Healthy Hacks for Your Favorite Holiday Treats

I like to consider myself a big foodie, and the holiday season is arguably the best time of year to indulge in delicious treats and desserts. Some of my greatest childhood memories involve sitting at Thanksgiving dinner eating pie with my cousins, decorating homemade cookies with my grandma and drinking hot chocolate while watching Christmas movies. These continue to be my favorite holiday activities, but now that I’m older and more informed about nutrition, I prefer to enjoy these treats with a healthy spin on them. The good news is that these healthy hacks are equally as tasty and satisfying as the original but provide you with many more nutrients.

If you’re looking to indulge in treats guilt-free all season long, try out these healthy hacks:

Drinks

Hot Chocolate

Commonly, hot chocolate is spiked with sugar and artificial chocolate flavors. However, it is super easy to remedy this and swap for more nutritious ingredients.

  • Use almond milk or low-fat milk instead of whole milk
  • Use unsweetened cocoa powder instead of packaged powder
  • Use maple syrup instead of granulated sugar
  • Add cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla extract or peppermint extract for added flavor

Pumpkin spice latte

As tempting as it is to make a Starbucks run to get a PSL, a 16 oz hot drink has 380 calories and 50 grams of sugar. Let’s just say that’s not the healthiest drink you can be putting in your body. Here are some swaps you can make to your order:

  • Hold the whipped cream
  • Ask for fewer pumps of sugar, vanilla syrup and pumpkin syrup
  • Swap whole milk for almond milk or low-fat milk

OR make your own latte at home using real pumpkin puree! This will provide you with Vitamin A and Carotenoids while still sipping on holiday cheer.

Eggnog

Believe it or not, eggnog made with the right ingredients is actually a great source of healthy fats and protein. Eggnogs in the store are packed with artificial flavors, tablespoons of sugar and heavy cream, but it is easy to make healthy swaps for these ingredients in your own kitchen.

  • Swap whole milk for almond milk or oat milk
  • Swap heavy cream for full-fat coconut milk
  • Use liquid stevia or maple syrup in place of sugar

Food

Mac and cheese

An easy swap for your mac and cheese is to switch the type of pasta you use in the recipe. Healthier alternatives include:

  • Chickpea flour macaroni
  • Brown rice and quinoa macaroni
  • Red lentil macaroni

These protein-packed pastas are found at Publix, Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods.

Mashed potatoes

Yes, yellow potatoes are yummy, but there are numerous health benefits by making the swap to sweet potatoes. Serving mashed sweet potatoes at your holiday feast provides you with a great source of fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants which enhance brain function and promote healthy vision.

Green bean casserole

Green bean casserole is one of those dishes that Americans love to make year after year even though we intuitively know that the ingredients are not healthy. Luckily, there are easy ways to make this typical casserole a much healthier dish.

  • Use fresh green beans
  • Instead of cream of mushroom soup, use low sodium chicken broth and mix it with fresh sautéed mushrooms
  • Make your own crispy onions by tossing chopped onions in olive oil and almond meal and baking them in the oven until crispy

Sugar cookies

It wouldn’t be the holidays without a batch of freshly baked cookies. My grandma and I love our annual tradition of baking together, and we have both found these hacks to be just as yummy but certainly healthier.

  • Use whole wheat or almond flour instead of white flour
  • Use applesauce or Greek yogurt instead of oil
  • Add chia seeds, flax seeds or hemp seeds to the batter
  • Sweeten the cookies with maple syrup or honey instead of sugar
  • Add nut butter or chopped nuts for a source of healthy fat

Courtesy: Spark People

Whether you choose to make these healthy hacks to your favorite foods or not, it is important to remember that IT IS OK to indulge over the holidays. Eating a regular sugar cookie won’t make you gain weight just like eating an applesauce-based sugar cookie won’t make you a saint. Choose foods that nourish your body and soul and make you feel the happiest this holiday season. After all, it only comes around once a year!

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