You start the holiday season with the best intentions. But three cookie swaps, 10 Christmas parties, a few Hannukah dinners and some spiked egg nog later, your commitment to clean eating has fallen apart and your diet is way off track.
Luckily, there are plenty of ways to live it up this holiday season without setting yourself up for a January defined by strict dieting — and these eight holiday cookbooks are here to prove it. Between mixing up skinny cocktails, making your next dinner party a plant-based affair, or whipping up a veggie detox soup between soirees, these books offer plenty of ways to survive the holidays without developing a Santa-sized waistline.
Get psyched to start cooking, we promise you’ll be craving these holiday meals and treats all year long.
The Best Cookbooks for Healthy Holiday Recipes
1. Every Last Crumb: Paleo Bread and Beyond
Paleo dieters can have their cake and eat it, too, thanks to this book from Paleo and gluten-free cooking guru Brittany Angell. Her fluffy loaves, muffins, pastries and desserts use flour made of everything from coconuts and almond to plantains, sweet potatoes and even chestnuts. Whether your feast is comprised of grain-free lavash or layered gingerbread crepes (with orange-maple cream cheese fillings!), this manual outlines how to make bakery-worthy treats, without worrying about breaking from your g-free or Paleo plan. ($23.58, available December 9)
2. Party Popcorn: 75 Creative Recipes for Everyone’s Favorite Snack
No clue what to get your co-workers for Christmas? These popcorn recipes from blogger Ashton Epps Swank (author of Something Swanky) are just fancy enough to be impressive, without totally killing you in the kitchen. Savory recipes like bacon ranch or coconut curry, or sweet sea-salted caramel kernels ensure there’s something that will satisfy even your pickiest desk-mate. Oh, and did we mention there’s an egg nog flavored popcorn, too? Save a bag of that for yourself. ($9.99, available December 2)
3. Tara Stiles Make Your Own Rules Diet
Take one look at Tara Stiles’ yoga-toned body and you know she’s doing something right when it comes to eating and exercise. And because the holidays definitely aren’t the time to commit to a strict routine, Stiles’ “Make Your Own Rules” diet might just be perfect for the party season. Her recipes for creamy eggless ‘nog, maple French toast and snickerdoodles will put you in a festive frame of mind — while still being pretty darn guilt-free. Fit in a few of the book’s yoga or meditation sessions when you can, and whip up her veggie detox soup between parties to feel fit all month long. ($19.69, available now)
4. The Grain-Free Family Table
Pumpkin breakfast cookies…sweet potato casserole…hot bacon and mushroom dip. These dishes don’t sound like they’d be particularly healthy (or easy on the digestive system), but that’s where you’re wrong. Carrie Vitt’s meals serve as a reminder that food allergies, or gluten intolerances don’t mean missing out on culinary fun. Her book is full of dinner party-worthy dishes that can all be made grain-free, Paleo or dairy-free. Kids will dig the Paleo chicken nuggets, and adults will go nuts over dishes like grilled rib eye with asparagus or roasted garlic cauliflower alfredo. ($18.99, available now)
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5. Sweet Eats for All
The ultimate guide to vegan, gluten-free treats, this book contains 250 recipes sure to satisfy any dessert snob. Cakes, breads, cookies, brownies, pies, cheesecakes and even ice creams and candy are all covered— and author Allyson Kramer says your non-vegan friends won’t notice the difference between her Ultimate Fudgy Brownies and non-vegan varieties in a taste test. A glossary in the front details the differences between the numerous flours used (like teff flour). Plus, you’ll get a guide to the milk substitutes and binders that replace traditional dairy and eggs. In other words, reading this book is kind of like taking Vegan & Gluten-Free Baking 101. ($15.38, available now)
6. Happy Herbivore Holidays & Gatherings: Easy Plant-Based Recipes for Your Healthiest Celebrations and Special Occasions
Even people who can’t imagine the holidays without a Christmas roast will find something they’ll love in blogger Lindsay Nixon’s book. Detailing how to survive the holidays free of animal products, each recipe is categorized based on whether it’s quick, make-ahead, prep-ahead, portable, soy-free or gluten-free. With holiday dishes geared towards Christmas, Hannukah and Kwanza, there’s a veggie-based recipe for everyone in these pages (bring on the Portobello pot roast). Plus, an array of New Year’s Eve apps, and New Year’s Day brunch ideas will have you set through 2015. ($9.99, available now)
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7. Skinnygirl Cocktails: 100 Fun & Flirty Guilt-Free Recipes
Low-cal cocktail connoisseur Bethenny Frankel has got all the tricks you need to sip your way through the holiday season without feeling bloated or hungover 24/7. Her Skinnygirl “Fixologist Formula” will help you slash the calories in all your favorite cocktails, and recipes for mulled wine, peppermint martinis and naughty nog will get you in the seasonal spirit. There are plenty of options that clock in at under 150 calories — and advice on how to enjoy your drinks without being too bleary to get through your workout the next day. ($9.73, available now)
INFOGRAPHIC: How Many Calories Are In Your Cocktail?
8. Gatherings: Bringing People Together With Food
If you’ve got a party on your calendar, this book by blogger Julie Van Rosendaal and food writer Jan Scott is here to help — regardless of the occasion. With menus for everything from a snow day to a holiday open house, you’ll have an arsenal of ideas for the entire holiday party season. The recipes range from light (lemony kale and Brussels sprouts salad) to decadent (maple apple upside-down buttermilk cake), but hey, everyone needs a cheat day now and then. If the party is at your place, you’ll also find tips on how to play hostess, so your night will be smooth (not stressful). ($34.95, available now)