Healthy Twists on Your Favorite Festive Dishes

Why does everything we hold dear during the holidays—you know, the cram-in-your-mouth cookies, creamy casseroles, and decadent rich cakes—have to be awful for us? The good news is that your favorite festive dishes and treats don’t have to be on your naughty list.

Just make the following eight ingredient swaps to enjoy your favorite Christmas cookies, cakes, and more…

Unsweetened Applesauce for Butter

If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to trim your waistline, substituting low fat, unsweetened applesauce in place of butter will start 2014 off lighter. Reduce the amount of butter and lard in baking with applesauce—just use a cup of applesauce in place of a cup of butter in cookies, breads, muffins, loafs, and cakes.

Coconut Milk for Heavy Cream

If you like your festive stews creamy and your holiday soups so thick the spoon will stand at attention then I won’t take that away from you. However, you can achieve the same success by using coconut milk in place of heavy cream. It’ll even work for gravy because coconut milk has a similar thick texture to cream—at about 50-percent less calories!

Yogurt for Frosting

That cake is already rich and sweet enough—do you really need to smear a whole pound of confectioners’ sugar on top? I opt for a lower fat version in fat-free plain yogurt mixed with a few tablespoons of sugar, mix in the blender and enjoy a flavorful cake topping with much less culpability.

Quinoa Flour for White Flour

I love quinoa instead of white rice or white pasta, so it makes sense that I prefer quinoa flour to white flour for baking too. Not only does it permit a richer, nuttier flavor to cookies and pancakes, but it is lower in fat and far richer in protein and nutrients than its white counterpart if you swap it exactly cup for cup!

Carob Chips for Chocolate Chips

Chocolate chips are nice added to any recipe, but they really turn up the caloric sweetness. And when you’re counting cookie for cookie, those calories can add up quick! So instead of chocolate chips, I reach for carob chips, which are unprocessed cocoa beans with no added sugar or dairy. Carob makes up for this with loads of flavor and antioxidants…so much so that the kids won’t even know they aren’t eating chocolate chips.

Canadian Bacon for Regular Bacon

I used to put bacon in my pea soup, stuffing, and include it in my Christmas brunch. That was until I realized that healthier substitutes like Canadian (or peameal) bacon, turkey bacon, and even lean prosciutto due the trick with less calories and fat—without compromising on that delicious smoky flavor.

Vanilla Extract for Refined White Sugar

Before you exclaim that no holiday jam, fruit crisp, cobblers, or pie could be quite the same without refined white sugar—think again!  I forgo the white sugar altogether in all of my holiday recipes in lieu of vanilla extract, which delivers a rich, warming, sweet flavor without the empty calories of plain old sugar.

Greek Yogurt for Sour Cream

Sour Cream is one of those condiments that really tips a dish over the weight scale. However, sub in thick, creamy Greek yogurt for sour cream in dips, casseroles, and as the crown topping on your mincemeat pie and you’ll never miss those mounting, empty calories under your waistband again.


Emily Lockhart

Emily Lockhart is a certified yoga instructor and personal trainer. She believes that being healthy is a lifestyle choice, not a punishment or temporary fix to attain a desired fitness or body image goal. Anna helps her clients take responsibility for their own health and wellness through her classes and articles on ActiveBeat.