5 Tips for the Best Healthy Holiday Potluck Recipe

5 Tips for the Best Healthy Holiday Potluck Recipe

Christy Brissette, MS, RD www.80TwentyNutrition.com

The holiday season is here which means plenty of opportunity to eat and share with family and friends. One of the most fun (and sometimes nerve-wracking) types of parties is the holiday potluck. What should you bring? And how do you find that perfect balance of healthy and delicious?

Here are 5 tips for choosing the perfect holiday potluck recipe!

  1. Make it healthy

One of the great things about being invited to a potluck is you can bring something healthy without offending your host. By bringing a nutritious dish along, you’re guaranteed to bring some balance to your plate. You can rest assured that other people will be bringing in higher calorie fare such as cookies, chocolate and other desserts, and creamy dips and rich cheese. These items are great to enjoy this holiday season, but you want to make sure there are some healthier items on the menu to balance things out.

So what should your healthy recipe include? Prepare a dish that’s rich in fiber to help slow down some of the sugars you’ll likely be taking in. Also include a source of protein to keep guests feeling satisfied after the party’s over. Be sure to feature plenty of vegetables in your dish so everyone can fill up for fewer calories – and take in some nutrients and disease-fighting phytochemicals while they’re at it!

Consider bringing some colorful veggies with bean dip or a large salad that includes some whole grains, protein such as lentils or chicken, and plenty of bright vegetables mixed in.

  1. Make it festive

Red, green and white are all signs of the season, so why not work them into your potluck recipe to make things extra festive?


For nutrient-rich reds, include tomatoes and tomato sauce, sun-dried tomatoes, red bell peppers, radishes and beets. There are also plenty of gorgeous red fruits such as cranberries, raspberries, cherries, apples and pomegranate arils.


To get more green into your recipe, you can incorporate leafy greens such as spinach and kale, or other green vegetables such as green peppers, broccoli, snow peas, sugar snap peas, zucchini, green beans and microgreens. Fresh herbs such as mint, parsley and basil are other fantastic and delicious ways to incorporate green into your recipes.


When we think of white foods, sugar and refined carbohydrates such as white bread come to mind. Of course, these aren’t the most nutritious foods. But there are white foods that are loaded with nutrients! Feature mushrooms, cauliflower, onions and garlic, yogurt and daikon (white radish) in your recipe to get the color of snow into your dish. For white fruit, lychees, sliced pears and sliced apples work well.

  1. Make it satisfying

Comfort foods are the first items to go at any potluck. The weather is colder, the days are shorter, and we all crave carbohydrate-rich foods that are sweet or savory. There is a theory that what we’re really longing for is a serotonin boost that we get from carb-rich foods. The good news is, you still get the “good feels” with healthier carbs such as whole grains. Plus, other key nutrients and antioxidants.

Is there anything more comforting than pasta? Such a crowd-pleaser… and you can make it even more of a hit by ensuring you choose a pasta that’s high in filling protein and fiber. Gabriella’s Kitchen pasta comes in High Protein and Superfood Teff varieties so you’re getting the most satisfying ingredients into your recipe. Guaranteed no one will leave your potluck feeling hangry! What I love about using a protein-rich pasta in my recipes is I don’t need to add another protein source. Fewer ingredients means less fuss and more time for holiday fun! 

  1. Make it easy

The holidays are stressful enough. Choose a recipe to bring to your potluck that will make thing easier on you. Look for a recipe that has 10 ingredients or less and will take 15 minutes or less to make.

You also want to find a recipe that doesn’t need to be served warm or require reheating or assembly when you get to the party. You want to be mingling and enjoying the party, not hovering over a stove trying to make sure your meatballs aren’t going to give anyone food poisoning.

Some of the easiest potluck dishes are things that can be served cold and assembled ahead of time. Try a salad made with sweet potatoes, squash, teff pasta or other whole grains with plenty of vegetables and a delicious dressing. The great thing about a hearty salad is the longer it marinates in the dressing, the better it tastes. Hooray for recipes you can make ahead!

Make sure you choose hearty ingredients like pumpkin, beets, nuts and dried fruit rather than wilty ingredients or things that get mushy or brown like lettuce, cucumbers and avocado.


  1. Make it delicious

No one wants to take home their half eaten dish after a potluck. Signs of a successful potluck recipe include a serving dish that’s been scraped clean and plenty of requests for the recipe!

Choose a recipe that has a balance of savory and sweet as well as some salt and acidity to get everyone talking about it. Getting these flavor combinations all in one dish in the right ratios is the secret to deliciousness! And using handmade, fresh ingredients always helps too (yay for skinnypasta).

Here’s a recipe that checks all 5 boxes – so it’s guaranteed to be a hit at your holiday potluck!

Festive Kale Pesto Penne with Red Peppers and Bocconcini

Serves 6 (or 12 smaller servings at a potluck)


For the pesto:

  • 1/2 cup raw walnuts
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 cups kale
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Pinch salt


  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the penne. Cook it until it’s al dente and drain.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large pan and add the red peppers. Saute for about 3 minutes or until tender-crisp.
  3. To make the pesto, pulse the walnuts, garlic and kale together. Continue to pulse and start slowly pouring in the olive oil until you get the consistency you want for your pesto. Add a pinch of salt.
  4. Remove your pan from the heat. Add the penne, 1/4 cup of your pesto and the bocconcini to the pan and stir to combine. This recipe will keep well for up to 4 days in the fridge.