The holidays are all about having a holly, jolly good time, but holly and jolly don’t need to mean roly and poly. Yes, food is a big part of the festivities from the end of November to the beginning of the new year, but just a few substitutions can save you calories, fat and pounds without sacrificing taste and texture.
Vanilla, Applesauce and Cinnamon. Oh, my!
Recent studies have shown that women and men shouldn’t have than 6 and 9 teaspoons of sugar per day, respectively. The over-consumption of sugar has been linked to chronic diseases such as obesity and diabetes. When a recipe calls for granulated sugar, half it and add an extra teaspoon of vanilla. You won’t sacrifice the taste in your baking, but you will get rid of hundreds of calories. If you are out of vanilla, you can also substitute unsweetened applesauce for white sugar, but be sure to check a cookbook for equivalents. Cinnamon is a great substitute for sugar in your coffee and also helps to boost your metabolism.
Get It With Some Greek
Greek yogurt works well as a replacement for sour cream. Sour cream if filled with saturated fat, something that is even worse for your arteries than cholesterol. Greek yogurt has half the fat and calories of sour cream but keeps the same thick and tangy texture. Not only that, Greek yogurt means more protein, something that is a proven method for weight control. It also has lots of calcium and vitamins. Try substituting it in dips or use it in place of mayonnaise in chicken or tuna salads.
Stop Buying Naked Rice
Many people don’t realize it, but white rice is really just brown rice, stripped of its nutritional value to fool picky eaters across the globe. White rice is essentially a little grain of starch because all of the vitamins and minerals live in the brown skin. These vitamins and minerals work well in nearly any recipe and will make you feel fuller than the stripped, white variety will.
Tofu Isn’t Tasteless and Coconut Milk Doesn’t Taste Like Coconuts
Coconut milk, yogurt and tofu all substitute nicely for cream, depending on the recipe. One fluid ounce of cream has nearly half of your body’s allowed daily value of saturated fat. Coconut milk is a terrific substitute in desserts that call for heavy cream and it doesn’t taste like coconut, so there goes that “But I don’t like coconut!” excuse. Soy creamer will work for light cream. Use soft tofu and soy milk as a blend for sauces that require cream. The tofu even adds lots of bonus protein. If you just can’t bring yourself to put tofu in your holiday cooking, plain yogurt also blends well for sauces and is much healthier.
An Eggs-Cellent Idea
Eggs are filled with lots of protein, which is great, but the yolks are also busting with lots of artery-clogging cholesterol, which isn’t so great. One egg has more than half of the daily allowed amount and an excess amount leads to a risk of heart attack and stroke. Egg whites still make a great omelet and work well in baking, but they do not hold the cholesterol, so they are much healthier. Using two egg whites instead of one egg is just as tasty and gives you double the protein. If you are working with a recipe that calls for lots of eggs, it is still okay to add in one or two yolks for their Vitamin D value, but don’t go overboard.
Turkey Isn’t Just For Thanksgiving
Lean ground turkey is much healthier than ground beef and still adds a great flavor. However, when choosing ground turkey, be sure to read the label. Some of it is actually worse than beef. Look for packaging that states that the product is made of white meat or lead dark meat. For added insurance, compare the nutrition labels, paying special attention to the calories and fat content. Keep in mind that poultry is usually drier than beef, but adding a bit of chicken stock will fix the problem without sacrificing the health factor.
Flour Comes in More Than Just White
White flour is found in breads, cookies, some casseroles and a wide variety of other holiday dishes. White flour also won’t fill you up and can shoot your blood sugar through the roof. Put down the white flour and pick up wheat flour at the grocery store. The little change doesn’t alter the taste of your recipes, but will give you more vitamins, more potassium and more fiber, which is great for digestion and helps lower the risk of nasty diseases like diabetes and heart disease.
Holiday Cheer Without the Chub
Everyone likes to spike the egg nog or otherwise have a glass of holiday cheer at various parties throughout the season. There is nothing wrong with that, but there is something wrong with the juices and tonics that you are mixing with your alcohol. They are stuffed with unnecessary sugars that are resulting in you stuffing yourself into that holiday sweater. Avoid egg nog and drinks made with chocolate altogether. Instead, serve yourself some white rum or vodka and mix it with soda water. Garnishing it with a piece of fresh fruit adds some flavor and festivity and is not nearly as fattening as juice or tonic.
Salt Is Not the Only Spice
A little salt is okay for your body, but the problem is that most people don’t know what “a little salt” is and don’t realize that it is in nearly every product on the grocery shelf. From your bread and meats to your cheeses, soups and nearly every snack you’ve ever put in your body, you are burying yourself in sodium. Cutting salt nearly completely out of your diet lowers your chances of having a stroke or heart attack and keeps you from retaining water that translates to pounds on the scale. Lemon juice works well for a tangy zest in soups or on chicken while garlic powder (not garlic salt!) works in nearly everything and still adds the punch that you would get with salt.
Not All Oil Is Bad Oil
Olive oil will work in almost any recipe that calls for butter. Butter is high in nearly everything nutritionally evil, from cholesterol to saturated fats. Olive oil is completely cholesterol-free and only has good fats, such as Omega-3 fatty acids. Drizzle extra virgin olive oil on bread for a treat or use light olive oil in your baking. It works in everything from butter cookies to mashed potatoes. Be sure to consult your cookbook for the correct proportions.
Eating healthy for the holidays doesn’t have to mean going hungry. Even if you only choose to make a few of the changes listed above, you will save yourself calories and health risks all while avoiding that creeping scale number. Happy Holidays!
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