, laughing and enjoying the feast while you sit there with stalks of celery and ice water. Yeah. Right. Happy holidays.


But, seriously, it doesn’t have to be that way. I’m always talking about balance and this is what I mean. Eat holiday dinner with your family and enjoy it! Just don’t eat that holiday dinner every day between November 22nd and December 26th. Moderation, guys, that’s the key. Eat those yummy treats in moderation and I’ve even got a few recipes that will help you make those holiday favorites, if not healthy, at least healthier.


So, go ahead! Enjoy that meal, but try my cleaner green bean casserole for a change. Go with my healthier sweet potato casserole as a side to the turkey you roasted while taking part in a local early morning Turkey Trot. And even if running isn’t your thing, take a family walk around the neighborhood after lunch instead of letting your food “settle.” A little moderate activity will keep your metabolism from crashing after the carbs.


Remember, life is to be enjoyed! What’s more enjoyable than spending a day with the people you love, eating good food together and enjoying the good health you’ve worked so hard for? You can make it through the holiday table minefield and make it to 2019 without resorting to all elastic. You can do it and, with these yummy healthier recipes, you can enjoy it.


Happy (and healthier) holiday season from the Oprea home to yours!


Cleaner Green Bean Casserole

Serves: 6 Total time: 45 minutes


2 pounds fresh green beans

1 tablespoon olive oil

½ teaspoon sea salt, as needed

¼ cup nutritional yeast

1 yellow onion, sliced

½ cup almond meal

10 ounces mushrooms

3 cloves garlic, minced

3 tablespoons flour, whole wheat or gluten free

½ cup low-sodium vegetable broth

1 cup almond milk

⅓ cup Parmesan cheese

¼ teaspoon black pepper



Preheat oven to 375 degrees F, bring a large stockpot of water to a boil, and grease a large casserole dish with olive oil and then set aside.

Add the green beans to the boiling water and boil for 4-5 minutes, or until almost tender, but still slightly crisp. Drain the cooked green beans, then transfer to a bowl filled with ice water to stop them from cooking more.

To make the crispy onion topping, start by heating olive oil in a large fry pan over medium-high heat until hot.

Add the thinly sliced onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5-8 minutes or until they are tender and starting to brown. Remove the onions and place into a medium mixing bowl and set aside.

In the same pan you used to cook the onions, add the almond meal. Cook, stirring very frequently, for 3-5 minutes, or until the almond meal is starts to turn lightly golden. Careful not to burn.

Remove from heat and transfer the toasted almond meal to the bowl with the onions. Stir in the 1/4 cup nutritional yeast (or Parmesan if you prefer) and salt, and then toss the mixture until combined. Set aside.

In the same pan, heat a little more olive oil until hot and add the mushrooms and cook for 4-5 minutes, or until they are tender, stirring occasionally.

Add the minced garlic and cook for an additional minute until fragrant, stirring frequently.

Sprinkle the flour over the mushrooms, and stir to combine.

Slowly add the low sodium broth, whisking to combine until smooth.

Whisk in the almond milk, and bring the mixture to a simmer. Let cook for 2-3 minutes, or until thickened.

Stir in the remaining 1/3 cup parmesan cheese, sea salt, and pepper until the cheese is melted.

Transfer the cooked, chilled green beans into the pan with the mushroom sauce and toss until combined.

Pour the green bean mixture into the prepared baking dish and then top with the crispy onion topping evenly over the top.

Place in the oven, uncovered, and bake for 25-30 minutes, until the top is golden brown.


Healthier Stuffing

Serves: 6 Total time: 1 hour 15 minutes


1 loaf sprouted whole grain bread, or favorite loaf of bread

4 cups butternut squash, peeled and cubed

2 cups parsnips, cubed

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons fresh sage, minced

½ cup low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth



Dice bread into cubes and spread evenly across a baking sheet with a little bit of oil tossed in with it.

Toast the bread cubes at 400 F for 10 minutes until golden brown and crispy.

Place diced butternut squash and parsnips onto a baking sheet and toss with a splash of oil and salt and pepper to taste.

Once the bread is out of the oven, place squash mixture into the oven at 400 F and roast for 20 minutes or so, stirring on occasion.

Add roasted squash and parsnips to a large baking dish.

Add onions, garlic, and sage into the pan. Sauté the veggies for about 5-7 minutes, or until the onions are soft and lightly browned.

Add the sautéed veggies to the squash mixture in the baking dish.

Layer in the toasted bread croutons.

Toss ingredients together.

Pour broth over the entire mixture.

Bake the stuffing at 350 F for 30 minutes.


Garlic Mashed Cauliflower

Serves: 8 Total time: 25 minutes


8 cups cauliflower florets

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

¼ teaspoon salt, as needed

½ teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon fresh sage, minced



Bring 1 to 2 inches of water to a boil in a large saucepan fitted with a steamer basket. Add cauliflower; cover and cook until very tender, 10 to 12 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and add garlic. Cook, stirring, until the garlic starts to brown around the edges, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Transfer to a food processor along with the steamed cauliflower, salt and pepper. Process until very smooth. Transfer to a bowl and stir in sage. Drizzle with oil, if desired.


Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Serves: 6 Total time: 35 minutes


1 pound Brussels sprouts, halved

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon garlic, minced

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

¼ teaspoon salt, as needed



First, preheat oven to 375º F. Then, prep Brussels sprouts by washing and patting dry. Slice off the end and then slice in half. Place on a large baking sheet.

Drizzle with a generous amount of oil and sprinkle on minced garlic, balsamic vinegar, and sea salt. Using your hands, toss Brussels to make sure that everything is evenly coated and spiced. Place in oven for 23-27 minutes.


Healthier Sweet Potato Casserole

Serves:8 Total time: 35 minutes


1 tablespoon coconut oil

½ C pecans, chopped and divided

1 teaspoon fresh thyme

¼ teaspoon salt, as needed

10 ounces marshmallow fluff

21 ounces sweet potato noodles

½ cup honey maple glaze



Preheat oven to 400˚ F. Grease a 9 X 9- inch pan and set aside.

Place a large skillet over medium-high heat, add coconut oil, and melt and swirl in pan.

Add half the pecans and thyme. Toast gently until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add sweet potato noodles, toss to coat and cook 3 to 4 minutes or until they begin to wilt.

Remove from heat and drizzle with honey maple glaze.

Pour into prepared pan then press noodles down.

Using a buttered knife, spread marshmallow fluff over noodles in an even thin layer then sprinkle with remaining pecans.

Bake 15 minutes or until lightly browned on top. Serve immediately while marshmallow fluff is puffed and toasty.


Easy Pumpkin Bars with Maple Pecan Collagen Glaze

Serves: 8-10 Total time: 40 minutes


Pumpkin bars

⅓ cup maple syrup

2 eggs

½ cup almond butter

½ cup pumpkin puree

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

⅛ teaspoon salt


Maple Pecan Glaze

¾ cup pecans

¼ cup maple syrup

2 tablespoons coconut oil

¼ cup almond milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1-2 scoop Vital Protein Collagen Peptides



Preheat oven to 350F and grease an 8" x 8" pan generously with coconut oil or butter.

Combine all of the ingredients in a medium bowl, and mix well until a smooth batter forms. Transfer the batter to the greased pan, and bake at 350F for about 30 minutes, until the edges are golden brown and the center is firm.

Allow to cool completely in the pan, then cut and serve! Top with Pecan Maple Glaze if desired.

Maple glaze: Combine all of the ingredients in a high-speed blender, and blend until smooth.