Healthy Holiday Swaps

‘Tis the season when many look forward to enjoying favorite ‘once a year’ holiday foods. Here are some tips and healthy swaps you can follow for reducing sugar, fat and calories that will not deprive you of the foods you’ve been longing for all year. 

Photo by Any Lane on

Appetizer Swaps 

  • Swap out cheesy dips for vegetable-based dips like hummus. 
  • Plain Greek, fat-free yogurt is a fantastic swap for dips that use sour cream. 
    • Greek yogurt contains protein, which can boost your metabolism and reduce appetite, helping you lose weight.

Side Swaps 

  • Swap out higher calorie starchy sides like potatoes, pasta, and rice for vegetable sides like broccoli, carrots, Brussel sprouts, green beans, spinach, or kale. 
    • A cup of these vegetables has 2/3 fewer calories of starchy sides when steamed and served without butter or sauces. 
  • Add an additional ‘pop’ of flavor with herbs, spices, and citrus juices.

Main Dish Swaps

  • Casseroles are a holiday favorite and easy to make, but many contain high calorie and high-fat ingredients like cream, butter and cheese. 
  • Instead, swap out casseroles for baked ham, loin of pork, roasted turkey, or chicken, which are excellent sources of protein. 

Dessert Swaps 

So many desserts, so little time! Try some of these swaps to reduce sugar, fat and calories. 

  • Single or ‘crustless’ pies (pumpkin) instead of nut-based (pecan pie) or double-crust pies (apple pie)                                                                                                                       
  • Fruit and yogurt (low-fat) parfaits instead of ice cream or other frozen desserts             
  • Ginger snaps or meringue cookies instead of peanut butter, sandwich or cookies with filling.                 
  • Baked fruit (apples and pears) or chocolate-dipped (strawberries and oranges) instead of fruit pies or strudel
  • Puddings and mousse instead of Crème Brulee. 
Photo by Ekaterina Bolovtsova on

Baking Swaps 

Try these easy swaps in your favorite quick bread, cookies and cakes: 

  • One egg for 2 egg whites or ¼ cup of egg substitute to reduce calories, fat and cholesterol (by about 213 mg).
  • Plain fat-free (FF) Greek yogurt for sour cream. One cup contains fewer calories (132) than regular sour cream (445) or fat-free sour cream (170) and adds 23 grams of protein. Use a 1:1 ratio; for example, ½ cup of FF Greek yogurt for ½ cup sour cream
  • Unsweetened applesauce for oils keeps baked goods moist and reduces the fat and calories and even the amount of sugar. For oils, use a 1:1 ratio. 

Finally, portion sizes are key. By cutting portions in half and eating slowly, you can still ‘savor the flavor’ of your favorite holiday foods. Stay active and include walks, hikes, runs or bike rides to burn those extra holiday food calories, which will lessen the guilt of facing the scale in January.

Happy Holidays!

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