To ensure you don't pack on the pounds this holiday season, swap high-fat, high-sodium, high-sugar, processed ingredients for more wholesome fixings. This way, you and your family can enjoy all the good eats without sacrificing your health.
These swaps, suggested by Certified Health Coach Mary Beth Gierlinger and Personal Chef Claude "Chef Garbo" Garbarino, cut calories and fat while still preserving flavor.
First Things First: Basic Cooking Swaps1 of 12
Before giving holiday standards a nutritional overhaul, Garbarino recommends these basic ingredient swaps.
- Replace olive oil, butter and other fats with organic coconut oil or do a half and half mixture of fats. Coconut oil has been shown to reduce cholesterol, improve thyroid functioning, protect against illness-causing bacteria and viruses and aid digestion.
- Use naturally harvested Celtic sea salt in place of processed salt, which contains additives.
- Sweeten foods and beverages with grade B maple syrup instead of sugar. Grade B maple syrup—named for its dark caramel color, not its quality—is a natural source of beneficial minerals.
Stuffing Swaps2 of 12
Holiday meals are a carb-lover's dream: rolls, potatoes, cakes and, of course, stuffing. But these kinds of carbs can make a meal too heavy. Additionally, some people are bothered by wheat, which can cause an inflammatory reaction.
Replace bread-based stuffing with organic corn bread or serve a hearty, stuffing-like side dish prepared with quinoa or wild rice. Roasted wild mushrooms, nuts and dried fruit also add color and texture to stuffing while enhancing the complexity of flavors.
Meat Swaps3 of 12
Avoid letting meat take center stage at your holiday meals. Offer a variety of dishes featuring whole grains, fruits and vegetables. When serving meat, substitute lean cuts such as turkey breast, pork loin and ham in place of fatty cuts such as prime rib.
Gravy Swaps4 of 12
Instead of whisking corn starch into meat juices or thickening gravy with a roux, add white wine to pan drippings and reduce heat for a rich concentration of flavors.
Mashed Potato Swaps5 of 12
Swap the traditional bowl of mashed potatoes, loaded with whole milk and butter, for mashed potatoes made with almond milk or broth (chicken or vegetable). You can also substitute half of the white potatoes with steamed cauliflower. Mash and mix.
Sweet Potato Swaps6 of 12
Most people make their holiday yams candied, topped with marshmallows or whipped into a frothy casserole with pineapple. Preserve the natural sweetness of these orange-colored spuds by swapping sugary sides for mashed yams accented with a bit of cinnamon and toasted pecans. You can also serve up roasted, caramelized sweet potatoes.
Cranberry Sauce Swap7 of 12
Trade the canned jelly for a zesty sauce that takes just minutes to prepare in the food processor. Combine one package of fresh cranberries with a whole orange (cut into chunks), a dash of vanilla extract and a drizzle of honey. Pulse into a coarse chop and serve.
Green Bean Casserole Swaps8 of 12
It doesn't really count as a vegetable side when it's mixed with condensed soup, milk and fried onions, does it? Replace the oh-so-heavy green bean casserole with lightly sautéed green beans garnished with almonds.
Other Vegetable Swaps9 of 12
Add a few other vegetable sides to the buffet, and everyone will be more likely to increase their intake of greens.
- Sautee Brussels sprouts with garlic and finish with lemon zest, grated Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper.
- Make a rustic roasted vegetable medley by combining chopped parsnips, beets, carrots, yams and rutabagas with a drizzle of olive oil, rosemary, salt and pepper, and roast until golden brown.
- Roast a head of garlic and use it to top veggies in place of butter.
Eggnog, Mulled Wine and Other Beverages Swaps10 of 12
Exchange high-fat eggnog, sugary mulled wine and high-calorie cocktails for healthier options such as hot chocolate made with skim milk, wine spritzers and hot apple cider. Keep your system clean by sipping lemon water throughout the day and with meals.
Remember, when drinking wine, red is healthier than white, as it contains antioxidants.
Dessert Swaps11 of 12
Yes, you can have your holiday cake (or cookies or pie) and eat it, too. Heed these tips for guilt-free treats.
- Use almond or coconut milk instead of condensed milk.
- Sweeten with grade B maple sugar or raw honey.
- Replace butter or shortening with organic coconut oil. Even mixing half butter with half coconut oil is beneficial.
- Use whole-wheat flour or almond flour in pastry crust recipes. Better yet--go crustless.
- Prepare a fruit galette. This "open face" tart is essentially a pie without the top crust.
- Opt for a fruit crisp. Top apples, peaches, pears or any other fruit combination with a mixture of oatmeal, natural brown sugar and a small amount of butter or coconut oil.