6 no-nonsense holiday ingredient swaps

Published November 12, 2019

Meghan McLarney, RD

By Meghan McLarney, registered dietitian, nutrition therapist and culinary instructor

picture of a Thanksgiving dinner table

Ingredient swaps are a great way to satisfy your holiday cravings without sacrificing your health. I recommend the six swaps below for a memorable meal that’s both nutritious and delicious. 

1. Reduce sugar. Cut the amount of sugar your recipe calls for by a third, and add 50% more vanilla, cinnamon or apple pie spice.

2. Cut the fat. Try Greek yogurt instead of butter, oil, sour cream or mayonnaise. Greek yogurt has higher amounts of protein than sour cream or mayonnaise and sticks together pretty well – even in a crockpot. 

3. Add more veggies. Vegetable pureés can be substituted in recipes that call for a large number of fats or liquids. Try canned pumpkin, butternut squash or pureéd carrots and black beans instead.

4. Use tea instead of juice. Cut sugar and calories from punch and cocktail recipes by using a zero calorie herbal tea instead of soda or juice. This simple swap can save up to 140 calories and 45 grams of sugar per glass!

5. Skip the chips. Use slices of fruits and vegetables instead of chips, crackers or bread for dips or spreads. For example, you can top crunchy pears, apples, globe grapes, tomato slices, celery, cucumber or zucchini with your favorite spread – yum! No crackers needed. 

6. Don’t go nutty. Instead of serving salted mixed nuts, try putting out a bowl of colorful pomegranate seeds and holiday grapes.