Cancer Treatment Centers of America
Jasmyn Walker, MS, RD, CSO, CNSC, LD,

Don't let the holidays ruin your diet: Try these recipe alternatives

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Spinach artichoke dip, cheese balls, fudge, peanut butter balls and cocktails. My, oh, my! These foods tend to be staples at holiday gatherings. While delicious, they can wreak havoc on our diets. Unfortunately, many of us who gain weight over the holidays don’t lose it.

Holiday meals and celebrations often mean taking in 4,500 calories and more than 200 grams of fat in one day. For women, this amount is almost three times the calories and six times the fat needed in a day. It’s more than twice the calories and four times the fat for men.  

The good news is that you have options. A few tweaks to your holiday menu can save calories and fat, which can minimize weight gain. The recipe alternatives below will help you reduce fat, cholesterol and calories in your favorite recipes. As an example, I included a recipe for Sweet Potato and Butternut Squash Bread from Chef Michell Janah at our hospital in Tulsa.

Fat-free Greek yogurt in dips Sour cream Increases protein and significantly reduces fat
Avocado in baked goods Butter Increases unsaturated fat and reduces saturated fat
Fresh vegetables for dipping Crackers Increases fiber, vitamins and minerals
Applesauce in baked goods Oil Reduces fat significantly
2 egg whites 1 whole egg Reduces fat and cholesterol
Evaporated skim milk Heavy whipping cream Reduces fat significantly
2% milk-fat cheese Full-fat cheese Reduces fat
½ whole wheat, ½ white flour All white flour Increases fiber
Dark chocolate Milk chocolate Fewer calories because less is needed

Sweet Potato and Roasted Butternut Squash Bread

1 medium egg
3 medium egg whites
½ cup reduced-fat buttermilk
1½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
1 Tablespoon flax seed meal
1 Tablespoon wheat germ
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ cup unsalted butter, softened
½ cup unsweetened applesauce
¼ cup pureed roasted butternut squash
¾ cup raw sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups shredded, unpeeled sweet potato

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9x5x3-inch loaf pan or muffin tins.

Combine flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice. Set aside. Whisk together butter, applesauce, sugar, vanilla extract, eggs and buttermilk, and mix into the dry ingredients. Add the sweet potatoes to the mixture.

Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the middle. If you’re using muffin tins, bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the middle. Yields 16 servings.

Nutrition Information
Calories: 163
Protein: 4g
Saturated fat: 2 g
Carbohydrates: 29g
Fiber: 2 g

Remember, the holidays are a time to be merry and bright — and to enjoy delicious foods without ruining your diet. Here are a few more ideas to help you watch what you eat.

  • Plan ahead: If you know you’re headed to a gathering that might include higher-calorie foods make time to exercise to rev up your metabolism.
  • Don’t stand by the table: Those who linger next to the table tend to go for seconds or thirds. Get a plate, sit down and enjoy the choices that you made.
  • Drink water: Beverages served at gatherings can load you up on empty calories. Whether or not you’re drinking alcohol, try drinking water in between to limit intake. Remember to limit alcohol to two drinks per day for men and one drink a day for women.
  • Make new traditions: Try out the recipe substitutions above or bring something new that has fewer calories. Your healthier recipe just might be requested in future years!

Learn more about good nutrition during cancer treatment.