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20 Healthier Swaps for Happier Holidays

December 19, 2023
20 Healthier Swaps for Happier Holidays

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In this article:

  • The holiday season can bring weeks of high-calorie food options that can throw you off of your healthy intentions.
  • Here are 20 swaps that can reduce calories, increase nutrients, and help keep you satisfied this holiday season.
  • Lark offers a friendly and encouraging program that can help you establish healthy habits to reach your goals 24/7 when you use the app.

With the holiday season in full swing, high-calorie foods are everywhere, but you can make small changes to stay on track. Here are 20 healthier swaps you can make to enjoy delicious holiday foods while you manage weight and support health this holiday season.

1. Spinach artichoke dip with cottage cheese for cream cheese-based dips

A portion of spinach artichoke dip can have as many calories as a whole meal. Using cottage cheese instead of cream cheese can help lower calories. Mix together 2 cups of fat-free cottage cheese, 2 ounces of shredded mozzarella or cheddar cheese, 10 ounces of thawed frozen spinach, 1 14-ounce can, drained, of quartered artichoke hearts, and spices, such as onion powder, garlic powder, chili, black pepper, cumin, or paprika. Blend in 2 ounces of goat or blue cheese for a stronger flavor.

2. Hummus instead of Ranch dip

It’s just as easy to purchase and serve hummus as it is to buy and serve ranch or French onion dip, and it’s way healthier. You can also make your own hummus by pureeing together garbanzo beans, tahini or olive oil, garlic, and lemon juice.

3. Stuffed eggs instead of deviled eggs

Deviled eggs are high in fat and cholesterol from mayo and yolks, but you can have beautiful egg appetizers that are healthier. Use half the egg yolks (save them for another time or discard them), and blend the remaining yolks with feta cheese and hummus or pureed ripe avocado, plus seasonings such as garlic powder, diced onion, lemon juice, and oregano. Dust them with paprika to serve.

4. Skewers for pastries

Pigs in blankets, brie in puff pastry, and blue cheese tarts are all high in fat, calories, and carbs. Skip appetizers with pastry or other dough, and opt for healthier options such as skewers. Components can include grapes, tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, mushrooms, grilled shrimp, turkey meatballs, and low-fat cheese cubes.

5. Turkey for ham

Ditch the Christmas ham for a turkey or turkey breast to cut back on sugar, sodium, and cancer-causing nitrates. A roasted chicken - homemade or rotisserie from a store - is another lean choice if you remove the skin before eating it. Duck is a fattier choice, but is nitrate-free, unlike ham.

6. Roasted sweet potatoes for candied yams

Sweet potatoes are naturally sweet and creamy. There’s no need to add sugar, marshmallows, or butter to them. Bake sweet potatoes with a spritz of olive oil and your choice of sea salt, black pepper, and cinnamon for a delicious side dish that’s rich in fiber, potassium, and vitamin A.

7. Cheesy zoodles instead of mac and cheese

Mac and cheese has a lot of carbs and fat. It’s also almost an entire meal on its own. Instead of adding a full, high-fat and high-carb meal to the rest of your holiday dinner, lighten it up by using spiralized zucchini or carrot instead of pasta. Instead of cream and full-fat cheese, use cottage cheese, low-fat or fat-free cheddar, and unsweetened almond milk or skim milk.

8. Baked zucchini fritters instead of latkes

Frying is common during Hanukkah because of the holiday’s connection with oil, but there are healthier ways to use oil than to make deep fried potato pancakes. Instead of using potatoes as in traditional latkes, try grated turnip or zucchini. Bake your “fritters” on a cookie sheet sprayed with cooking spray. They’ll have less than half the carbs, calories, and fat as latkes.

9. Baked apples instead of apple pie

Baked apples are naturally sweet and delicious, and they can be as satisfying as pie. Mix sliced apples with cinnamon and nutmeg, and bake them in a baking dish with a small amount of water. If you want, you can add a few nuts or sprinkle on oats before serving.

10. Spiced popcorn for caramel corn

With 130 calories and 12 grams of sugar, caramel corn isn’t the healthiest choice. Instead, plain popcorn has 30 calories per cup and no sugar. You can pop kernels on the stovetop, in a countertop popper, or in a microwave popper, and have it with a mixture of olive oil and seasonings such as orange zest, cocoa powder, and cinnamon to keep it low in calories and sugar.

11.Meringues for Christmas cookies

Meringue cookies are beaten egg whites and sugar that are baked at a low temperature until they’re hard. You can flavor them with cocoa, peppermint or vanilla extract, maraschino cherry juice, or any type of liquid flavoring. Each cookie has 10-20 calories, compared to 50-150 for various other types of Christmas cookies. Use a sugar substitute if you want to reduce sugar.

12.Mini candy cane for peppermint bark

Peppermint is a flavor of the season, but peppermint bark can have well over 100 calories and 20-30 grams of sugar in a few bites. Candy canes are just as seasonal, and you can enjoy a small one for 20 calories and 4 grams of sugar.

13. Dark chocolate for fudge

Fudge is made largely of butter and sugar. Dark chocolate is another treat that’s also rich, creamy, and satisfying. It can even take longer to eat because it’s hard. When you swap a square of fudge for a square of dark chocolate, you’ll be cutting back on sugar and saturated fat, and adding antioxidants, fiber, and magnesium.

14. Whipped topping for ice cream or cream

Whipped topping isn’t the most nutritious food on the planet, but it can be a better choice than ice cream on pie or whipped cream on beverages. Whipped topping has 25 calories per 2-tablespoon serving, compared to 100 calories in the same size serving of whipped cream or 150 calories in a scoop of ice cream. Regular, sugar-free, or fat-free whipped toppings can go on pies, coffee beverages, or baked apples.

15. Lighter nog for regular eggnog

Eggnog can have 350 calories per cup. That’s about as much as a small meal, but there isn’t much nutrition in eggnog. It’s made with sugar and cream. You can make your own with ingredients such as sugar-free vanilla pudding mix and non-fat milk. There are also dairy-free alternatives that can have 100 calories per cup and be delicious.

16. Sparkling water for apple cider

Apple cider has 25-30 grams of sugar per cup. Sparkling water is also bubbly, but it’s sugar-free. Plus, when you drink it from a champagne glass, it can feel as celebratory and special as cider. If you’re missing the apple flavor or sweetness of cider, add a few slices of apple or pear to your glass, or choose flavored sparkling water.

17. Mocktails for cocktails

Cocktails can be high in calories from alcohol, and can have added sugar from syrup, soda, and juice. Mocktails can be better for weight loss, and skipping alcohol can help you make better choices around the rest of your meal or snack. Here are mocktail recipes to try.

18. Cinnamon tea for spiced latte

Curl up with a hot beverage that has flavors of the season, but don’t throw you off track. A spiced latte, mocha, or hot chocolate can have 100-300 calories. Instead, consider cinnamon chai made with chai or black tea bags, steeped in hot water with a splash of unsweetened almond milk and a cinnamon stick.

19. Gingerbread French toast sticks instead of sweet rolls

Sweet rolls can have 500 calories and not much nutritional value. Instead, enjoy a sweet treat with more nutrition and fewer calories by making gingerbread French toast sticks using strips of whole-grain bread. Dip them in egg whites beaten with milk with ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Place them on a sprayed baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes or until the eggs have set.

20. Whole-grain bread pudding for regular bread pudding

Bread pudding can be a high-calorie mixture of starchy white bread, butter, and sugar, but it doesn’t have to be. You can slash calories, carbs, and fat, and add fiber when you use whole-wheat bread and oat milk. Sweeten your bread pudding with just a small amount of sugar, or use a low-calorie natural sweetener such as stevia or monk fruit. Ingredients such as cinnamon and diced apple can add sweetness so you need less sugar.

How Lark Can Help

The holidays should be filled with joy, and you can stay on track while enjoying delicious foods. Lark can help as you make swaps to get your favorite holiday flavors in healthier forms. Lark can be there 24/7 to remind you, cheer you on, and support you as you make healthy choices that can help you reach your goals this holiday season.

Click here to see if you may be eligible to join Lark today!

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