Healthy Holiday Food Swaps

Healthy Holiday Food Swaps

By: Morgan Vitti

It’s that time of year again. The Christmas lights are going up around town, the weather is getting colder, people seem to be smiling a little more, and your pants might be feeling a little tighter than usual. Welcome to the holiday season! It really is a beautiful time of year and there are so many things to be enjoyed. This includes the food! Yep, that’s right; I’m not here to tell you not to enjoy the delicious food the holiday season brings. I just want to help you enjoy all the food without having to buy a new pair of jeans in January.

Two easy tips to avoid a holiday diet disaster are portioning and healthy swaps.  First, let’s make it simple and break down your portioning into the things you will put on your plate; carbohydrates, protein, and vegetables. Okay fine, and desserts. When it comes to portioning, an easy tool to use is your plate. Half your plate should have vegetables, ¼ will have protein, and ¼ will have your carbohydrates. Let’s dive a little deeper into each part of your plate and talk about some easy food swaps to cut some calories in your holiday indulgences.


            This is where many people get a little too carried away, which I can’t blame you because carbs are delicious. Let’s get something out of the way though. Carbs are not bad for you and will not make you instantly gain fat. Period. Of course, there are better types and amounts of carbs to eat though. So let’s talk about those. In case you already forgot, carbohydrates will fill ¼ of your plate. Your carbohydrate sources during the holidays will most likely be things like mashed potatoes, pasta, stuffing, bread, or risotto.  You can pick one carb source or you can pick two, just make sure it’s only filling ¼ of your plate.

Healthy Swap: Carbohydrates themselves such as potatoes, grains, etc. are not bad for us. The way we cook and serve these carbohydrates is what’s important. What are some quick fixes? If you would like sour cream on your baked potato, replace it with greek yogurt. Replace the noodles in your pasta dish with spiraled zucchini. Use mashed cauliflower instead of potatoes. Use healthy fat oils such as olive oil and coconut oil.


Bring on the meat! The protein sources during holiday meals commonly include turkey, chicken, roasts, tri tip, and more. Similarly to the carbohydrates, the way we cook and serve our proteins are important to consider. When filling your plate, you only want ¼ of your plate to contain protein sources. Try to choose the protein dishes that have the simplest seasonings and the least amount of creams, sauces, cheeses, etc. Also try to cut or pick thinner slices of meat. This is an easy way to keep your portions down and cut calories.

Healthy Swap: Roast your meats instead of frying them. Instead of gravy on top of your meat, try pesto, pureed parsley, or a simple cranberry sauce. Again use healthy oils such as olive oil for cooking your meats. Use simple seasonings or herbs because they can provide great flavor and be low calorie options.


Vegetables will take up the most of your plate. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you should fill half your plate with green bean casserole though. It’s almost too easy to make a vegetable unhealthy. Many holiday dishes drench vegetables in sauces, creams, butter, and fatty oils. Believe it or not though, vegetables are actually flavorful without all that added stuff. Because half your plate should be vegetables feel free to pick one to three vegetable dishes to fill your plate. Just be cognizant of the types of vegetable dishes, and treat this similarly to the meat. You want to pick the simplest vegetable dishes to avoid any unnecessary calories.

Healthy Swap: Instead of casseroles, grill or pan cook some green beans or brussel sprouts with a little seasoning or herbs. Skip the creamed spinach and have sauteed spinach or a simple, yet delicious spinach salad. Avoid the casseroles all together and bake some sweet potatoes in the oven and sprinkle cinnamon on top for flavor.


It’s important to listen to your body’s natural signals when it comes to desert time. More often than not, we’re already full from our meal and aren’t hungry to eat more food. But if you must indulge a little, use a small plate to get your desserts. You can pick one desert or a couple small servings of desserts as long as they fit on your small plate. That doesn’t mean stack your desserts mountain high on your little plate though!

Healthy Swap: Ditch the pie and bake fruit instead. Baked apples and pears are delicious by themselves. Make frozen grapes instead of ice cream. Use avocado in place of heavy cream in chocolate dishes. Skip the eggnog and make a warm cup of cinnamon tea.



About the author: Morgan Vitti is a Certified Personal Trainer and a USPA Strength Coach who specializes in Women’s Health and Nutrition. She is a yogi, competitive powerlifter, and believes that nutrition and exercise are a way of life, not a strict regimented plan. She teaches her clients to use their nutrition and exercise as tools to feel comfortable and confident in their bodies and lives.