Tips for Tasty Holiday Ingredient Substitutions

hokiebird-cookingThe holidays are upon us, which means everything from added sugar to added portion sizes. During the holidays, it seems nearly impossible to avoid these temptations when high fattening foods may overflow the table at family gatherings; sugary treats are available at holiday parties or the extra large portion sizes may be plentiful at holiday feasts. How do you stick to healthy eating during the holiday season? Try substitution. Substituting high fat or sugary ingredients for more nutrient dense ingredients can allow you to still consume traditional holiday meals in a healthier manner.

Substituting ingredients allows you to continue your traditional holiday recipes, but with more nutrients and less calories, sugar and fat. When it comes to baking, you can substitute butter with mashed avocado to replace the bad fats with healthy fats that can help reduce your cholesterol. Another substitution for with white flour is to use half white and half whole-wheat flour.  This adds more fiber, antioxidants and protein. For more smart substitutions for your holiday meals, check out the American Heart Association’s “Holiday Healthy Eating Guide,” click here.

When substituting for healthier ingredients, you can follow this three-step model to adapt recipes:

  1. Look for the “problem” ingredients that make the recipe high in sodium, fat or sugar.
  2. Find low fat or low sugar substitutions to replace these ingredients. You can reduce the amount of the ingredient or completely eliminate the ingredient completely.
  3. Change your method of preparation. Ex: Try boiling instead of deep fat frying.

For a great research-based resource and handout for additional tips on ingredient substitutions, visit the University of Kentucky Extension’s website, click here.

It can be tricky determining the correct equivalent amount when substituting ingredients. If a recipe calls for 1 cup of shortening and you want to use applesauce and pureed prunes to decrease the sugar and fat content, how do you know how much to use?  Check out Iowa State Extension’s useful chart that determines substitution equivalents for a certain amount of ingredients–click here.

Cooking healthier is no reason to give up on your holiday cooking. Just a simple switch of ingredients can allow your recipes to be both delicious AND healthier.

Submitted by Steph Grasso, VT Department of Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise