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9 Healthy Holiday Foods Served Around the World

November 21, 2022

The winter holidays are full of festivity and warmth, brightening our way to the new year. All across the world, people gather together with friends and loved ones over memorable meals. What better way to break up the casserole routine than to serve a beloved international dish on your holiday table? Weaving in a recipe from a different culture could be the greatest gift of all—and we have the perfect healthy holiday foods for you to try.

These nine healthy holiday foods represent traditional holiday dishes from different countries and cultures. Many of these recipes are lighter than the typical Christmas fare and are surprisingly easy to make. Ingredients like fresh ginger and chiles add piquancy and surprise to the standard holiday spread. Some of the dishes were chosen for their associations with the New Year. When starting the year with recipes this healthy and intriguing, you know it will be a good one.

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1. Creamy Beet with Dill Soup

bortsch with dumplings


This Polish soup gets its festive red color from highly nutritious beets, famous for their high levels of brain-boosting folate. Served on Christmas Eve in Poland, bortsch is traditionally topped with mushroom dumplings and sipped in a cup. Our version adds milk and a pat of butter for a dash of decadence.

Try the recipe from Clean Plates.

2. Boiled Dumplings with Juicy Snow Pea Leaves

snow pea leaves shrimp dumplings

Courtesy of The Sound of Cooking

The new year is a mystical time, loaded with significance in all countries. A wish for good luck seems inevitable, and in many cultures, special foods are thought to tip the scales in your favor. On Chinese New Year dumplings are eaten to encourage wealth and prosperity since their shape resembles ancient gold ingots. Spicy ginger and chile enliven snow peas and shrimp in these delectable little pouches that will disappear as fast as they come out of the pot.

Try the recipe from The Sound of Cooking.

3. Avgolemono

avgolemono in a bowl

Courtesy of Malina Malkani

This classic lemony chicken soup gets its thick texture from eggs and blended rice, not heavy cream. This recipe goes one further, substituting nutrient-dense brown rice for white. Follow Greek tradition and serve it on Christmas eve or Christmas day as part of a larger feast. This is a dinner staple throughout the year in Greece, popping up on Easter as well, a testament to how delicious and easy it is to make.

Try the recipe from Malina Malkani.

4. Crispy Potato Latkes with Spiced Pear Compote

latkes pear compote

Courtesy of Love and Olive Oil

Latkes are the pinnacle of hash browns: Crispy and crunchy in every bite with none of the mushy middle. They’re a favorite Jewish holiday food and hold important symbolism in Hannukah, the festival of lights (December 18 to 26). A bright pear compote is a counterpoint to the fried potatoes in this recipe. Feel free to mix in vegetables like zucchini, cauliflower, parsnips, or carrots. Instead of vegetable oil, you can substitute healthier grapeseed oil, which is rich in vitamin E.

Try the recipe from Love and Olive Oil.

5. Easy Green Chile Chicken Tamales

green chile tamales with sauce and limes

Courtesy of The Minimalist Baker

For many in Mexico and the Western U.S., Christmas dinner means homemade tamale time. Talamadas, or tamale-making parties, are believed to date back to the ancient Maya and Aztecs when corn was revered as sacred. These light green chile chicken tamales omit the lard and are worthy of a party. Tamales freeze exceptionally well, so consider doubling the recipe and enjoying them in the new year.

Try the recipe from Minimalist Baker.

6. Roasted Cod Saltimbocca

roasted cod on a baking sheet

Courtesy of Kristin Teig

Italian American immigrants created the Feast of the Seven Fishes in a nod to the ancient tradition of eating fish on Christmas Eve in the old country. The seafood extravaganza comprises seven dishes, and a light, elegant roasted cod would surely stand out. This recipe is rich and satisfying, thanks to the smart addition of prosciutto and sage. For the most sustainable choice, look for wild-caught pacific cod from Alaska (instead of Atlantic cod).

Try the recipe from Clean Plates.

7. Beef Biryani

biryani in a bowl

Courtesy of Pinch of Yum

Biryani was the most ordered dish in India on New Year’s Eve last year. This rustic rice entrée will warm up your home with fragrant spices like fenugreek seeds, turmeric, coriander, and cumin. A sprinkling of nutrient-rich almonds and raisins is the crowning touch. Consider splurging on high-quality heirloom spices from small farms for a special occasion like Christmas or New Year’s.

Try the recipe from Pinch of Yum.

8. Báhn Chúng

banh chung on a plate

Courtesy of Takes Two Eggs

These sticky rice cakes are wrapped in green banana leaves and tied with a string, resembling little presents. To express gratitude, the tasty parcels are made during January’s Vietnamese Lunar New Year. They’re a treat to eat and filled with nutritious mung beans, an excellent source of essential amino acids. Pork belly is a fatty cut and used sparingly in this recipe, though it’s a great source of vitamin B. Before cooking with sticky rice, it needs to soak in water overnight, so plan ahead.

Try the recipe from Takes Two Eggs.

9. Ukrainian Wheat Berry Pudding (Kutia)

wheat pudding in a jar

Courtesy of Vera’s Cooking

Kutia is a honey-sweetened pudding served in Ukraine and Eastern European countries on Christmas and Christmas Eve. It features the subtle earthy flavor of wheat berries, which are minimally processed and chock full of protein, fiber, and iron. Magnesium-rich poppyseed milk and toasted walnuts add enchanting textures.

Try the recipe at Vera’s Cooking.

Read next: 10 Trader Joe’s Frozen Appetizers Perfect For Holiday Parties

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