Healthier Holiday Swaps
The holidays are a fun time when we gather with friends and loved ones and celebrate time-honored traditions. We break bread and clink glasses in celebration of the season, the things for which we are grateful, and the company of our favorite people.
Many of these traditions include our favorite foods, homemade from recipes that have been passed down over the years. Who wouldn’t look forward to brined turkey, sweet potatoes, dinner rolls, green bean casserole, the cranberry dish of our family’s choice, and dishes that are unique to each region?
Food has an incredible connection to memory. The act of eating delicious food with our loved ones activates all our senses and can even help us recall deep memories and emotions. So it’s no wonder that when we prepare a treasured relative’s famous scalloped potato recipe, we think of that person and remember the warm emotions we feel for them.
At the same time, some of our favorite holiday foods are packed with unhealthy levels of sugar, carbohydrates, and fats. Food science and our understanding of nutrition has come a long way since Grandma’s faded red plaid cookbook was first published. Even the food pyramid is no longer something that nutritionists rely on to depict a well-balanced meal. So now that we know better, we can do better.
But don’t panic! We don’t have to throw out all our favorite recipes and start from scratch. It is the holidays, after all, and some indulgence is certainly warranted. Part of the season is celebrating abundance and practicing gratitude for the sweeter things in life. But how can you scratch that nostalgic itch for your family’s favorite recipes and traditions while still making healthier holiday choices?
Prioritize your absolute favorite dishes and make changes in other dishes. If you love green bean casserole, leave it the way you’ve always made it and tweak other dishes. It’s all about choice. Here are some ingredients you can swap out in your holiday recipes to make them a bit healthier!
- Top your vitamin-A-rich pumpkin pie with frozen vanilla yogurt instead of ice cream or whipped cream.
- Try dairy-free egg nog, which is surprisingly low in calories compared to the traditional version.
- In baked goods, trade out butter or oil for bananas or applesauce.
- If you need to use oil, use the kind with unsaturated fat such as olive or sunflower oil.
- Substitute whole wheat flour for half of the white flour in a recipe.
- Swap sour cream for Greek yogurt.
- Trade that sugary canned cranberry sauce for boiled cherries sweetened with agave.
Here are some other considerations to make sure you aren’t stuffed with holiday regrets after your celebratory meals:
- If your celebrations are small and you aren’t baking for a bunch, consider halving that cookie dough recipe. That way, you won’t be tempted by the leftovers that a double batch might leave behind.
- Make veggies half of your plate.
- Don’t sit around after your meal. Go for a walk or participate in a “turkey trot” fun run.
With these tips, you and your loved ones can have a healthy and happy holiday.