Festive Feasting with a Healthy Twist

The end of the year is almost here and we all know that means holidays and celebrations are in full swing. The best part of any celebration (besides friends and family, of course)? All of the delicious food! While the food we consume around this time of year is no doubt delicious, it also tends to not be the healthiest. Making healthy holiday swaps can help you enjoy the festive season while maintaining a balanced and nutritious diet. Here are some simple swaps you can consider:

  1. Whole Grains: Choose whole grain options for dishes such as whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta, and brown rice instead of refined grains. Whole grains provide us with many nutrients such as dietary fiber, several B vitamins, and minerals, like iron.
  2. Lean Proteins: Opt for lean cuts of meat such as turkey, chicken, or fish instead of high-fat meats. You can also incorporate plant-based protein sources like legumes, lentils, and tofu into your meals.
  3. Healthy Fats: Use healthier fat sources like olive oil, avocado, and nuts in place of saturated fats. These options contain beneficial nutrients like monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
  4. Vegetable Substitutions: Incorporate more vegetables into your dishes and use them as substitutes for high-calorie ingredients. For example, try cauliflower rice instead of regular rice or zucchini noodles instead of pasta.
  5. Flavorful Herbs and Spices: Use herbs and spices to add flavor to your dishes instead of excessive salt or high-calorie sauces. Fresh herbs and spices can enhance the taste of your meals without the need for added fat or salt.
  6. Portion Control: Be mindful of portion sizes during the holiday season to avoid overeating. Using smaller plates and bowls can help control portion sizes and prevent unnecessary calorie intake. You don’t have to forego the things you love to eat, just be mindful of how much and the size of what you’re eating!
  7. Reduced Sugar: Use natural sweeteners like honey and maple syrup in place of refined sugar. You can also reduce the overall sugar content in recipes by using less sugar than what’s called for.
  8. Lighter Dessert Options: Experiment with healthier dessert options, such as fruit-based desserts, yogurt parfaits, or dark chocolate-dipped fruits instead of traditional high-sugar and high-fat desserts.

By making these healthy holiday swaps, you can enjoy the festivities without compromising your health goals. It’s all about finding the right balance and making conscious choices to prioritize your well-being.

Do you have a favorite dish that you make every holiday season? My personal favorite dish for the holidays is Green Bean Casserole. I’ve been making this  recipe from the American Heart Association for a few years now. Can you spot the healthy ingredient swaps?


  • 1 pound frozen green beans (French cut is best), thawed
  • 1 10.5 ounce can reduced-fat, low-sodium cream of mushroom soup
  • 1/2 cup low-fat sour cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

    Green Bean Casserole in a baking dish.
    Green Bean Casserole, American Heart Association
  • 1 small onion (cut into thin strips)
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour


  1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F.
  2. In a 13 x 9 x 2-inch glass baking dish, stir together the green beans, soup, sour cream, and pepper until well blended. Bake for 20 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, spread out the onion strips on a baking sheet. Lightly spray the onion strips with cooking spray.
  4. Sprinkle the flour over the onion strips, tossing to coat.
  5. Lightly spray a medium-large skillet with cooking spray. Cook the onions on medium-high heat for 3 to 4 minutes, or until crispy, stirring occasionally.
  6. When the casserole is done baking, remove it from the oven. Stir half of the onions into the green bean mixture.
  7. Top with the remaining onions. Bake for 5 minutes, or until the onions on top are browned.
  8. Enjoy! Serves 8.

Interested in more healthy holiday recipes?

Check out these recipes from the American Heart Association: Healthy Holiday Recipes

Wishing you a happy, healthy holiday season and new year!


Hillary Ayers, Family and Consumer Sciences Agent for UF/IFAS Extension Orange County
Posted: November 29, 2023

Category: Health & Nutrition, Relationships & Family, UF/IFAS, UF/IFAS Extension, WORK & LIFE
Tags: Family And Consumer Sciences, Healthy Eating, Healthy Holidays, Ingredient Swaps, Nutrition, Ocextension, Recipes, UF/IFAS Extension, UF/IFAS Extension Orange County

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