Healthier Holiday Swaps

Healthier Holiday Swaps

With the holiday season comes an abundance of delicious food. As much as we love our holiday menus, this time of year can sometimes lead to overindulgence and a few extra pounds of weight. This year, it’s more important than ever to keep our health in check. We can still enjoy our favorite holiday dishes with some simple swaps to reduce sodium, sugar, fat and calories, leading to a healthier holiday season.

Sodium substitutes

Sodium intake can quickly add up during holiday feasts with all the sauces, gravies and savory side dishes on the table, many of which are seasoned with sodium-heavy spice blends, broths and condensed soups. To reduce sodium, swap out original condensed soup in casseroles for a reduced-sodium variety, as in this Better-for-You Green Bean Casserole. Also, choose low sodium chicken broth in place of regular broth, and season dishes with fresh herbs and spices rather than prepared seasoning mixes. If you want to use a spice blend, make sure it’s salt free.

Shake down sugar

Skip the high fructose corn syrup in canned cranberry sauce this year and make this fresh Pure and Natural Cranberry Sauce. Using fresh cranberries in place of canned varieties can greatly reduce added sugar intake. For stuffing and other grain dishes, swap white bread with whole grain bread, which provides heart healthy fiber that can reduce blood sugar spikes and help you stay full. Another option to simplify your meal and reduce calories is to serve brown or wild rice with vegetables instead of stuffing. Finally, skip the buttery, marshmallow-topped sweet potato casserole and serve roasted cubed sweet potatoes dusted with cinnamon for a lower sugar dish.

Lower fat and calories

Maybe comfort foods can be more comforting when they aren’t loaded with calories and fat. To lighten them up without sacrificing taste, try plain nonfat Greek yogurt where recipes call for sour cream, like in this Creamy Yogurt Mac and Cheese. You can also swap regular cream cheese for Greek yogurt cream cheese. Another great calorie- and fat-reducing tip is to use 2% milk in place of heavy cream. Two percent milk is reduced fat – but not low fat – so it still gives that creamy texture while reducing calories and fat by 85% to 90% versus using heavy cream. Try using this swap to make a lighter version of a holiday favorite like eggnog. For much lower calorie options, skip the casseroles and creamy dishes and serve roasted or steamed vegetables such as potatoes and green beans instead. Choose white meat turkey over dark this Thanksgiving, and roast a chicken for Christmas rather than ham to save on fat and calories.

Alcohol alternatives

Imbibing in a celebratory toast or two is a joyous holiday activity! Sadly, adult beverages can quickly cause calories and sugar to skyrocket. Remember to enjoy alcoholic drinks in moderation; try alternating one drink with one glass of water. Choose diet soda or seltzer water for mixers rather than premade sugary mixers. Also, try fresh squeezed juice or 100% fruit juice with no added sugar like in this cranberry gin cocktail.

We all deserve to fully enjoy the holidays. Just a few simple substitutes can mean big changes in our health during this festive season. Put these swaps into practice for happy and healthy holidays!