Untraditional Holiday Meal Ideas for an Untraditional Year

Serving of Tilapia Pot Pie in a white bowl

The holiday season brings a number of wonderful traditions: finding the perfect Christmas tree, connecting with friends over hot chocolate and eggnog, baking cookies and wrapping gifts.

But as health and safety advisors encourage people to stay at home, there’s one tradition that will look a little different this year: family dinner. Just because it’s not what you’re used to, however, doesn’t mean it can’t be fun. After all, the holidays are about spending time with loved ones—not working over a hot stove.

With that in mind, here are a few ideas for small, easy-to-prepare holiday meals that you can enjoy alone, with a few close friends or virtually with your entire extended family.

Make-Ahead Feasts

Fish tacos with spicy sauce

You don’t have to wait until Cinco de Mayo or the warmer months to enjoy a fish taco. To make mealtime more of an experience this year, set up an at-home taco bar. Not only is this a fun way to display your ingredients—grilled or fried fish, guacamole, lettuce, and fresh salsa—but you can mix and match flavors every time you go back for more. Plus, preparing your taco bar in advance means you don’t have to miss out on quality (virtual) family time. The casual serving style makes it easy to plate up during video calls, too.

If Mexican isn’t your cuisine of choice, set up a crepe bar filled with sweet and savory toppings, a sandwich and salad bar or a personal pizza station. This option also makes it easy to cater to a variety of diets.

One-Pot Wonders

Preparing a big holiday meal is exhausting under normal circumstances—so it’s hard to imagine cooking a multi-course feast this year. Why not make a simple (but delicious) one-pot meal instead? This can be anything from chili and gumbo to stews and casseroles. Just remember to make sure the dish is well-balanced, with protein, fresh vegetables and healthy fats and carbs.

Some of our favorites include:

That said, if you still feel like going all out for the holidays, you can pair one of the above with a tasty side dish.

Healthy Classics

Tilapia pasta

Another stress-free holiday meal idea? Pasta. It’s delicious no matter the time of year, and there are plenty of ways to put a healthy spin on spaghetti, fettuccine, linguine and your other favorite noodles. Try our Green Goddess Pasta with Pesto Tilapia or heed our earlier advice and set up a pasta bar so you can try different recipes and sauces throughout the night. Don’t forget the garlic bread!

Whether you’re adapting traditions for an online get together or creating entirely new ones, there’s always room for a holiday meal. And by going with one of our above ideas, you’ll have plenty to indulge in. Since these dishes are easy to prepare, cooking will be nearly effortless—which means you get to spend more time focusing on what really matters this holiday season.

The holiday season is a time to indulge—but that doesn’t mean you can’t maintain your healthy habits. Get our tips for keeping your diet on track through the rest of the year.

Photo Credits: Haley Davis for The Healthy Fish, Martha Graham / Shutterstock Inc., Haley Davis for The Healthy Fish