Healthy Holiday Recipes

The year-end holidays are right around the corner. While menu planning during this time of year can seem daunting with a growing to-do list, it can be much easier with these easy-to-make, better-for-you, side dish options.

I’ve tried to cover a few of the basics with Sweet Potato, Apple and Parsnip Latkes, and a Sweet Potato and Plantain Casserole.

The Sweet Potato Plantain Casserole is a healthier option to layering marshmallows on top of sweet potatoes, and we put a lighter, fresher spin on the latkes.

Sweet Potato, Apple and Parsnip Latkes

7 servings, 2 latkes per serving


  • 2 cups shredded Gala or Granny Smith apples (about 2 medium)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup thinly, vertically sliced red onion
  • 4 cups shredded peeled sweet potatoes (about 4 potatoes)
  • 1 ½ cups shredded peeled parsnip
  • 5/8 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 5 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, divided
  • ½ teaspoon curry powder
  • ¼ teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
  • 2 1/4 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1/2 cup)
  • 6 tablespoons canola oil, divided
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar


1. Combine apple and lime juice in a bowl; toss. Add onion and 1/8 teaspoon salt; toss.

2. Combine parsnip, sweet potato, and onion in a colander; drain for 30 minutes, pressing occasionally until barely moist.

3. When almost dry, add your apple mixture to the colander; the lime juice will help keep the apples from oxidizing. Combine potato mixture, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, flour, and remaining ingredients (through egg) in a large bowl; toss well.

4. Heat a 12-inch, non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons oil to pan, swirling to coat. Add potato mixture in 1/3 cupfuls to pan to form 4 latkes; flatten slightly.

5. Cook six minutes on each side or until golden brown. Remove latkes from pan; keep warm.

6. Repeat procedure three more times with remaining oil and potato mixture.

7. Sprinkle latkes evenly with sugar.

Nutritional Information, per serving:
Calories: 218
Fat: 5.1 g
Saturated fat: 1.1 g
Monounsaturated fat: 3.9 g
Protein: 4 g
Carbohydrates: 30.1 g
Cholesterol: 21 mg
Sodium: 245 mg

Sweet Potato Plantain Casserole

Serves 8-10, serving size 4 ounces


  • 4 pounds sweet potato
  • 2 pounds banana, green tip, cut a small 2 inch slit in the skin
  • 1 vanilla bean, split seeded, seeds reserved
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3 ounces pecans, raw, coarsely chopped
  • 3 ounces walnuts, raw, coarsely chopped
  • 4 ounces skim milk or almond milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1. Roast sweet potatoes, skin on, for 20-25 minutes, until just fork tender.

2. Roast bananas, skin on (with the slit), for 10-12 minutes.

3. Once slightly cooled, peel both the sweet potatoes and bananas, and place in a mixing bowl. Add your cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, and skim milk to the sweet potato and banana mixture. Mash with a fork or firm whisk.

4. Spoon mixture evenly into an oven-proof baking dish. Smooth the top layer with a spatula.

5. Combine pecans and walnuts in a bowl, mix well, then spread on top of casserole.

6. Bake at 275 degrees for 20-25 minutes. If crust begins to brown, cover with aluminum foil.

Nutritional Information, per serving:
Calories: 254
Fat: 13.9 g
Cholesterol: 0
Sodium: 109 mg
Fiber: 27.7 g
Sugars: 28.7 g
Carbohydrates: 54 g
Protein: 8.5 g

Chef-Richard-headshot-REVISED-2014-300x241.jpgABOUT CHEF RICHARD

Chef Richard Plasencia, executive chef at South Miami Hospital, joined Baptist Health South Florida in 2011 for the opening of West Kendall Baptist Hospital. He is an award-winning chef who is passionate about creating and sharing fresh local and seasonal recipes seasoned with flavor and good health. In addition to an interest in nutrition, Chef Richard has an extensive history in the hospitality industry.

He served as Chef at Town Kitchen & Bar, Jake’s, the Hyatt Regency Coral Gables, the Shore Club, Por Fin, and the Conrad Hotel. He also was part of several teams that received the Mobile 4 and 5 star awards, as well as Cioppino being named to America’s Top 50 restaurants by Esquire Magazine 2005, during his time at the Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne. Chef Richard Plasencia graduated from Johnson & Wales University with a Bachelor of Science in culinary arts.

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