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Sneaky Ways to Eat Healthier This Holiday Season

Simple, healthy swaps that taste just as good. Really.

The holidays are a time of fun, friends, family and food. Unfortunately, that food can also be full of fat, cholesterol and sugar. The good news is there are plenty of healthy substitutions you can make in your cooking and baking that will keep your heart and your stomach happy.

Sub out the butter whenever you can.

We get it, everyone loves butter. But unfortunately, it gets almost all of its calories from fat. And there are a lot of calories in butter. Just one tablespoon of butter contains about 100 calories and 11.5 grams of fat, 7 of which are saturated fat.

Saturated fats are the ones full of low-density lipoproteins, or the ones that cause a building up cholesterol in your body.

The good news is there are a ton of different butter substitutes out there.

If you are cooking in a pan and need something to keep your food from sticking, switch to vegetable oil or olive oil. Both are healthier and get the job done.

If you’re baking, you have even more options for substitutes:

  • Coconut oil can replace butter at a 1:1 ratio
  • Applesauce works, but does add some sweetness. So think about reducing the sugar a recipe calls for.
  • Greek yogurt is great for adding a little tang to your recipes — and protein!
  • Avocados have a nice creamy flavor and work well. However, they can add a slight green tint so they are best used in darker-colored foods like brownies.

Read the labels on your packaged vegetables

It is always better to buy fresh vegetables instead of packaged ones, but that isn’t always possible. What if you’re taking ingredients over to grandma’s to cook there? Or maybe there’s been a Thanksgiving run on fresh green beans and you need to get a couple cans for your casserole. Things happen.

If you are buying pre-packaged vegetables, know that they aren’t all created equal. Some brands, and even varieties within the same brand, can have drastically different sodium (salt) levels.

High-sodium diets have been consistently linked to high blood pressure. In fact, just switching to a low-salt diet has been shown to lower blood pressure significantly.

So, when you are doing your comparison shopping for the best deals, don’t forget to compare the labels to make sure you’re getting the healthiest veggies you can.

Finally, if you’re trying to lower the sodium content of your cooking, you can always add in flavor-enhancing ingredients in place of the salt. The acid from citrus like lemons and limes can brighten up dishes, as can a little heat from something like red chili flakes.

Making bread? Go 50/50.

Whole grains are really good for you. They’re full of vitamins and minerals, reduce arterial plaque buildup, and have been shown to reduce the risk of developing diabetes.

Some people are very attached to their white bread, though. It’s a comfort food, especially when the flavor is attached to things you ate while you were growing up.

One solution is to start making your recipes with half white flour and half wheat flour. This doesn’t change the flavor or texture too much, but it sneaks in some of the amazing health benefits that whole grains bring.

Who knows? Over time you may be able to keep adjusting your ratio until it’s 100% whole wheat and your guests prefer it to the original recipe. Anything is possible during the holidays.

Greek yogurt is a perfect swap for sour cream

If a baking recipe calls for sour cream, you can switch it out for non-fat, plain Greek yogurt and no one will ever know.

Even though the two don’t taste anything alike by themselves, they are indistinguishable once you’ve added in all the other ingredients and baked whatever dessert you are working on.

This is a great substitution because sour cream is high in saturated fats (the ones we mentioned earlier that build up plaque in your arteries). Switching to Greek yogurt avoids that cholesterol-building fat and comes with some really nice health benefits.

Greek yogurt is great for gut health and boosts your metabolism. If one of your holiday goals this season is to avoid a few extra inches on your waistline, Greek yogurt can help you keep the extra weight away.

Greek yogurt is also good for your bones because it is packed with calcium and protein. This is especially helpful for older people, as the likelihood of developing osteoporosis increases with age.

Have fun, eat smart.

Remember, eating healthy doesn’t have to be bland! There are a lot more tasty alternatives out there than we mentioned here. No matter what you’re making this year, you can probably find some healthy substitutions for it by poking around.

If you need some help coming up with healthy and delicious recipes ideas, click here to discover some of our favorites.

Most importantly, we hope you have a happy, healthy, and safe holiday season. From all of us here at Life Line Screening, Happy Holidays!

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Healthy Eating, Holiday Health, Heart Healthy Food Substitutes

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