By Registered Dietitian Laura CaJacob 
While statistics on holiday weight gain are inconsistent, one thing is for sure: the holiday season makes normally healthy habits much more difficult. The mashed potatoes get passed one extra time around the table, and the chocolate peppermint brownies stare at you all day from your desk. More than anything, holiday eating is challenging because we are surrounded by a sea of indulgent dishes.

Just like Coach Josh says on p.164 in his book, Belly Fat Free, “You’re only setting yourself up for failure if you start an eating program that forbids you from ever eating your very favorite foods.” You don’t have to jump off the wagon over the holidays in order to enjoy your favorite foods. There are a variety of recipe substitutions that can keep you on track toward reaching your goals. Rather than skip your favorite dish entirely, why not lighten it up a little?

Before we get started, I must make a few notes as a lover of food, tradition and flavor:

  • I know it can be a sin to alter an all-time favorite family recipe. Leave Aunt Jane’s famous candied yams alone, and try changing some dishes that aren’t the one thing you look forward to in December. Who knows – you may add a new recipe into the regular rotation!
  • Don’t you dare try to eliminate every unhealthy ingredient in a recipe. The intention of modifying a recipe is not to create cardboard. As Coach Josh declares on p.174 of Belly Fat Free, “Remember—love the food you eat or you won’t stay on the program for long!”
Below is a list of five simple ways to adjust some holiday recipes without sacrificing flavor.

1. Substitute unsweetened applesauce for oil.

This works great in baking desserts to lower the fat content. The substitution ratio is 1:1, and the result is a moister, sweeter dish. This even works with boxed mixes.

Note: Do not try this with butter. Chocolate chip cookies turn into chocolate chip pancakes.

2. Increase vegetables.

There are so many dishes that could have more flavor, texture and color by adding some extra veggies. Try using more roasted root vegetables in a stuffing than bread. Throw leeks and mushrooms into a wild rice side dish. Generously add a variety of vegetables, and your belly will thank you.

3. Replace mild cheese with half the amount of strong cheese.

You flat out can’t eat as much blue cheese or parmesan as you can mozzarella or mild cheddar. By using less of stronger cheeses, you can drastically reduce fat and calories while actually increasing flavor. This works great for cheese plates, salads and melting cheese on vegetables.

4. Substitute pureed vegetables for cream.

Zucchini, squash and cauliflower are excellent choices for thickening soups without changing the flavor. Simply peel and roast the veggies then blend until you have a “creamy” puree. Add as a thickener until you get your desired consistency.

Note: Be mindful of the color vegetable you chose as this can really affect the soup’s appearance. We eat with our eyes first, and nobody wants to eat green cream of corn soup.

5. Reduce sugar by 25%.

There is usually so much sugar called for in most recipes that nobody will notice the 25% that goes missing.  If your recipe calls for 1 cup sugar and you use ¾ cup, you cut out 200 calories just like that. Consider this when using syrups, honey, or jams as well.

I challenge you to try some of these recipe modifications. I wouldn’t be surprised if you like the healthier version better than the original.

P.S. I never even considered tip #3 and #4… did you? 

Source: Belly Fat Free by Coach Josh

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