7 Recipe Swaps to Keep Your Family Holiday Treats on Track

Make the healthiest choices you can during the season

Contributor: Jennifer Willoughby, RD

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Around the holiday months, it’s imperative to have realistic expectations.

I have many teenagers come into my office around November with a goal to lose a certain amount of pounds before they head back to school from winter break. I encourage nearly all of them — unless medically necessary — that the focus throughout the holidays should be on weight maintenance. Otherwise, patients get into trouble with potential yo-yo dieting or skipping meals to save up for one big holiday feast, which can sabotage long-term success.

I’m not saying that you absolutely cannot lose weight during the holidays, but the main focus of eating around the holidays should be to make the healthiest choices you can without depriving your body.

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With that in mind, try these recipe swaps for healthy alternatives throughout the holidays — or any time of year.

  1. Try subbing out standard high-fat baking items for more nutritious equivalents. The kids likely won’t even know the difference. For example: Use applesauce or canned pumpkin in place of oil in baked goods; plain Greek yogurt instead of sour cream for toppings; low-fat dairy products in place of full-fat items; and light cream cheese instead of regular cream cheese in dips and desserts.
  2. Most pumpkin pie recipes call for at least 1 cup of cream or evaporated whole milk and two eggs. Use evaporated skim milk and three egg whites to cut about 300 calories and 30-plus grams of fat.
  3. Puree vegetables into common dishes for a kid-friendly nutritional kick. For example: Substitute pureed pumpkin or squash for half the cheese in mac and cheese; puree cauliflower into mashed potatoes; and add shredded zucchini and carrots to brownies, cakes and muffins.
  4. Cut extra vegetables into tiny pieces and add them to stuffing (a great way for picky kids to get extra veggies). Also try replacing some of the bread with canned chestnuts – a nutritious and unique alternative.
  5. When baking with chocolate, you can substitute 3 tablespoons of cocoa for every 1 ounce of chocolate in many recipes.
  6. Purchase whole-grain bread rolls instead of crescent rolls or biscuits to cut nearly 100 calories and 8 grams of fat per roll.
  7. Refrigerate gravy to harden the fat, then skim the fat off the top to save approximately 56 grams of fat per cup.

Remember: When it comes to food choices, you aren’t alone in the struggle. Everyone must make choices about food in order to be healthy. So treat yourself in moderation, remember to keep moving and enjoy the season spending time with your loved ones.

This post is based on one of a series of articles produced by U.S. News & World Report in association with the medical experts at Cleveland Clinic.

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