Healthifying your Holiday Recipes

The festive season is a time for fun, family, friends and especially food! We get to enjoy many traditional treats and indulgences, but we don’t have to set our health goals completely aside for a month and end up feeling lousy both physically and mentally as the new year rolls around. 

One way to stay focused on our health at this time of the year is to make some simple swaps to our favourite holiday foods and recipes. Canada’s Food Guide recommends limiting foods high in sodium, sugar and saturated fat, so swapping out those ingredients can be a great way to focus on health over the holidays.

To reduce sodium or salt:

  • Use more citrus zest and juice, fresh herbs and spices and aromatic veggies like garlic and onion.
  • Choose low sodium soy sauce and canned soups or stocks when shopping. 
  • Avoid packaged mixes like those for gravy or French onion dip—putting the time into cooking from scratch helps to also keep you active! 
  • Dilute salted nuts with half unsalted nuts. 
  • And of course, have lots of raw veggies to munch on alongside salty snacks like chips and pretzels.

To reduce added sugar:

  • Decrease refined sugar in traditional recipes by up to 1/3 without affecting results.
  • Swap fruit for sugar by using unsweetened applesauce, mashed banana or soaked, pureed dates in muffins, loaves and other sweets.
  • Make smaller portions of cookies and bars so people can try a bite-sized portion of different items.
  • Use tomato paste in place of ketchup and barbecue sauce.
  • Make your own cranberry sauce or fruit compotes from scratch using just a hint of sugar and lots of citrus.

To reduce saturated fat in recipes:

  • Use half vanilla and half plain yogurt as a topping in place of whipped cream.
  • Replace half to all of the butter in a recipe with olive or canola oil.
  • Use lower fat cheeses like ricotta, light feta and partly skimmed mozzarella.
  • Replace cream with whole milk, and depending on the dish, try thickeners like cooked potato, arborio rice or quinoa flakes.
  • Cut ground meat in half and replace with minced mushrooms or cooked lentils.

A few other strategies:

  • Don’t go to a party when you’re starving! Have a healthy snack with veggies beforehand.
  • Drink a glass of water in between each alcoholic or special drink.
  • Instead of grazing at the buffet table, fill a plate aiming for the Canada’s Food Guide proportions of ½ vegetables and fruit, ¼ protein foods and ¼ whole grains (if available).
  • Don’t feel the need to try everything—focus on what you can’t live without or never make yourself!