10 Healthy Food Swaps

Written by Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDE, LDN

The holiday season can feel like one food fest after another. With so many celebrations revolving around tempting dishes and baked goods that are often rich in added fats, refined carbohydrates and excess sugars—managing blood glucose levels can be extra challenging.

But here’s some good news: It’s possible to create healthier versions of many holiday favorites with some simple switching. After you see how easy and delicious it is to eat healthier versions of favorite foods you may never go back to the original recipe! Here are some ideas to get you started.  

#1. Use mashed avocado instead of butter.

Holiday baked goods tend to use large amounts of added butter – a source of saturated fat and excess calories. Replacing just two tablespoons of butter with mashed avocado using a 1:1 ratio saves 154 calories and 14 grams of saturated fat. If you aren’t completely sold on this swap, try replacing just half of the butter in the recipe with equal parts mashed avocado. Your baked goods will still benefit from a nutritional boost. (Note: Depending on the amount used, avocado can give lightly colored foods a green tint. In brownies or dark colored muffins the color green won't be detectable.)

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#2. Use low-fat cottage cheese and low-fat Greek yogurt to replace mayo and sour cream.

Cottage cheese—pureed in the food processor—creates a texture and consistency that can be used as a mayonnaise or sour cream replacement in many recipes. Full-fat ricotta cheese can usually be swapped for low-fat cottage cheese in equal amounts with little difference in taste but big savings in the fat and calorie department.  Greek yogurt is an excellent substitute for sour cream in the same measurements. These dairy-related tweaks not only reduce the overall fat and calorie content of a dish but boost the calcium content, as well.

#3. Ditch the white sugar for pureed fruit, mashed banana or apple sauce.  

Added sugar can spike blood glucose levels. Experiment with cutting the white sugar while adding pureed fruit such as ripe bananas and dates, which both work especially well in baked goods.

#4. Bake with cocoa powder instead of baking chocolate.

For chocolate-filled recipes, substitute an ounce of baking chocolate with 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder. This substitution saves on fat and calories but still provides the chocolatey flavor. 

 

#5. Munch on pistachio nuts instead of chips and dip.

De-shelling a handful of pistachios to snack on takes more time and effort than tossing back a handful of chips and dip. This means you’re likely to eat less overall. Plus, the shells provide a great visual cue of just how many pistachios you’ve eaten.  And to top it off, pistachios are a good source of fiber, protein and healthy fat.

#6. Zero in on the shrimp platter instead of the cheese platter.

A shrimp cocktail appetizer is a great way to fill up on lean protein without elevating blood glucose levels before the main meal.

 

#7. Bake sweet potatoes instead of mashed white ones.

Traditional mashed potatoes are delicious, but you may miss them less than you think with this sweet potato and carrot recipe. Serve this side dish at your next holiday gathering.

Sweet Potato and Carrot Bake with Pecan Crumble

 

Serves 8

Ingredients:

 2 sweet potatoes, diced

 2 carrots, finely shredded

 2 Tbs vanilla almond milk

1⁄4 tsp cinnamon

1/3 cup pecans, crushed

1/3 cup graham crackers

1 tsp agave nectar

1 Tbs coconut oil

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

2. Place diced sweet potatoes in a large microwave safe bowl.

3. Heat potatoes in microwave for 8 minutes on high until softened.

4. Mash sweet potatoes and carrots together until combined.

5. Stir in almond milk and cinnamon.

6. In separate bowl, mix together pecans, graham crackers, agave nectar and coconut oil. Mixing together until crumbly.

7. Spray 9X9 inch square baking pan with cooking spray.

8. Add sweet potato and carrot mixture to pan and spread evenly.

9. Top with pecan crumble and dust with a sprinkle of cinnamon.

10. Bake for 10 minutes until crumble begins to turn golden.


Nutrition Facts (per serving)
133 Calories, 20 grams Carbs, 3 grams Fiber, 2 grams Protein, 5 grams Fat

As you can see, a few simple swaps can easily boost the nutrient contain of your holiday meals while reducing your overall calorie and carbohydrate intake. By incorporating these swaps into your celebrations, you can enjoy the holidays guilt-free while keeping blood glucose levels in check.

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