At least half of what makes the holidays wonderful is the food traditions we get to share. Most families have their own unique, traditional recipes everyone looks forward to all year- but often, those recipes come with lots of extra sugar, fats, and carbohydrates.
We’re certainly not advocating to throw great-grandma’s bread pudding recipe out the window, by all means, indulge if you can without falling off the wagon! But for those of us who struggle to maintain a diet free from these ingredients during the rest of the year, when we throw that hard work out the window, it can be a slippery slope! There are some healthy substitutions you can make to keep the balance, though, and stay on track…
Start with the basics-
Sugar: Substituting Monk Fruit or Grade B (graded for color, not quality) maple syrup for sugar is a good place to start. Monkfruit contains anti-oxidants and has anti-inflammatory properties, and maple syrup contains beneficial minerals.
Oils and Fats: Substitute organic coconut oil for butter or oils high in saturated fat. If this alters the taste of your dish too much, use a 50/50 ratio. Every little bit helps!
Processed Flours: When substituted for processed, white flour (which is devoid of nutritional value), there are several flours to use this holiday season that are nutritious, and some even add an extra layer of flavor to some dishes. Coconut flour, almond flour, quinoa flour, chickpea flour, and brown rice flour are just a few to try. Different alternative flours are optimal for various purposes, so a little asking around at your local health food store may be prudent, depending upon your needs. This website is a good resource to learn more.
There are a few staple dishes that can easily be substituted as well with little to no substitution for taste.
Try these easy swaps at the table-
Instead of sweet potato casserole, serve baked sweet potatoes with a little maple syrup and toasted pecans.
Mash some cauliflower to swap out your potatoes, or do 50/50 if you’ve got picky eaters.
Swap that carb-loaded stuffing with organic cornbread, or prepare hearty quinoa and wild rice with mushrooms, dried fruits, and nuts instead.
Ditch the canned cranberries for a great cranberry side that’s super easy to make, and your crew might just like it better than the can. Simmer fresh cranberries with the juice of a whole orange, a dash of vanilla, and a drizzle of honey, maple syrup, or your choice of artificial sweetener. Adding cinnamon or clove can give it a warm holiday flavor, as well.
Switch up your desserts by keeping it simple. Substitute those apple, pumpkin, and sweet potato pies with all-natural fruit crisps- simmer apples, cherries, peaches, pears, or any other combination thereof with vanilla, and maple syrup or other sweetening substitutes. Again, add cinnamon and/or cloves to infuse with the flavors of the season. Toast oatmeal and raw nuts, for a crispy, nutty topping.
Eating healthy(er) can be a year-round commitment, even during the most wonderful time of the year. And who knows? Maybe you’ll start your own unique, healthy tradition!