21 Healthy Food Swaps for the Holidays

21 Healthy Food Swaps for the Holidays


The holidays are a time for celebration, but often that celebration includes rich, unhealthy foods. Storebought dishes particularly pose a challenge as they're often loaded with harmful ingredients, dyes, fillers, extra sodium, fats, and sugars. But don't you fret! We've got ya, boo. Here are twenty-one healthy food swaps for the holidays to make your celebrations all nutrious and bright.

21 healthy food swaps

The Junk in Traditional Holiday Food

If you're like us, Holiday food holds a special seat of honor in your heart. After all, it's one of the rare times when we all slow down long enough to really get after some culinary excellence. Unfortunately, there are a lot of junk and potentially harmful ingredients in mainstream holiday staples. You've heard us talk toxins in skincare, but it's just as bad (if not worse) in everyday foods. From toxic dyes to unhealthy fats and sodium, these foods can quickly really make you feel gross, sap your energy, and potentially cause health problems. Here are a few of the culprits:

 red food dyes

Red Dyes

One of the most pervasive culprits in holiday food is red dye. This ingredient is used to make everything from candy canes to Christmas cookies look nice and festive. Red dye has been associated with a number of health problems, including hyperactivity, anxiety, and migraines. So, if you're looking for a healthier holiday season, steer clear of any foods that contain this ingredient.


Bleached White Flour

bleached flour

Flour is a MUST for everything from dinner rolls to apple pie. Unfortunately, most store-bought baked goods use bleached white flour. Bleached white flour often contains glyphosate—a chemical that the World Health Organization has classified as a probable carcinogen. So, if you're looking to avoid this harmful substance, try using other types of flour, such as whole wheat or almond flour, when baking this holiday season.

Processed Meats

Another big no-no during the holidays (or really at any other time) are processed meats. These meats are often loaded with unhealthy fats and sodium, which can really make you feel sluggish. If you're looking for a healthier option, try swapping out processed meats for leaner cuts of meat or vegetarian options.


High-fructose Corn syrup

You'll find high-fructose corn syrup in all sorts of holiday foods, from candy to baked goods. Unfortunately, this ingredient has been linked to a number of health problems, including obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. So, if you're looking for a healthier holiday season, try to avoid foods that contain this ingredient.

 added sugar

Added Sugar

Sugar is everywhere during the holidays. From cookies to candied yams, it's hard to escape this ingredient. And while a little sugar is fine, too much sugar can really make you feel terrible. Sugar has been linked to a number of health problems, including obesity, increased inflamation, diabetes, and heart disease. Maybe most telling, it causes your blood sugar to spike, leaving you tired and drained afterward. And then there's "refined" sugar, which has been stripped of all its nutrients and basically just provides "empty calories." So, if you're looking for a healthier holiday season, try to limit your intake of foods that contain added sugar.

Sugar-Free Additives

If you're watching your sugar intake, you might be tempted to reach for sugar-free holiday foods. However, many of these products contain artificial sweeteners and other additives that can actually be worse for your health than sugar. These include ingredients like aspartame, sucralose, and acesulfame potassium. So, if you're looking to avoid these ingredients, stick to naturally sweetened holiday foods or make your own sugar-free versions at home.

Saturated Fat

Many holiday foods, such as pies and cookies, are high in saturated fat. This type of fat can increase your risk for heart disease and other health problems. If you're looking for a healthier option, try using unsaturated fats, such as olive oil or avocado oil, when cooking this holiday season. 

Healthy Holiday Swaps

Now that you know some of the unhealthy ingredients often found in holiday foods, you might be wondering what swaps you can make to enjoy all the flavors of the season without putting your health at risk. Here are a few ideas:

Swap Traditional Pumpkin Pie for Vegan Pumpkin Pie

The best healthy food swaps for Thanksgiving and Christmas

Pumpkin pie is a Thanksgiving staple, but it can have lots of added sugars and fats. If you’re looking for a healthier option, try vegan pumpkin pie. It’s just as delicious as the traditional version, but it’s made with healthier ingredients like almond milk and whole wheat flour. Here's our fave vegan pumpkin pie recipe.


Swap Candied Yams for Sweet Potato Casserole

Candied yams are another Thanksgiving favorite, but they’re often loaded with sugar and marshmallows. A healthier alternative is sweet potato casserole. It’s made with natural sugars like honey and maple syrup, and it doesn’t have any marshmallows.


Healthy Holiday Food Swaps for the Potato Lover - Instead of mashed potatoes have mashed cauliflower

Most of us make mashed potatoes with a lot of salt, butter, and heavy cream. These ingredients, which are fine in moderation, dip into the unhealthy range when combined with all the other delightful dishes we love to pair with them. Because we also have to put a generous portion of (you guessed it) salt, butter, and cream in our other dishes as well. Before you know it, you're having a salt/butter/cream fest! 

That's why we love opting out of the mashed potato trifecta and choosing a cauliflower mash instead. Mashed cauliflower is a lower-carbohydrate alternative to mashed potatoes. It's also a good source of vitamins C and K, and it has a similar texture to mashed potatoes when prepared properly. Try this amazing recipe for Mashed Culiflower by Skinny Taste.


Instead of green bean casserole, have roasted green beans.

Roasted Green Beans

Green beans are a healthy vegetable that's low in calories and high in vitamins A and C. Roasting them brings out their natural sweetness and makes them a great side dish for any holiday meal. We're obsessed with this roasted green beans recipe.

Swap Cranberry Sauce for Homemade Cranberry Relish

cranberry sauce

Traditional cranberry sauce is often loaded with added sugar, or worse, high-fructose corn syrup. A healthier alternative is cranberry relish. It’s made with fresh cranberries, orange juice, and a few other healthy ingredients. It’s also a good source of fiber and vitamin C.

Try this Cranberry Relish Recipe with natural sweetness by Cookie and Kate.

Naturally sweetened Cranberry sauce

Swap Traditional Stuffing for a Holiday Quinoa Stuffing

Traditional stuffing is usually made with white bread, which isn't the healthiest option. A healthier alternative is quinoa stuffing. It's made with quinoa, vegetables, and a few other healthy ingredients.

Quinoa Stuffing

Quinoa is a nutrient-rich grain that's high in fiber and protein. It makes a great stuffing alternative because it's light and fluffy, and it can be easily flavored to suit your taste. This recipe by straight up food will have you begging for seconds!


Instead of gravy, have mushroom gravy this holiday season

The perfect healthy mushroom gravy as a swap for traditional gravy

The traditional gravy you've probably grown up with over Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner isn't great for those watching their macros. It's usually made with a lot of saturated fat and sodium. Mushroom gravy is a flavorful alternative to traditional gravy that's also vegan-friendly. It's made with mushrooms, onions, garlic, and flour, so it has a rich flavor that goes well with any holiday dish. We recommend this recipe for healthy mushroom gravy by Joyful Healthy eats.


Instead of rolls, have whole-wheat rolls.

Whole-wheat rolls are made with whole-wheat flour, which is higher in fiber than white flour. They're also a good source of vitamins B and E, making them a healthier option for your holiday meal.

Whole wheat rolls for Thanksgiving recipe 

By making these simple swaps, you can still enjoy all your favorite holiday foods without putting toxic dyes or fillers in your body. Here are seven healthy food swaps for the holidays to make your celebrations all the brighter happy and healthy. Try Amy's Healthy Baking whole wheat roll recipe to wow your friends and family this Thanksgiving!


Swap Milk Chocolate Treats for Dark Chocolate

 Salted Dark Chocolate Covered Coconut Cookies

As its name implies, Milk chocolate is made by combining coacoa with creamy milk. While delicious, milk chocolate is less nutritious than it's cousin dark chocolate. Dark chocolate is a healthier alternative to milk chocolate because it's lower in sugar and higher in antioxidants. It also contains less of the unhealthy saturated fat. If you're looking for a healthier way to satisfy your sweet tooth this holiday season, try dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate. We're drooling over these Salted Dark Chocolate Covered Coconut Cookies. You can find the recipe here.


Swap Pumpkin Pie for Sweet Potato Pie

Sweet potato pie

Pumpkin pie is a holiday classic, but it's not the healthiest dessert. A slice of pumpkin pie can have over 300 calories and 15 grams of fat. Sweet potato pie is a healthier alternative to pumpkin pie. It has a similar flavor but it's lower in calories and fat. A slice of sweet potato pie has only 200 calories (fewer calories!) and 10 grams of fat (less fat!). Best of all, this healthier option meets your nutritional needs while being a real crowd pleaser. So, if you're looking to cut back on calories and fat this holiday season, swap pumpkin pie for sweet potato pie.


Swap Cream Cheese for Ricotta Cheese

Cream cheese is a high-fat cheese that's often used in holiday recipes. A healthier alternative is ricotta cheese. Ricotta cheese is a low-fat cheese that has a creamy texture and a mild flavor. It's a good source of calcium, protein, and vitamin A. Oh and it's super tasty!


Swap Sour Cream for Greek Yogurt

Greek yogurt swap for sour cream

Sour cream is a high-fat, high-calorie dairy product. A healthier alternative is Greek yogurt. Greek yogurt is a low-fat, high-protein dairy product. It's also a good source of calcium, vitamin D, and potassium. Try this recipe for greek yogurt as a healthier substitute for sour cream.

Swap Mac and Cheese for Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

Butternut squash mac and cheese
Mac and cheese is classic comfort food, but it's not the healthiest option. A healthier alternative is butternut squash mac and cheese. It's made with butternut squash, milk, and cheese. It's also a good source of fiber and vitamin A. You've got to try this butternut squash mac and cheese recipe by Skinny Taste if you're looking for a creamy, delctible, guilt-free mac and cheese this holiday.

Swap Pecan Pie for Pecan Crumble

Healthier Maple-Pecan Apple Crisp

Pecan pie is a holiday favorite sweet treat, but it's loaded with sugar and calories. A healthier alternative is pecan crumble. Pecan crumble is made with pecans, oats, flour, and butter. It has a similar flavor to pecan pie but it's lower in sugar and calories. Win win! We like the Healthier Maple-Pecan Apple Crisp recipe by Ambitious Kitchen.


A healthier Gingerbread

healthier gingerbread recipe swap

Gingerbread is a holiday staple, but it's not the healthiest ingredient. A healthier alternative to traditional gingerbread is date-sweetened gingerbread. Date-sweetened gingerbread is made with dates, molasses, and spices. It's a good source of fiber and antioxidants. Try this healthier gingerbread cookie recipe by cookies and kate!


Swap Hot Chocolate for Vegan Hot Chocolate

delicious vegan hot chocolate

Skipping the dairy this Thanksgiving? No problem! You can still enjoy a delicious cup of hot chocolate with this vegan version. Vegan hot chocolate is made with almond milk, cocoa powder, and sugar. It's dairy-free and just as tasty as the real thing. So, if you're looking for a dairy-free option this holiday season, you've got to try this vegan hot chocolate recipe.

Vegan Hot Chocolate Recipe

It's made from just a few simple ingredients but it tastes better than the original hot chocolate you grew up drinking. 


Swap Punch for a Spindrift

Spindrift for holiday beverage swap

Wine is a common drink at holiday parties, but it's high in sugar and calories. A healthier alternative is seltzer water with a splash of fruit juice. Spindrift is a sparkling water made with real fruit juice and is only 15 calories (you heard us right!). It's a refreshing and healthy alternative to sugary punch or wine. Or make it a cocktail with this recipe from Darby Road.


Veggies and hummus instead of chips and dip

Veggies and Humas board

Whip up a quick and healthy veggie dip by mixing together some Greek yogurt, garlic, and herbs. Serve it with a variety of fresh veggies like carrots, celery, and cucumbers. This swap is lower in calories and fat than the traditional chips and dip combo. Plus, it's packed with protein, calcium, and vitamins! Try this ultimate veggies and hummus board.

Fruit salad instead of fruitcake

Healthy Fruit Salad with Honey Sause

Fruit salad is a healthier and tastier alternative to fruitcake. Fruit salad is made with fresh fruits, like grapes, apples, and bananas. It's a good source of fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants. Plus, it's naturally sweetened with the fruits themselves. Try this simple fruit salad dish served with a drizzle of homemade honey sauce. 

Dark chocolate covered almonds instead of milk chocolate covered pretzels

Dark chocolate almonds

Swapping a few dark chocolate covered almonds is a much healthier choice than eating a bag of milk chocolate covered pretzels. Almonds are a good source of healthy fats, fiber, and protein. Dark chocolate is also packed with antioxidants and has been shown to have health benefits. Try this simple recipe for a perfect, easy-pease crowd-pleasing desert.


Popcorn balls made with air popped popcorn and melted dark chocolate instead of candy

Healthier popcorn balls

Making your own popcorn balls is a healthier and more delicious alternative to store-bought candy. Air popped popcorn is a whole grain and a good source of fiber. Dark chocolate is a good source of antioxidants. This tasty snack is lower in sugar and calories than most store-bought candy.

You don't have to Sacrifice Delicious Food for Healthy Food this Holiday!

Enjoy all your favorite holiday foods without sacrificing taste or nutrition! These simple swaps will help you stay on track while still indulging in all your holiday favorites. So, go ahead and enjoy that pumpkin pie, but make it a sweet potato version. Your body will thank you!

What are some of your favorite healthy holiday food swaps? Share them in the comments below!


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