It’s the holiday season, and for many of us that means family, fun, and lots of delicious food. It can be difficult to maintain a healthy diet during the holidays, but just because you’re trying to eat healthier doesn’t mean you have to miss out on all of your seasonal favorites. By making a few simple swaps in your traditional holiday menu, you can cut back on extra fats and sugars and add in nutrients without sacrificing taste.

For many of us, traditional holiday activities are often food focused. This year, take the focus off food. Instead of your yearly holiday cookie baking party, try non-edible projects like making wreaths or other decorations. Plan group activities that everyone can enjoy, like playing games or going on a walking tour of decorated homes.

While you’re waiting to eat your holiday meal, go easy on the appetizers. If you’re really feeling hungry before dinner, skip the chips and reach for a plate of fresh veggies instead. They’ll satisfy your appetite better than chips, and prevent you from overindulging on other holiday foods. If you’re doing a potluck style dinner this holiday season, you can even bring your own healthy appetizer option to share.

It’s important to not feel like you’re depriving yourself during the holiday season. Enjoy your holiday comfort foods, but maybe try a healthier version this year. By making simple changes to your favorite recipes, you can cut back on calories and add in more nutrients. For example, if your macaroni and cheese recipe uses whole milk, butter, and full-fat cheese, try using non-fat milk, less butter, light cheese, and include vegetables like fresh spinach and tomatoes. Check out the tips below for some more ideas for healthy holiday swaps.

Healthy Swaps for the Holidays

  • Mashed potatoes – Use skim milk, chicken broth, garlic, and Parmesan cheese instead of whole milk and butter. Swap out sour cream for nonfat plain Greek yogurt.
  • Egg nog –Try filling your glass with half skim milk and half egg nog to get the flavor you’re looking for without all the extra fat.
  • Green Bean Casserole – Cook fresh green beans with chunks of potato instead of a creamy soup, and top with almonds instead of fried onion rings

Click here to download the American Heart Association’s Healthy Holiday Eating Guide for more holiday swaps.

Sources: The American Heart Association, Centers for Disease Control. Lifework Strategies, Adventist HealthCare. The Health Tip of the Week is for educational purposes only. For additional information, consult your physician. Please feel free to copy and distribute this health resource.