Megan Ostler MS, RDN, iFit Dietitian

I love the holidays. Sweaters, snow, lights, family and especially the food! As a dietitian, I’m all about people eating healthily, but that isn’t the only aspect of food that’s important. Food is also an important part of celebrations and traditions for most people (myself included), so I never tell people that they shouldn’t enjoy their favorite holiday treats. Instead, I encourage them to keep the holiday eating to a few days instead of two months, listen to their bodies, maybe skip that second serving, continue to exercise regularly and to try a few, easy food swaps.

Although I’m a firm believer that there are no “bad foods” and that everything can be enjoyed in moderation, by making a few alterations in your holiday recipes or food choices, you can save some calories and eat a little healthier this year. So, let’s talk about those food swaps.

Holiday foods are often incredibly high in calories, and, in many cases, you won’t even notice these changes. For example, does that favorite family recipe really need nuts? Could you cut the chocolate chips in half? These are a few of my favorite, easy substitutions:

  • Skip the nuts.
  • Skip the cheese, unless the taste is vital to the dish.
  • Skip the sauces or casseroles and opt for steamed or roasted veggies instead.
  • Make a basic white roux instead of using cream in sauces, soups or casseroles.
  • Substitute half the oil with applesauce or puréed pumpkin in baked items, except cookies. You can also decrease sugar with this swap.
  • Substitute puréed beans for oil in cookies (increases fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals).
  • Substitute half the all-purpose flour for whole wheat flour (more vitamins, minerals and fiber).
  • Swap sour cream or mayo with plain, Greek yogurt (less fat and more protein).
  • Skip or decrease toppings: marshmallows on sweet potatoes, whipped cream on pies or hot chocolate, gravy on potatoes (I like to make garlic potatoes that don’t need gravy).
  • Have salad dressing on the side and keep it to two tablespoons.
  • Add or double the vegetables (more fiber, vitamins, minerals and bulk to fill you up).
  • Swap pasta or rice for veggie options such as cauliflower rice or zucchini noodles.
  • Try using extracts. For example, add caramel or rum extract to your hot cocoa, cake, apple pies, etc., instead of actual rum or caramel.

These are just a few of my favorite swaps, but there are many ways to make your favorite dishes a little healthier. Still though, there are probably a few recipes that are family classics that you wouldn’t dream of changing. For those items, keep the serving sizes small and savor every little bite.