Healthy Swaps: Holiday Edition


by Rachel Berman of

Ditch and Dish: Holiday Meals

Non Alcoholic Drink:

Ditch it: Non-alcoholic Eggnog, (Calories: 343, Fat: 19 g per 1-cup serving)

Dish it: Hot chocolate (no sugar added) (Calories: 60, Fat: 1g for one packet)

Why: Don’t gulp down your calories and fat with eggnog. Research shows we don’t register nutrients the same way from beverages than we would from food – so you’ll probably end up eating close to the same amount at holiday dinner even if you’ve had a couple of eggnogs before. Warm up to a prepackaged hot cocoa and add some lite whipped cream (15 cal/2 Tbs) for a treat post meal.

Alcoholic Drink:

Ditch it: White Russian (Calories: 412, Fat: 17 g per 6 oz serving)

Dish it: “Light” Russian (Calories: 225, Fat: 0g per 6 oz serving)

Why: Make your own ‘Light’ Russian by subbing fat free milk or half and half for the full fat versions and save on artery clogging saturated fat

Cold Appetizer:

Ditch it: Cheese & crackers (Calories: 306, Fat: 16g per (2 ounce & 5 cracker serving))

Dish it: Shrimp cocktail (Calories: 51, Fat: 0.4 g per 5 medium-sized shrimp with cocktail sauce)

Why: Cheese may be a great source of protein and calcium but the saturated fat content really adds up. Instead, choose a virtually non-fat shrimp cocktail for a light and decadent appetizer. 

Hot Appetizer:

Ditch it: Artichoke Dip (Calories: 100, Fat: 8g per serving of 2Tbs)

Dish it: Turkey Meatballs w/ Hawaiian Sauce (Calories: 65, Fat: 1.4 g per serving)


Why: Artichoke dip can be dangerous because 1) who only eats 2 tablespoons? & 2) don’t forget about the chips it’s usually served with. Turkey meatballs are a great substitute because they are chockfull of lean protein, pre-portioned, and delicious

Veggie Side Dish:

Ditch it: Green Bean Casserole (Calories: 309, Fat: 24.7 per one-cup serving)

Dish it: Grilled asparagus spears (Calories: 84, Fat: 5.4 per six spears)

Why: Don’t be fooled by the greenery in the title, green bean casserole with fried onions can be an ominous side dish. Try simply grilled asparagus brushed with olive oil for the benefits of vitamins and minerals, without the excess fat.

Potato Side Dish:

Ditch it: Scalloped Potatoes (Calories: 214, Fat: 9.8 g fat per 1 cup serving)

Dish it: Mashed Potatoes (Calories: 109, Fat: 0.2g per 1 cup serving)

Why: Scalloped potatoes are loaded with calories and fat – so this holiday, opt for mashed potatoes that are seasoned with turkey broth, garlic – and any other fresh spices you like – for a delicious and healthy side dish. Leave the skins on the potatoes for a fiber boost!

Main Entrée:

Ditch it: Honey Glazed Ham (Calories: 283, Fat: 18.3g, Sodium: 1250mg fat per 5 oz serving)

Dish it: Beef Sirloin (Calories: 274, Fat: 10.4g, Sodium: 120mg per 5 oz serving)

Why: Ham is a lean meat but when glazed and cured, excess fat, sugar, and sodium are added to the mix. For the same amount of calories, you can have a lean beef sirloin marinated in its own juices and whatever spices you’d like, with a fraction of the sodium and zero sugar.


Ditch it: Pecan Pie (Calories: 676, Fat: 40.8 g, Sugar: 39.4g per 129.5g per serving)

Dish it: Pumpkin Pie (Calories: 161, Fat: 4.8g, Sugar: 15.2g per 129.5g per serving)

Why: Pecan pie is loaded with sugar – so take pride in serving pumpkin pie! Not only is it a holiday staple, it’s a relatively healthy dessert to serve when made with low fat evaporated milk. Plus, pumpkin is full of beta carotene – an antioxidant that promotes eye health and can help fight against heart disease and certain cancers

Holiday Cookies:

Ditch it: Russian Tea Cookies (Calories: 180, Fat: 6g per 2 small cookies)

Dish it: Italian Pizzelles with Dark Chocolate Drizzle (Calories: 55, Fat: 3.2g, per one large cookie)

Why: Russian tea cookies are loaded with butter and shortening. Try drizzling a light and crispy Italian Pizzelle cookie with a dark chocolate for a delicious and decadent way to end a holiday meal.

Coffee Shop Favorites:

Ditch it: Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha with whipped cream (Calories: 410, Fat: 15g per 12-ounce beverage)

Dish it: Pumpkin Spiced Latte made with skim milk, no whipped cream (Calories: 200, Fat: 0g, per 12-ounce beverage)

Why: Seasonal drinks can be very tempting. But without paying attention, your delicious holiday beverage can be equivalent to the calories in a meal with a significant amount of saturated fat from milk and cream. That doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the fun! Order a pumpkin spiced latte made with skim milk and skip the whipped cream for a nonfat treat with half the calories.

Additional Story Concepts:

Festive Fitness: People’s schedules are usually completely packed during the holidays, but Mary can share clever ways to fit in exercise during this busy season

ExampleRushing through the mall to finish holiday shopping can burn more than 300 calories. If you select a distant parking spot …even better!

Beating the Hangover: Mary can share tips and remedies for how readers can get rid of a post-celebration hangover

ExampleDrinking tomato juice after an evening of drinking will replace vitamins and electrolytes – and try coconut water over ice for a refreshing way to reload minerals

Results from Resolutions:  Did you know that the way you set your New Year’s resolutions could affect your ability to meet those goals?  Mary can provide tips for ways to set goals that turn-out results

Example: Be specific – try breaking your goal into small, measurable steps


About The Author:

Rachel Berman, RD, CSR, CD/N is the Director of Nutrition for Calorie Count, a free health and wellness website with over 3 million members. Rachel provides users with practical science-based information related to nutrition, weight loss and health. Rachel is a member of the American Dietitian Association and is Board Certified in Renal Nutrition. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Nutritional Sciences from Cornell University and conducted her dietetic internship at North Shore LIJ Health System in Long Island, New York.