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Healthy Recipe Alternatives Help Cut Calories

Submitted by Debra Dobies, MA, RD, LDN

The holidays are here which means more cooking, baking, and eating for most Americans.  Research on holiday weight gain has found that most of us will gain one pound between November and January. The problem is the majority of us will not shed that extra holiday pound and after a few high fat and sugary holidays, birthdays, and celebrations those pounds add up. Gaining weight in adulthood increases the risk for developing type-2 diabetes mellitus and cardiovascular disease.

Once we gain weight losing those extra pounds is quite challenging. It is best to try to avoid holiday weight gain in the first place. Exercise, portion control, and mindful eating are important aids in maintaining and/or not gaining weight.  Making our favorite foods healthier without sacrificing flavor by substituting better nutrient containing ingredients will help  keep off that celebratory pound. Use the substitution guide/table below to help reduce the amount of fat, salt, sugar and calories as you prepare healthier recipes.

(Download this chart as a PDF.)

For even more ingredient substitutions enter the words “ingredient substitutions” or “food substitutions” into an internet search engine. An ingredient may not substitute well in some recipes and it is usually best to swap no more than 1 or 2 ingredients in most recipes, especially baked goods.           

Increasing fiber with your meals gradually, will increase satiety and aid in eating less.  Some ideas for increasing fiber include:

  • Substitute beans (cannellini, kidney, pinto or black beans) for up to one-half or all of the meat or poultry in entrees such as chili or tacos.
  • Prepare potatoes with skins and encourage the consumption of potato skins, which are high in fiber.
  • Add fruits such as chopped apples with skin, raisins, craisins or chopped prunes to oatmeal, cookies, cakes and breads.
  • Use oatmeal rather than white bread crumbs as an extender in meatloaf or meatballs.
  • Serve raw vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and celery for snacks.
  • Top cereals with fresh or frozen fruits such as strawberries, blueberries, bananas or peaches.

Healthy eating doesn’t mean giving up all the foods you love!  Smart food substitutions can help you maintain an overall healthy eating pattern while enjoying the holidays, celebrations, and good health.

Always consult with your physician or health care provider before making any dietary/nutrition changes or commencing or changing your physical activity.  

Debra Dobies, MA, RD, LDN, is Beebe Healthcare's Ornish Reversal Program Registered Dietitian and Medical Nutrition Therapist. Beebe Healthcare's Ornish Lifestyle Medicine program is located at the Beebe Health Campus on Route 24 in the Medical Arts Building. For more information, go to