The holidays bring us together with family and friends, and these get-togethers often include a meal. For some, this is an opportunity to visit with people they don’t often see and make new friends. For others, it’s an opportunity to over-indulge, consuming far more than they should.

Eating healthfully during the holiday season can seem almost impossible! We are bombarded by food advertisements on TV, and well-meaning friends and relatives prepare huge feasts. We all tend to eat a bit more, and exercise a bit less at this time of year. But you can fix healthier meals that everyone will love, just by making a few simple substitutions.

This holiday season, instead of feeling bad about making and eating your favorite holiday dishes, how about modifying some of your traditional recipes to make them healthier. With some simple substitutions, you can bump up the nutritional value while reducing fat, calories and sodium. And your guests will never know! In fact, they might even like your “new” recipe even better!

Try these tips for making holiday meals a bit healthier:

Flour. Substitute whole wheat flour for half of the all-purpose flour in baked goods like cakes, muffins and cookies. This increases their nutritional value. Whole grains provide lots of nutrients like fiber, B vitamins and essential minerals.

Cream. Top off holiday pies with a dab of frozen yogurt instead of ice cream. When recipes call for sour cream, use plain, low fat Greek yogurt instead. Yogurt is lower in fat and calories than either ice cream or sour cream.

Oil. In most baking, apple sauce can be substituted for most of the oil called for by the recipe. Apple sauce provides more nutrients and fiber, while reducing the fat and calories. You can use apple sauce to replace a like amount of oil (1 cup of apple sauce replaces 1 cup of oil). Note: I don’t replace all of the oil. I like to leave a little bit to help keep the cake, cookie or pie release from the pan.

Seasoned salt. When a recipe calls for seasoned salt (like garlic salt, celery salt, or onion salt), use the herb by itself instead (garlic powder, celery seed or onion flakes). Even better, try using freshly chopped herbs. They have a lot more flavor without any of the added salt.

Sugar. Where you can, cut the amount of sugar in recipes. Many recipes overdo the sugar, making them overly sweet. I have reduced sugar by as much as 1/2 in some recipes without a noticeable difference. Where you need added flavor, try reducing the sugar and substituting cinnamon or oranges. For example, we usually fix yams with apples for the holidays. Last year, we made them with half the sugar and added cinnamon. Everybody raved about how good they were. For our cranberry relish, we reduced the sugar and added a cut up orange. Like the yams, everyone loved it!

Start your own holiday traditions by cutting fat, sodium and calories from those recipes that you enjoy. Of course, you can use these substitutions at any time of the year, but they’re especially good to use during the holidays. You’ll be helping your family create their own healthy future!

Remember, healthy choices each day can transform families for generations! What choices will you make today?

Do You Wish Your Kid’s Ate Better? Check out our FREE eBook at Many of the strategies in this book can be used by both children and adults.
You may also want to read: Healthy Holiday Survival Guide by Dr. Susan Wilder, Cookware Essentials for the Everyday Chef, What to Cook When You Think You Don’t Have Time

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