University of Florida

Holiday Cooking

Holiday celebrations can include many family members and friends, which often means lots of food. Some traditional recipes call for heavy amounts of sugars and fats, but there are easy ways to substitute for these ingredients so you can stay healthy during the holiday season. Here are some ideas:


  • Use low-fat versions of regular, evaporated, or condensed milk.
  • Replace sour cream with low-fat plain yogurt.
  • Substitute whipped evaporated skim milk for whipped cream.


  • Replace up to half the butter or shortening in a baking recipe with unsweetened applesauce or mashed bananas. This reduces fat and increases fiber and nutrients.
  • Grease pans with non-stick cooking spray.
  • Replace nuts with dried fruits such as raisins or cranberries.


  • Reduce the amount of sugar in a baking recipe by 1/4 to 1/3.
  • Use three tablespoons of cocoa powder and one tablespoon of oil for one ounce of baking chocolate.


  • Use Canadian bacon or lean ham instead of bacon.
  • Use lean ground turkey or low-fat sausage instead of sausage or ground beef.
  • Baste turkeys with broth instead of butter.

If you’re bringing food to a party, try the ideas above, or bring a salad, fruit, or vegetable dish. If you’re worried about having high-calorie foods around your home, remember that you can always take extras (such as desserts) into work to share with co-workers.

By substituting healthy options for calorie-rich ingredients and making sure you get regular exercise, you can have a healthy holiday season.

Adapted and excerpted from:

Family Nutrition in Action 6, no. 6 (246KB pdf), Family Nutrition Program (11/2001).
Family Nutrition in Action (84KB pdf), Family Nutrition Program (12/2006).

shopping cart with gifts

Related Sites & Articles

Popular Stories