Diet and NutritionFitness

Tips To Turn Holiday Treats Healthy

Visions of sugarplums may be dancing in your head, but your conscience is telling you to cut that out.  You know that those decadent holiday favorites, but sweet and savory, are loaded with sugar, salt and fat —and that this is the hardest time of year to make healthy choices.  But healthy holiday eating is possible.

Here, we share some tips on making better choices for your feasting, as well as alternatives to keep your traditional recipes tasty while taking away some calories.

Get Saucy

You’ve likely already heard that unsweetened applesauce works in place of oil in many recipes.  To reduce the amount of oil you use and cut the fat by almost half, use a fat free-puree of applesauce in place of vegetable oil in breads, muffins and even your boxed mixes for brownies and cakes.  Prune puree or mashed banana are other saucy alternatives.

Use a Mixed Bouquet of Flours

Try nut flours in place of white flour (or all purpose flour).  Nut flours, like almond or chestnut, can be a tasty and healthy alternative as they are higher in fiber and protein, contain heart healthy omega-3s, and are gluten free!  One thing to remember is that nut flours don’t rise like regular flour, and can’t be swapped cup for cup, so you’ll want to find a recipe that calls for the specific flour you are using, or figure out the appropriate swap for your particular flour type.

Shake It Off

Shake out your salt use. Most recipes will taste just as great if you reduce the salt by half, and you’ll want to go easy on, or choose low-sodium versions, of salty condiments like pickles, catsup, mustard and soy sauce. In soup and entree recipes, salt substitutions include fresh herbs and flavored vinegars.

Use Your Coconut

Many of our favorite holiday soups call for heavy cream, but sub-ing coconut milk, cup for cup, will still give you a deliciously creamy texture and taste, all for about half the calories.

Be Vanilla 

Vanilla extract is a prime alternative for white sugar in our favorite holiday sweets recipes.  It’s tasty and adds more flavor than sugar, with fewer calories, which we love.  The rule of thumb is to use two tablespoons of vanilla extract per cup of sugar called for in the recipe.   Bonus!  This works for poached fruit recipes, too.

All is Meringue & Bright

Egg whites and four tablespoons of sugar in a high speed blender give you… meringue.  Use this instead of frosting for a topping with less guilt.

Tips To Turn Holiday Treats Healthy

Quit Yamming

Replace your sugary candied yam recipe with oven-roasted sweet potatoes.  Sweet potatoes are equally traditional, and you could save over 100 calories per cup!  We recommend roasting, in lieu of boiling, sweet potatoes brushed with some heart healthy canola or olive oil.  This gives you a healthy helping of vitamins and nutrients, plus a great dose of monounsaturated fat from the oil.  Add up all of those nutrients with the calories saved and that’s a pretty sweet potato side dish.

Stuff It (at Home)

Skip store-bought stuffing – it’s prepared with butter and cubes of white bread.  Instead, make your own homemade stuffing that has less fat, more fiber, and more flavor.  It’s easy!  Simply sauté celery, onions, carrots, water chestnuts, or any other cubed vegetables you like in a tablespoon or two of olive or canola oil. Combine this with whole-grain bread cubes, moisten with no- or low-sodium chicken broth, and add your favorite herbs.  Then bake!

With Relish

Cranberry sauce is full of sugar corn syrup and added sweeteners.  Instead, choose – or even make your own – cranberry relish.

Lean In

The dark meat in your holiday bird likely has about twice the fat of the breast meat and about 40 percent more calories. Skipping dark meat in favor of lean proteins, be it turkey (without the skin), fish (without any fatty sauce), and pork, is a great way to fill you up and get lots of energy.

Good Gravy!

Make a low-fat tasty gravy with 1 cup of fat-free turkey broth, 2 tablespoons of flour, and seasonings to taste. If you really want to use the drippings from the roasting pan, just remove the fat first (use a fat-separator cup or place the drippings in the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes and then skim off the fat that rises to the top). In a hurry? Use a paper towel to soak up the fat. This will help with eating healthy, but you still should remember portion control because gravy calories can add up fast.

Roll With It

Dinner rolls can be up to 200 calories each, so if you’re watching your carbs, they are a good choice to skip.  But if you still want bread with your meal, think about replacing the white flour in your favorite roll recipe for whole wheat. For cornbread (or another recipe that calls for whole milk), replace full-fat milk with low-fat buttermilk or thinned plain yogurt. Experiment with less sugar and oil than the recipe calls for — we bet you and your guests won’t even notice.

Have Your Pie

Yes, you can still have your pie – it’s no fun to resist desserts from Thanksgiving to New Years!  But you can save calories by choosing pumpkin (at about 300 calories per slice) over pecan (about 500 calories).  Pumpkin pie also offers you lots of vitamin A, calcium, and iron.  Another tip?  Cut out the crust entirely.  This is where most of the fat is found.  Your calorie count will go down by another 100 or so.

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Kate Michael

Kate Michael

Kate Michael is a Writer, Event Emcee, On-Camera Host and Fashion/Commercial Model. Follow on Twitter @kstreetkate