Fat, sugar, and salt dominate many holiday recipes. This can make it seem tough to stay healthy or keep weight off over the holiday season. After all, who would dare change grandma’s famous stuffing? The answer is, you would!
It’s certainly possible to make healthy substitutions, even in classic holiday recipes. Try these holiday recipe hacks to make absolutely delicious (and much more healthy!) holiday meals:
Substitutions are allowed
There are many meals where you can use some sleight of hand and no one will know the difference. Here are several ways you can add nutrition to food and strip out unnecessary health hazards, without sacrificing taste:
Fat: Your baked goods have a lot of fat in the form of butter or shortening binding things together. Instead of using only fatty substances as binders, try healthy foods like unsweetened applesauce or mashed banana. If you’re a dedicated cook, you can also take inspiration from the classic cowboy cake recipe and boil raisins down into a sticky mass and use that as part of your binder. Just remember that fruit adds more than binding ability, it adds moisture to a recipe. So, experiment before you serve your guests.
Sugar: Many healthy options beat out white sugar every time. These include raw honey, dates, stevia, coconut sugar, maple syrup, blackstrap molasses, and brown rice syrup.
Another option that is particularly applicable over the holidays is to go a little heavier on the spices and lighter on the sugar. Some extra vanilla extract and pumpkin pie spice mixed with a half tablespoon of molasses and only half of the sugar required by the recipe can still make a delicious pie filling. Just add about 1/4th extra spice and see how everything tastes!
Wheat: Many people say that stuffing or the dinner rolls are their favorite part of a Thanksgiving meal. Fortunately, there are many, many options when it comes to flour. You aren’t stuck with wheat. Here are several flours you can try this holiday season: almond, amaranth, barley, bean (mix with sorghum flour to counteract any bitter flavor), rice, buckwheat, chestnut, chia seed, coconut, cornmeal, hemp, lupin, Montina, oat, quinoa, and spelt. Some of the above-listed flours have the added benefit of being gluten free!
Salt: While you probably shouldn’t replace the amount of salt required in a baked recipe, you can usually cut the salt required by many meals by half. And, here’s a trick: add citrus in place of salt. This can make your taste buds think they are enjoying salt when they aren’t.
Rein in the excess
Food surrounds us during the holiday season. Here are a three tips to help you rein in the excess while you are eating or cooking:
- Use smaller plates. Whether you are hosting a party with little treats or a full-fledged dinner, smaller plates will help your friends and family eat smaller portion sizes while still feeling as if they are eating their usual holiday feast.
- Pair down the toppings. Instead of smothering foods in toppings like cheese or whipped cream, serve just a dollop. Your guest will get to enjoy the delicious food without just tasting a topping.
- Cut thin slices. Pre-cutting thin, even slices of pie or turkey can help keep portions reasonable without anyone feeling as if they are being short changed in the food department.
It can be such a fun challenge to add nutrition to traditionally sugary or unhealthy recipes! Be sure to share your favorite healthy recipes with us on our Facebook page this holiday season – and let us know if you come up with an additional way to add nutrition to a holiday classic.