Recipe Substitutions Make Your Holiday Favorites a Little Healthier

baking ingredientsWhen the holidays roll around at the end of the year, many of us give in to all-or-nothing thinking when it comes to the food we eat.

Finding balance is a challenge with all the holiday parties and family gatherings that fill our calendars. And who can resist a favorite dessert or an extra big scoop of a beloved comfort food, like Aunt Myrtle’s sweet potatoes? After all, the holidays only come around once a year.

All-or-nothing thinking leads to unrealistic goal-setting, said Micca Donohoo, RD, LDN, bariatric surgery program coordinator with the Memorial Weight Loss & Wellness Center.

People go to parties and decide that they won’t eat anything, for example. When they succumb, they say to themselves, “I’ve already blown it. I’m just going to go ahead and stay off of it altogether.”

One way to help yourself is to make scaled-down versions of your favorite holiday foods and treats. There are a lot of recipe substitutions that will help you cut back on calories, fat content or both. Then you can make your own version of Aunt Myrtle’s sweet potatoes and have them anytime of the year.

Here are several swap-outs you can try to make your recipes a little healthier:

1 egg 2 egg whites
1 tablespoon ground flax seed plus 3 tablespoons water
¼ cup egg substitute
All-purpose flour ½ whole wheat flour plus ½ all-purpose flour
Whole wheat pastry flour
Sugar Splenda granular
Splenda baking (½:1 ratio)
Brown sugar Splenda brown sugar (½:1 ratio)
Oil, butter, margarine Flax seed (3:1 ratio)
Unsweetened applesauce
Plain nonfat yogurt
Canned pumpkin
Decrease fat amount by half and replace with fruit puree or yogurt
Use only half of the fat amount in the recipe
Evaporated whole milk Evaporated skim milk
Sour cream Nonfat sour cream
Light sour cream
Greek-style plain yogurt
Regular cheese Fat-free cheese
Light or 2% cheese
Chocolate chips Half the amount of mini-chocolate chips
Bacon Turkey bacon
Canadian bacon
Sausage Turkey sausage
Soy sausage crumbles or patties
Mayonnaise or salad dressing Light or nonfat versions
Heavy cream Equal parts half-and-half and fat-free evaporated milk
Cream cheese Nonfat cream cheese
Laughing Cow light cheese wedges
Light cream cheese
Bread crumbs Ground high-fiber cereal, such as Fiber One
Ground high-fiber crackers
Ground whole-grain breads
Ground beef Ground turkey breast
Meatless soy crumbles
Whole milk 1% milk
Skim milk
Light almond milk
Light soy milk
Peanut Butter PB2 powdered peanut butter
Better’n Peanut Butter
Natural peanut butter
Powdered sugar (or dusting) 1 cup Splenda plus 1 tablespoon cornstarch
(Blend in blender for 1 minute, scraping as needed)
Salt (for seasoning) Mrs. Dash
Fresh herbs
Dried herbs


If you’d like to brush up on your cooking skills, the Memorial Weight Loss & Wellness Center is offering cooking classes in the professional teaching kitchens at Lincoln Land Community College. Each class lasts two hours, with 30 minutes of preparation, 60 minutes of cooking and education and 30 minutes of delicious,healthy dining.

For more info or to register, call 217-786-2292 or visit Lincoln Land’s website here.