Make Ahead Healthy Holiday Side Dishes

For many families, food is an integral part of holiday celebrations and festivities that bring families and friends together. But for those who have time constraints, cooking for the holidays can be problematic. Afterall, food preparation can be time consuming. What’s the solution? Prepare food in advance to reduce the pressure and spread the work load. The freezer—an appliance that’s found in all modern kitchens—can  be your best friend and help you prepare holiday side dishes in advance. These popular side dishes, which can all be prepared in advance, are healthy additions to any holiday meal.

Stuffing and Sauces

Regardless of the type of meat you are serving and whether you’ll be serving it hot or cold, stuffing and sauces are a fantastic and popular accompaniment. The majority can be prepared in advance and stored in the freezer until they are needed.  Saving take-away cartons to store these in is ideal.  The plastic variety usually come with lids, but the metal trays are equally as useful as they can be covered with tinfoil.  

Rice and Pasta Salads

Another option is to make cold side dishes such as rice and pasta salads. They’re a fantastic choice if you are planning a cold buffet as a part of your celebration. Adding foods such as peppers, peas and onions to the rice or pasta means that they will freeze easily and defrost quickly at room temperature or in the refrigerator overnight. Use whole-wheat pasta and rice to make each of these dishes even more healthy.


Vegetables are a tasty addition to any meal and are also a healthy option, but the preparation of vegetables is one of the most time consuming tasks when cooking a meal. Washing, peeling, chopping and cooking all take time. By preparing some vegetable side dishes in advance you can reduce your workload on the day of the meal and free yourself up to enjoy the festivities along with the rest of your friends and family.  Roast parsnips, cauliflower cheese, mashed potatoes and many other vegetable side dishes can be easily cooked and prepared as much as several weeks in advance of the holidays.

Stock and Gravy

It is not necessary to wait until you cook the meat for the holidays to make the stock and gravy. It is simpler to use the stock from meals made earlier than this. It will save time on cooling the stock and removing the fat from the juices. Removing fat is important in making the gravy and stock healthier and it also makes it tastier and less greasy. Both stock and gravy can be stored in the freezer. However, it is important that they are stored in a sturdy container to avoid spillage and it is best to allow them to cool before adding them to the freezer.

1. Make-Ahead Holiday Side Dish Recipes – EatingWell
2. Make-Ahead Thanksgiving Side Dishes – EatingWell

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