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6 Healthier Holidays Recipe Swaps

'Tis the season to be JOLLY!

Although the word "jolly" may conjure up Jolly Old St. Nick in your mind, you don't have to be pleasantly plump to be jolly. In fact, you may feel even jollier if you don't leave the dinner table feeling like a stuffed turkey. And even jollier if you actually maintained or lost weight by January 1st!

The holiday season can be a wonderful time for whipping up recipes that you enjoyed as a kid or for trying new recipes because your favorite food blogger posted some scrumptious-looking recipes.

It IS possible to cook and bake AND slash calories without sacrificing flavor.

Here are some of my favorite tips and tricks to "healthify" recipes:

1. Water sauté veggies. This is my favorite trick for soups, stir-fry, and any time I'm sautéing vegetables. Simply heat a little water in a pan, add the veggies, bring them to a simmer, reduce the heat and cover with a lid. You'll want to peek every 2-3 minutes and stir the veggies, adding tiny bits of water as needed. This can easily cut out some extra fat and calories from your recipe!

2. Use mashed or puréed fruit in baking in place of butter or shortening. Use applesauce, mashed banana or prunes (best in chocolate recipes) in place of up to half of the butter used in recipes. This may alter the texture of your recipe a bit, making it more cakey and chewy. You may find you actually prefer it this way! You'll reduce the empty fat calories while increasing the nutrient and fiber content! Bonus!

3. Serve hummus or baba ganoush with veggies. Forget the nutritionally-void, calorie-laden ranch dip, spinach dip, or artichoke dip. Let's face it. You're really NOT getting that much spinach or artichokes in those dips. They're mostly cheese, cream cheese, and sour cream. Basically fat, fat and more fat. And lots of dairy, but that's a whole other blog post. Check out the links for some of my favorite recipes.

4. Sneak in veggies. Try puréeing zucchini into brownies, pumpkin, squash or sweet potatoes into cookies or bars, asparagus into... Just kidding. That one might not work so well. But you get the idea! Also, consider using spiralized veggies in place of noodles (no it's NOT that same as pasta, but it's still yummy) or riced cauliflower for rice. You can even add cauliflower to mashed potatoes (up to a 1:1 ration) without most people noticing.

5. Use unsweetened, non-dairy milk in place of cow milk. This has multiple benefits, including a lot less calories. One cup of almond milk has 30 calories compared to one cup of skim milk (90 calories); 1% milk (110 calories); 2% milk (137 calories); and whole milk (149 calories).

6. Swap out white sugar. Use coconut sugar, honey, real maple syrup, or soaked dates instead. Or try swapping out half of the processed sugar with one of these healthier alternatives. You can also usually reduce the white sugar by 25% without really noticing a big difference. White sugar is basically empty, addictive calories, so it's helpful to use a healthier alternative that has at least a little bit of nutritional value. But again, these should be used sparingly; they are still all concentrated sugar sources.

Reducing your extra fat and sugar calories can go a LONG way to combat that battle of the bulge this holiday season.

Rather than focusing on fat-free or sugar-free versions full of chemicals and food additives, I advocate using real food substitutions to keep your recipes more clean and nutritionally dense. But first and foremost, fill your body with good, clean, nutritionally dense whole foods. Then allow yourself an occasional "healthified" treat if it won't send you into a tail spin.

What are your favorite tips and tricks to "healthify" recipes? Leave a comment and let's share our ideas

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