The holidays are often decked with delicious (and high-calorie!) dishes and drinks that could make it hard to stick to your clean eating routine. But, not to worry because we’ve done some research for you on healthier alternatives! With these easy swaps, you can enjoy your holiday favorites while still staying on track with your healthy eating or weight loss goals.
Pro tip: Make sure to also have a healthy meal replacement shake before you enjoy the holiday festivities! This will help keep you feeling full so you’re less likely to over-snack on the unhealthy holiday treats.
Here are recipes and healthy food swaps for some of your favorite holiday classics…
First Course: Appetizers
Instead of… Ranch dressing or sour cream and onion dip
Try… Greek Yogurt Ranch Dip
© Photo by Well Plated by Erin
Most sour-cream or ranch-based dips pack extra calories and sodium…and very little nutrition. By substituting Greek yogurt for your favorite sour cream and onion or ranch dressing dip you’ll still get the same creaminess with a lot fewer calories. Plus Greek yogurt has a ton of healthy fats and protein.
For this Greek Yogurt Ranch Dip recipe, all you need is a cup of your favorite non-fat plain Greek yogurt, garlic and onion powder, dill, chives, Worcestershire sauce, and cayenne pepper. Mix it all together and enjoy this guilt-free dip!
Get this Greek Yogurt Ranch Dip recipe here.
Instead of… Fatty meats and cheese board
Try… A healthy charcuterie board with olives, veggies, artichokes, hummus, tomatoes, and more!
© Photo by The Girl on Bloor
A lot of processed meats such as salami, sausage, and bacon and whole-fat cheeses have unhealthy saturated fats that can raise your bad LDL cholesterol levels. But that doesn’t mean you can’t fix up a beautiful charcuterie board this holiday season! Feel free to throw in a few meat options but make veggies and fruits the stars of the show.
And with this protein-packed and low-carb charcuterie board recipe, it won’t be hard to do. You’ll feature hard-boiled eggs, pomegranate, tomato, mozzarella cheese, olives, pickles, peppers, hummus, and more. The result is a healthy fat, high fiber, and protein-rich appetizer that’ll quickly become a crowd favorite. Plus it’ll only take you 20 minutes to pull together!
Get this Protein-Packed Healthy Charcuterie Board recipe here.
Instead of… Cheese or cream-cheese based dips
Try… Homemade Hummus
© Photo by Inspired Taste
The calories in those heavy-cream dips and cheeses can quickly add up. While a little bit of cheese isn’t bad for you, we know firsthand that most of those cheesy dips are hard to eat in moderation.
So instead of a cheesy four-layer dip, opt for store-bought or homemade hummus and veggies instead. You can still get your creamy fix but with a lot fewer calories and saturated fat. And with this easy 10-minute hummus recipe, we promise going the homemade route won’t be too challenging. Plus you can brag about how much better your hummus tastes compared to the store brand!
Get this Easy Hummus recipe here.
Instead of… Pigs in a blanket
Try… Shrimp cocktail
© Photo by Food Network
It doesn’t matter whether it’s pigs in a blanket or some other fried meat dish, either way, it’s not going to be the healthiest option on the table. Anything fried is going to be carrying a lot of calories and unhealthy fats. These include artificial trans fats and saturated fats.
Even just a little bit of trans fat in the diet increases your risk of inflammation in the body. This could lead to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and other major health concerns. So skip out on the unhealthy fats and opt for a healthier protein source like shrimp cocktail instead. Not only are shrimp a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, but they’re high in protein and taste delicious, especially with a yummy cocktail sauce!
Get an easy Shrimp Cocktail recipe here.
Sumptuous Sips: Holiday Beverages
Instead of… Eggnog
Try… Cinnamon or gingerbread tea or homemade apple cider
© Photo by Gimme Some Oven
Eggnog may be a holiday classic but you’ll be having second thoughts once you take a look at the back label. One cup of eggnog has 400 calories, 46 grams of sugar, and 18 grams of fat (10 of which are saturated fats). Save the sugar for the delicious desserts and opt for homemade cider or a freshly-brewed cup of cinnamon or gingerbread tea instead. You’ll get the same warm, cozy feeling but with far less fat, sodium, and calories.
In this super-easy Homemade Apple Cider recipe, you only need apples, spices, water, and your choice of sweetener. Brew in your Crock-Pot or on the stove for a delicious fall-themed beverage that’ll leave your home smelling like the holiday season. It’s the perfect warm beverage for those snowy, winter nights!
Get this Homemade Apple Cider recipe here.
Instead of… High-sugar cocktails
Try… A glass of red wine, champagne, or a tonic or seltzer water mocktail or cocktail
© Photo by The Real Food Dietitians
The sugar calories from your cocktails can add up pretty quickly, especially during the holidays when it feels like you’re spending entire days just eating and drinking. To avoid the calorie-overload (and hangover) from too many sugary drinks, try whipping up this Sparkling Cranberry Kombucha Mocktail. Or pour yourself a glass of low-calorie red wine or champagne instead. (And make sure you’re staying hydrated with water throughout the day!)
The bubbles in your champagne make it hard to drink fast so you tend to drink less throughout the night. And red wine is packed with antioxidants called polyphenols that could help keep your heart healthy. Or if you want to give this refreshing and probiotic-packed Sparkling Cranberry Kombucha Mocktail a try, the recipe only takes ten minutes!
Get this Sparkling Cranberry Kombucha Mocktail recipe here.
Rich and Inviting: Soups
Instead of… Heavy cream
Try… Coconut milk
© Photo by Love & Lemons
When cooking up soups or stews for your holiday dinner, one simple swap could change the calorie content of your entire dish: the cream. Holiday soups like pumpkin soups or bisques tend to call for heavy-calorie creams. Cut your calories in half by substituting coconut milk instead. It has the same texture and creaminess, but far less fat and calories.
Need some inspiration? This creamy pumpkin soup recipe from Love and Lemons is the perfect dish for your holiday dinner or any cold winter night. Packed with curry flavor and coconut milk, it’s comforting, nourishing, and delicious.
Get this Pumpkin Soup Recipe here.
Instead of… Creamy soups
Try… Broth-based soups
© Photo by Love & Lemons
If you’re not game for the coconut milk substitution, another healthier soup alternative is to cook up a broth-based recipe and skip the cream altogether. You can still pack in the flavor in a broth-based soup but the star of the soup show is now your yummy veggies and not the sodium and saturated fat of your heavy cream.
In this Instant Pot Lentil Soup recipe, you’re enjoying nutritious ingredients including lentils, onion, garlic, carrot, celery, kale, tomatoes, and more. And after you’re done chopping, the Instant Pot does the rest!
Get this Instant Pot Lentil Soup Recipe here.
Main Course: Holiday Dishes
Instead of… Green bean casserole
Try… Roasted green beans, asparagus, carrots, or broccoli
© Photo by Eat This, Not That!
Let’s be real, the green bean casserole is far more “casserole” than “green bean”. For a healthier dish this year, try skipping the fried onions and extra calories and swap in delicious roasted vegetables instead. We could all use more veggies in our diet, and with these tasty roasted asparagus, broccoli, and carrot recipes, you’ll be forgetting you’re eating healthy.
Instead of… Sweet potato casserole
Try… Mashed or baked sweet potatoes with a sprinkle of cinnamon
© Photo by The Cookie Rookie
Loaded with marshmallows, butter, and extra sugar, the sweet potato casserole is more dessert than dinner. But to make it healthier this year, you don’t have to do too much differently. After all, the sweet potato is a powerhouse of nutrients that’s pretty sweet all on its own. Just add in a little bit of brown sugar or cinnamon, and you’re good to go.
In this Baked Sweet Potato recipe, you keep on the skins and roast the potato right in the oven. The skin is where a lot of the nutrients (like fiber!) are, making this option even more nutritious for your holiday dinner.
Get this Baked Sweet Potato Recipe here.
Instead of… Mashed potatoes
Try… Mashed cauliflower
© Photo by Love & Lemons
The light and fluffy texture of cauliflower plus its white color make it the perfect sneaky potato substitute. Plus the vegetable has more fiber and nutrients than the potato, making it both a lower calorie and far more nutritious option.
And with this recipe that adds in butter, roasted garlic, dijon mustard, and a sprinkling of chives, you’ll quickly be appreciating just how delicious a healthier alternative can be.
Get this Garlic Mashed Cauliflower recipe here.
Instead of… Traditional stuffing
Try… Bulgur Stuffing with Dried Cranberries & Hazelnuts
© Photo by EatingWell
Filled with white bread, butter, and plenty of turkey fat, traditional stuffing is not too kind on the waistline. Luckily there’s a whole grain in town that’s quick and easy to make, loaded with plenty of nutrients, and has a fluffy texture that can easily replace the boring white bread. That’s bulgur wheat, a cereal grain popular in the Middle East that’s high in fiber, manganese, magnesium, iron, and other nutrients.
And this bulgur stuffing recipe takes full advantage of the healthy grain, adding it in along with a lot of other delicious ingredients including cranberries, onions, celery, cinnamon, and hazelnuts. The result is a nutty-tasting pilaf that overshadows your traditional stuffing.
Get this Bulgur Stuffing with Dried Cranberries & Hazelnuts recipe here.
Instead of… Canned cranberry sauce
Try… Homemade cranberry sauce
© Photo by Love & Lemons
While it might feel easier to crack open the canned cranberry instead of making your own, one look at the back of the can might make you change your mind. One slice of canned cranberry sauce has over 20 grams of sugar!
While cranberries, like any fruit, contain natural sugars, the canned variety adds extra sugar in processing and preserving the fruit. That makes this side dish more of a dessert. But with this easy homemade recipe, you reduce the sugar levels and opt for a fresher and healthier alternative that still tastes just as sweet.
Get this Cranberry Sauce recipe here.
Instead of… Traditional gravy
Try… Low-fat gravy
© Photo by RODNAE Productions from Pexels
The turkey is the staple of many holiday dinners. But with the turkey often comes the high-fat and high-sodium gravy. This year, add as much gravy as you want with far fewer calories using a lower-fat gravy recipe. It’s an easy switch that can go a long way for the overall health of your turkey dinner.
Get this Low-Fat Turkey Gravy recipe here.
Instead of… Ham or steak
© Photo by Feasting at Home
Meat is often the centerpiece of your entire holiday dinner and the choice can make a big difference in the nutritional profile of your holiday meal. When it comes to red meat, there’s more than just protein you’re eating. Many are high in saturated fats and sodium, which often outweigh any of the benefits you get from the protein.
For example, 4oz of sirloin steak has 4.6 grams of saturated fat and a 4oz of ham has over 1,400mg of sodium! Whereas a 4oz grilled salmon has 30 grams of protein, is low in sodium, and contains just a little over 1 gram of saturated fat. It’s also an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are healthy fats that support your heart health.
Try this Roasted Pomegranate Salmon recipe instead.
Final Course: Dessert
You can’t celebrate the holidays without some delicious desserts! And there’s nothing wrong with enjoying a slice of pumpkin pie or sugar cookie. Just remember to enjoy in moderation and savor every bite.
Or if you want to skip the dessert calories altogether while still getting your sweet fix, whip up a meal replacement shake dessert smoothie. We recommend a low-sugar and low-calorie shake option like our top-rated 310 Shake, featuring plenty of flavors for the ultimate healthy treat.