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Holiday Swap Ideas


By Kim Wagler, BA, CPT

With the commitment to surviving the holidays I want to really impress upon you the importance of portion control. You can trade out as many dishes as you want but without controlling those portions, you will still gain weight. That being said, I would like to share with you some of my favorite holiday foods and what I’ve used to become healthier during the holiday season.

Starbucks Peppermint Mocha (420 calories, 64g sugar) Using my trusty Keurig, I’ve exchanged this for Twinings Pure Peppermint tea; no calories, no sugar, and tons of benefits. For pumpkin lovers, add a touch of nutmeg and cinnamon to your coffee grounds before brewing.

Hot Chocolate or Egg Nog (minimum of 120 calories/cup, 20g sugar) Yerba Mate Cocoa will cost you only 4 calories a cup and give you so many added benefits of tea plus you can sweeten it up a bit with stevia or honey.

Cutout Cookies with Frosting (150 calories, 16g sugar) Gluten-Free Sugar Cookies with Basic (but yummy) Frosting makes me feel good about spending a day cooking with my kids and letting them taste our creations.

Appetizers (500+ calories) Most people go to a party and eat an entire meal in dinner rolls, cheese and crackers, dips, and more. Skip those and head straight for the veggies and black bean salsa dip. Packing in fiber before a heavy meal will make you feel full faster and keep your appetite under control.

Crab Cakes (150 calories, 500mg sodium) Shrimp cocktail is a must at holiday parties. Stay light on the cocktail sauce and you have a great source of protein without the guilt.

Cranberry Sauce (110 calories, 20g sugar) Although this side dish has not been a tradition in my family, I never realized how much sugar it had until I checked the ingredients. Try my recipe with some lean white turkey. I promise it will be a hit.

Stuffing (150 calories, 470mg sodium) No one was impressed the first time they saw Quinoa Stuffing instead of traditional bread-based stuffing. But after one bite they were sold and have asked for it every holiday since.

Mashed Potatoes (300 calories) Roasted Sweet Potatoes with 1/3 of the calories will give you more fiber and still has the sweetness that you want.

Green Bean Casserole (250 calories, 450mg sodium) Even your kids will love these Brussels sprouts and the best part is they are going to be the easiest thing you make this holiday. They are great as appetizers or as a main dish.

Chex Mix (124 calories for 1/4 cup, 13g sugar) Sweet ‘n’ Spicy Maple Nuggets will allow you to snack guilt free.

Chocolate covered candies (200+ calories) After overindulging one too many times on chocolate covered peanuts, pretzels, marshmallows, etc., I found this Organic Cocoa-Coconut Gem Truffles recipe.

Apple Pie (280 calories, 15g fat) These Easy Baked Apples can be the hit of your holidays by allowing your guests to add the topping of their choice. Choose from cinnamon, honey, nutmeg, and much more to create the perfect holiday dessert.

Gluten-Free Sugar Cookies

3 cups blanched almond flour
1/2 tsp Celtic sea salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 pinch nutmeg
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
1/4 cup agave nectar
1 tbsp orange rind

In a large bowl combine almond flour, salt, baking soda and nutmeg. In a smaller bowl, mix together coconut oil, agave and orange rind. Mix wet ingredients into dry ingredients. Separate dough into 2 balls and place each on a piece of parchment paper . Cover each ball of dough with another piece of parchment paper and roll out to 1/8 inch thickness. Place in freezer for 30 minutes. Use cookie cutters to cut out cookies. Bake at 350 degrees for 5-7 minutes. Cool and serve. Makes 32 cookies.

Basic (but yummy) Frosting

1 cup sifted confectioner’s sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract (can use peppermint, orange, almond or other extract if desired)
Almond or coconut milk
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder (only if making chocolate frosting)
pinch of salt

Whisk together the sugar (and cocoa if desired), extract and liquid by gradually adding the liquid, a teaspoon or so at a time. Continue adding liquid until the frosting is the consistency you need for your cookies. The thinner the frosting, the better if you are drizzling it over a cake or cookie; the thicker it is, the better if you want to have a firmer coating.

Black-Bean Salsa Dip (vegan, gluten-free)

1-2 tsp minced garlic
1 (15-oz) can organic black beans, drained and rinsed well
1/2 cup fresh salsa
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
chili pepper, fresh or dried, to taste
sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
fresh cilantro for garnish

Measure all ingredients into food processor, except sea salt and pepper. Process until smooth. Season to taste and transfer to serving bowl. Garnish with fresh cilantro. Makes about 2 cups.

Cranberry Sauce

1 cup fresh orange juice
1 tsp minced fresh ginger
1 tsp minced orange zest
1/4 tsp cinnamon
12 oz bag of fresh or frozen cranberries
1/2 cup crushed pineapple
1/2 cup honey

Bring orange juice, ginger, zest and cinnamon to a boil on high heat in a medium saucepan. Rinse cranberries and add once liquid is boiling. Reduce heat to medium and cook uncovered for about 10 minutes. Add crushed pineapple and honey. Remove from heat and cool. Makes 2 cups.

Quinoa Stuffing

4 cups vegetable stock
2 cups quinoa
1/4 cup olive oil
1 butternut squash – peeled, seeded, and diced
2 small zucchinis, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1 cup diced dried apricots
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 lime, juiced, or to taste

Bring vegetable stock to a boil in a saucepan, reduce heat to low, and stir in quinoa. Cover pan and simmer until quinoa absorbs the liquid, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook and stir butternut squash and zucchinis in the hot oil until slightly browned, about 10 minutes. Stir quinoa into the vegetables and gently mix green onions, apricots, cranberries, and parsley into the stuffing. Drizzle with lime juice to taste.

Baked Sweet Potatoes

2 tbsp olive oil
3 large sweet potatoes
2 pinches dried oregano
2 pinches salt
2 pinches ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Coat the bottom of a glass or non-stick baking dish with olive oil, just enough to coat. Wash and peel the sweet potatoes. Cut them into medium size pieces. Place the cut sweet potatoes in the baking dish and turn them so that they are coated with the olive oil. Sprinkle moderately with oregano, and salt and pepper (to taste). Bake in a preheated oven for 60 minutes or until soft. Makes 4 servings.

Brussels Sprouts

1 pound Brussels sprouts
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (more to taste)
freshly ground black pepper
fresh lemon juice (optional)

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 475 degrees. Line a heavy-duty rimmed baking sheet with parchment. Trim the Brussels sprouts, then halve them lengthwise. In a medium bowl, toss the sprouts with enough of the olive oil to coat generously, the salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Turn the Brussels sprouts out onto the baking sheet and arrange the pieces so that they are evenly spaced and lying on a cut side. If the pieces cover the baking sheet sparsely, arrange them toward the edges of the baking sheet for the best browning. Arrange cut side down on baking sheet. Roast until the sprouts are tender and browned, about 15 minutes (no need to turn them). Return the Brussels sprouts to the bowl in which you tossed them with the oil, or put them in a clean serving bowl. If they seem a bit dry, drizzle them with a little oil. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and lemon juice, if desired.

Sweet ’n’ Spicy Maple Nuggets

4 cups raw nuts (combine almonds, pecans, walnuts, etc.; use your favorites)
1/2 cup unhulled sesame seeds
1/3–1/2 cup maple syrup or unprocessed natural honey
1/2–3/4 tsp sea salt
3/4–1 tsp each of ground cinnamon, ginger and cardamom powder
1/2–3/4 tsp cayenne or crushed chili pepper flakes, to taste

Preheat oven to 300–325 degrees. Line large baking sheet having 1 to 2-inch high sides with parchment paper. Combine nuts, sesame seeds, maple syrup or honey, and seasonings in large bowl, stirring well. Spread out evenly onto baking sheet and bake 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. When finished baking, stir nuts again and let cool. Makes 14-16 servings of 1/4 cup each.

Organic Cocoa-Coconut Gem Truffles

2/3 cup organic cocoa powder (or raw cacao powder)
1 cup almonds, ground
1/4 cup organic coconut, small flakes
3/4 cup pitted fresh medjool dates or boxed soft dates (found in produce section)
3 tbsp extra-virgin organic coconut butter, gently warmed to melt
1/4 tsp sea salt
soft hemp seeds, to roll balls in or to sprinkle on bars, if desired

Combine cocoa powder, ground almonds and coconut flakes in large food processor. Add dates, coconut butter and sea salt; purée until mixture sticks together. If needed, add a little more melted coconut butter or dates to adjust texture to desired stickiness and level of sweetness. Roll into 1-inch balls or 2-inch patties, or press into 8 x 8-inch square baking dish and cut into bars. Roll balls/patties in hemp seeds, or sprinkle seeds over bars. Chill for at least 1 hour. Can be stored in refrigerator or freezer for 2–3 weeks. Tip: Soaking/sprouting the almonds for 8 hours removes some of the enzymes that inhibit nutrient absorption. Makes approximately 24 truffles; if bars are preferred, fills one 8 x 8-inch baking dish.

Easy Baked Apples

Large apples
Optional toppings: maple syrup, honey, nuts, dried cranberries, cinnamon, nutmeg, or brown sugar

Core apples and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and top with the topping of your choice. For a great holiday party, place all the toppings out and let your guests create their own dessert.

Holiday Swap Ideas

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