Make healthier (and tastier!) holiday meals with these simple ingredient swaps…
With the holidays upon us, it can sometimes be tricky to stick with your health goals. While it’s important to stay focused on your objective, we also need to give ourselves a little grace this time of year, and realize it’s okay to indulge once in a while on a special occasion. Otherwise, you risk feeling deprived, which can lead to overindulging anyway!
It’s also important to remember that eating healthy doesn’t have to mean sacrificing flavor and satisfaction! In fact, you might be surprised to find that some of the most nourishing and nutrient-rich foods can be some of the most satisfying foods of all. It all comes down to using high-quality ingredients, and using them to make foods that you are going to truly savor and enjoy.
When it comes time to prepare your holiday meals, consider these healthier ingredient swaps that can add nutrition to your dishes without sacrificing flavor – as suggested by Mark Hyman, MD:
- If a recipe calls for vegetable or seed oil, choose olive, avocado, or coconut instead. Canola and other vegetable oils are often called for in traditional American recipes. These are associated with higher levels of oxidation and inflammation, which we know increase the risk of chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease. Without altering your recipe, you can easily swap in a healthier fat. I like to use extra virgin olive oil in any low-temperature recipes like sauteés, sauces, and dressings, avocado oil for higher-temperature roasting, and coconut oil is delicious for baking and makes a great butter replacement if you’re trying to go dairy-free.
- Experiment with almond and coconut flour. These can’t be swapped for refined flour one-to-one, but you can find tons of delicious grain-free recipes online using them. From cake to focaccia, almond flour lends a slightly nutty flavor with high amounts of antioxidant vitamin E and magnesium. Coconut flour is high in fiber and has more iron and potassium than traditional wheat flour. It’s pretty dense so a little goes a long way, like in these fluffy Grain-Free Wild Blueberry Waffles. Both almond flour and coconut flour have plenty of healthy fats and protein with fewer carbs than grain flours, which means less of a blood sugar spike and a more satiating recipe.
- Replace and reduce refined sugar. It’s amazing how much sugar many recipes pack in, especially holiday ones. Time and time again, I’ve found my favorite traditional recipes taste just as great, if not better, by reducing the amount of sugar by about a fourth to a half. I recommend trying coconut sugar instead of granulated white and brown sugar. You can also try using honey. This process is a little more involved because honey adds extra water to a recipe, but this helpful article explains what other tweaks you’ll need to make. An important caveat—natural sweeteners like these still contain sugar and still impact your blood glucose and insulin. Using less is best and try to limit sweeteners to an occasional treat, but choosing a less processed source is always a good option.
Use these tips to prepare and enjoy healthier meals this holiday season – and don’t be afraid to experiment and come up with your own ingredient swaps! You may just find that your family requests these healthier versions of your favorite family recipes next year, too.