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Healthier Swaps for Traditional Holiday Treats

Alyssa Simon • Dec 05, 2015
holiday eating healthy foods for children

The holiday season is a wonderful time of year, built around celebrations, family, friends, and of course, food. From holiday dinners to classroom parties and everything in between, you may find yourself surrounded by dips, chips, cookies, cakes, pies, and more.

While it is perfectly okay to enjoy a few holiday favorites, a diet that is regularly high in fat and sugar can contribute to chronic diseases including obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.  By making just a few simple swaps, you can cut down on the amount of fat and sugar your family consumes this holiday season, without cutting the fun!

  • Swap potato chips and onion dip for tortilla chips and salsa     

Chips and dip are classic party food, but traditional onion dip can contain 8% of your daily fat in just 2 tablespoons. Instead, go for tortilla chips and salsa. Salsa contains just 10 calories for 2 tablespoons (vs. 60 in onion dip), zero grams of fat, and a serving of vegetables!

  • Swap jellied cranberry sauce for homemade cranberry sauce

Jellied cranberry sauce is canned cranberry sauce made from cranberries, high fructose corn syrup, syrup, and water. In just ¼ cup, jellied cranberry sauce contains 24g of sugar, nearly twice the amount of a glazed donut. For a healthier swap, make homemade cranberry sauce using orange juice as a sweetener to cut down on the amount of added sugar. Grate an orange peel over the finished product for a tangier flavor!

  • Swap sweet potato casserole for roasted sweet potatoes

The sweet potato is a nutrient-packed vegetable and a good source of potassium, fiber, and vitamin A. Sweet potato casserole is a common side dish at many holiday dinners, but unfortunately this marshmallow-topped treat negates the many health benefits of the sweet potato. Instead, simply roast the sweet potatoes in the oven with a little bit of honey and cinnamon for a sweet and healthy side dish.

  • Swap regular eggnog for soy nog

Eggnog is a classic holiday beverage made from milk, cream, sugar, and eggs. Just ½ cup of traditional eggnog can contain 21g of sugar, 5g of saturated fat (26% of your daily recommended value), and 180 calories. Try soy nog instead, which contains 11g of sugar, 0g saturated fat, and 80 calories per ½ cup serving.

  • Swap cheese and crackers for pretzels and hummus

While cheese is a good source of protein, it’s also a good source of calories and saturated fat for a small serving size. Instead, have pretzels and hummus. Hummus is a Greek dip made from tahini oil, a source of heart healthy fat. Hummus also pairs well with vegetables like carrots, celery, and broccoli!

  • Swap chocolate candies for a fruit plate with chocolate sauce

Chocolate candies are abundant at holiday parties, and are easy to grab in handfuls, which can quickly lead to a high calorie, high sugar mindless munch. Instead, serve yourself a fruit plate and drizzle on some chocolate sauce for the chocolate flavor along with a bonus of vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

  • Swap double crust pie for open-faced pie

 Pies are usually only served a few times per year, so rather than turning down pie, opt for an “open-faced” pie, or a pie made with one crust rather than two. The piecrust is an easy source of extra calories and fat, so cutting out one crust can save you calories and fat without skipping flavor.

  • Swap green bean casserole for roasted green beans with sesame oil and seeds

Green bean casserole is traditionally made with cream of mushroom soup, and topped with fried onion rings, both sources of heart-damaging saturated fat. Instead of green bean casserole, try roasting green beans with sesame oil and sesame seeds, both sources of heart-healthy fat and packed with flavor!

  • Swap milk chocolate for dark chocolate

Holiday parties are abundant with chocolate, but if you can find some dark chocolate (or bring your own), choose the dark chocolate over milk. Calorie and sugar-wise, dark chocolate and milk chocolate are basically the same, but dark chocolate has been shown to contain antioxidants, which help prevent damage to cells. Be sure to stick to one serving though, as chocolate is still high in sugar and calories.

  • Swap ingredients for healthier holiday baking

If you and your family are baking cookies together, there are many simple substitutions you can make for healthier desserts such as swapping white flour for wheat, oil for applesauce, sugar for vanilla extract, and even eggs for bananas. For more detail on these ingredient swaps, check out this article Holiday Baking Healthy Swaps!

Remember, the holiday season is a time for family and friends. The holiday’s only come once a year, so do be sure to enjoy your favorite holiday treats, and use these swaps for foods you may have more commonly. Have a healthy, happy, holiday season!

Written by Alyssa SimonWritten on Dec 05, 2015Last updated on Dec 06, 2015




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