Sub This for That: 10 Diet-Friendly Recipe Hacks to Keep You on Track this Holiday Season

It’s not easy to stay on a diet during the holiday season. Thank goodness substitutions and alternatives can gives us great taste while sparing the calories, sodium, cholesterol and fat. While it’s a good idea to forego the booze for club soda (hold back on the tonic water as it has sugar in it), there are some other common-sense ideas to help you meet your goals. Here are some suggestions to get you started to have a healthy, happy holiday season that’s still full of flavor and fun:

  1. Whole wheat flour instead of white flour. Whole wheat flour is perfect to add nutrients, flavor and texture to almost any baked goods.It provides extra fiber (helping digestion) and can help fight diabetes and  heart disease. For every cup of white flour, use 7/8 cup of whole wheat flour instead, or use half-and-half whole wheat and white flour in your recipes to start.|
  2. Use brown rice in place of white rice. When white rice is processed, the bran (brown) layer is stripped away, reducing fiber and other nutrients. Brown rice is healthier than white; just as whole wheat bread is healthier than white bread and whole wheat pasta is much healthier and tastier (and lower in calories) than regular pasta (check your labels to be sure).
  3. Substitute unsweetened applesauce or mashed bananas for oil and butter. You get delicious sweet taste without the fat, plus baking recipes are usually more moist with a better texture. On first try, you may want to use half applesauce and half fat, but chances are the next time you will just opt for the unsweetened applesauce. It’s that good. The same result can be used when baking bread when you use mashed ripe bananas. You get all the fiber, potassium and vitamins, and 1 cup of mashed bananas is also a less expensive substitute for 1 cup of butter or oil!
  4. Frosting doesn’t have to be fatty. Instead of sugary frosting, use marshmallow fluff or meringue instead of canned or homemade icing. The light, fluffy consistency is the perfect addition to any cake or cookie, and meringue can be spectacular when lightly toasted with a torch. It looks great and tastes even better!
  5. Substitute vanilla for sugar. When you cut the sugar in a recipe in half and add and teaspoon of vanilla, you get much more flavor with a much lower calorie count. In cookies, take out 2 tbsp of sugar and add an extra 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract.
  6. Use graham wafers instead of cookies for pie crusts. Many recipes call for cookie crusts made with Oreo or sugar cookies. Instead, use reduced-fat graham crackers to get the same result with far fewer calories. 
  7. Reach for the oats. Instead of instant oatmeal, make up a saucepan of stick-to-your ribs steel-cut oats flavored with fruit, a bit of honey and some low-fat milk. Try using rolled oats instead of breadcrumbs when making breaded items. These are delicious when you add herbs to the mix before coating. 
  8. Try spaghetti squash instead of pasta. When roasted, spaghetti squash can be scraped with a fork or pulled apart to resemble pasta. It’s perfect for a low-carb or lower-calorie diet, and you can top it with your own mixture of chopped tomatoes sautéed in a bit of olive oil with onions and garlic or Italian seasoning.
  9. Let go of the salt shaker. Instead of salt, reach for citrus juice or herbs. Food doesn’t need salt to be tasty! Garlic powder can also do the same job, adding a bit of variety to your diet without all that sodium.
  10. Greek yogurt instead of sour cream. Not only is it a healthy snack option when served with fruit and a bit of honey, but it’s also a great substitute for sour cream in recipes.