5 simple swaps for healthier family favorites

Keeping family traditions on the table is important and makes the holidays even more special. You can preserve the essence of traditional recipes while making them more nutritious. Many ingredients are easily substituted for healthier alternatives without changing key flavors.Simple swaps graphic

  • Use olive oil or canola oil in place of all—or some—of the butter in a recipe to add more heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.
  • Replace heavy whipping cream or whole milk with low-fat milk. Making this easy switch decreases extra calories and fat while still maintaining the creaminess in dishes. Plus, too much fat can dull out flavors.
  • Sweeten treats naturally. Compared to refined sugar, fruit is a natural sweetener that has vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants. Cut some of a recipe’s sugar with unsweetened applesauce, fresh squeezed oranges or vanilla to add sweetness and depth of flavor.
  • Salt is hidden in many of our packaged foods and can mask flavor. Go light on the salt during cooking, look for lower sodium ingredients, and go heavy on herbs, spices, aromatics and other seasonings to make your food really shine.
  • Use rice, applesauce or pureed potatoes to thicken soups in lieu of heavy creams.

Healthy Twists on Family Favorites

Casseroles & Gratins

Replace butter with olive oil, heavy whipping cream for 2% milk, then top with whole wheat bread crumbs, chopped nuts and/or finely chopped toasted oats.

Mashed Potatoes

Cut half the cream and replace with low-fat plain yogurt. Consider blending flavorful vegetables into mashed potatoes to add fiber: parsnips, carrots, sweet potato, butternut squash, cauliflower.


Use whole wheat/whole grain bread for half the bread for added texture and heartiness (holds up better). Instead of full-sodium broths, choose low sodium versions and instead add flavor with
mushrooms, celery, garlic, onions, leeks, shallots, dried fruit, nuts and seeds.

Cranberry Sauce

Traditionally high in refined sugar, try cutting the sugar in half and experiment with adding spices and a splash of 100% fruit juice (or fresh squeezed orange juice).

Pie Crust

Give your pie crust a wholesome finish and a heap of fiber by using blended oats, nuts and seeds in lieu of some or all of the white flour.

For delicious recipes, nutrition tips, and to find cooking and nutrition classes, go to the Kendall Reagan Nutrition Center website. More great info is also available at the College of Health and Human Sciences Pinterest board.

Kendall Reagan Nutrition Center