Skip to main content.

12 Tips For Cooking Up A Delicious, Yet Nutritious Holiday Meal

Posted December 19, 2022 by Lauren David RD, LD

Family eating a holiday meal

Holidays are a time for family fun, celebration and good food! But if you’re not careful, unwanted pounds can quickly sneak up on you.

Sticking to a healthy diet during the holidays is easier said than done, but it’s not impossible. Holiday weight gain is not inevitable.

Summa Health offers 12 ways to make your holidays healthier — without sacrificing the tastes of the season you look forward to year after year. Instead of cutting out your favorite treats completely, make a few small tweaks to your eating habits or try swapping ingredients to cook up healthier versions.

Let’s make this year the year you and your family enjoy all the season’s festivities without packing on the extra “L-Bs.”

Holiday ingredient swaps

Holidays just aren’t the same without the delicious treats. This year, try these 6 ingredient swaps to make your holiday meal delicious and nutritious!

  • Substitute applesauce for sugar in your favorite recipes. Also, you can replace half of the sugar in the recipe with a sugar substitute. Check the sugar substitute for their recommended equivalent for sugar replacement. This will cut calories without compromising any of the sweetness.
  • Swap white grains for whole grains. Use whole-wheat pasta, brown rice and whole-wheat breadcrumbs for a better source of fiber and essential nutrients.
  • Substitute herbs and spices for salt to boost flavor without all the sodium. Try fresh herbs, such as rosemary or thyme. Add heat with cayenne peppers. Sprinkle cinnamon or nutmeg for a sweet and savory flavor. Just be careful, spice blends can contain salt.
  • Substitute plain Greek yogurt for sour cream or mayonnaise. Your dishes will still be creamy and rich, but contain more protein and less than half the calories.
  • Swap butter for olive or canola oils. Butter contains saturated fats that can clog arteries and increase cholesterol, whereas these plant-based oils contain healthy fats that can decrease your risk for heart disease.
  • Replace half of the white potatoes with mashed cauliflower. With a similar texture, appearance and taste, cauliflower is more nutrient-dense, and contains less calories and carbohydrates than potatoes.

Additional ways to make this year’s holidays healthier

Try incorporating a few small changes into your eating habits this holiday. You’ll still enjoy the tastes of the season, but you won’t stray too far from your wellness journey.

  • Start with soup: Start off with a bowl of hot soup and you’re likely to eat less during the rest of the meal. Soup also is a great way to take in extra vegetables and a variety of essential vitamins and minerals.
  • Slow down for meals: When you eat slowly, it gives your body time to alert you that you’re full, so you’re less likely to overeat. This also leaves more time to enjoy good company.
  • Use a small plate. When you use a smaller plate, you tend to pick smaller portions and consume less calories.
  • Limit alcohol intake by drinking water in between drinks. Alcohol adds extra sugar and calories to your feast. In fact, some mixed drinks can contain as many calories as a full meal — but without any nutrients. The recommendation is no more than 1 alcoholic beverage for women and no more than 2 alcoholic beverages for men daily.
  • Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables not only are full of essential vitamins and minerals, but they also are high in fiber that can increase your satiety.
  • Schedule mealtimes. Eating meals at regular intervals can prevent snacking. Plus, when you plan ahead, you tend to eat healthier meals, instead of resorting to fast or convenience foods on busy days.

While the holidays are centered around good food, this year try incorporating nonfood-related traditions, such as charitable events or outdoor fun. Whether it’s trying healthier holiday ingredient swaps or creating new family traditions, you can start the New Year off guilt-free!


Options to Request an Appointment

If your situation is an emergency, call 911.