How to Make Your Favourite Holiday Recipes Healthier

We recently did a little survey on our Instagram to find out which holiday recipes you would love to have a healthier version of (P.S. if you’re not following us yet you can do so here). We were actually really excited when we realized that we already have many of these on HEAL.

So, in honour of the holidays, today we have a roundup of How to Make Your Favourite Holiday Recipes Healthier. This isn’t to say that you should have rigid rules around eating over the holidays but if you feel much better when you eat a little less refined sugar, flour and dairy, then why not give one of these a go! We’ve also shared some tips for simple modifications of traditional recipes in case you aren’t willing to give up a family favourite but would like to lighten it up a bit.

Healthier Hot Chocolate Recipe

Hot chocolate is one of the easiest recipes to makeover and you don’t have to compromise on taste. Instead of ending up with a sugar crash, try our Healthy Hot Chocolate Recipe.

How to Make Your Favourite Holiday Recipes Healthier

Healthier Apple Crumble Recipe

This is another recipe that’s easy to modify or re-do in a healthier format. When you think about it, crumble is essentially just fruit with crunchy oats and a little sweetener, so it’s relatively easy to make a healthier version that guests will still love. For a completely gluten-free, grain-free, paleo and vegan version, try our Awesome Apple Crumble recipe.

If you’d simply like to modify your own, try these swaps:

  • Substitute sugar or brown sugar for coconut palm sugar, which has a lower glycemic index, or real maple syrup. You can even reduce the amount of sugar in general.
  • Replace white flour with gluten-free all purpose flour, almond flour or a paleo flour like Bob’s Red Mill Paleo Baking Flour.

Healthier Gravy Recipe

When making gravy, simply switch your conventional beef or chicken stock for an Organic one, which has more whole food ingredients and no preservatives. Switch your flour to an all purpose gluten-free flour (if you are gluten-free or would like to cut back on gluten over the holidays which can be inflammatory). If you use corn starch instead of flour, substitute corn starch for arrowroot or tapioca flour.

Healthier Gingerbread Cookies Recipe

My Gingersnap Cookies are a go-to in the King household every Christmas. We haven’t tried turning them into actual gingerbread cookies, but you could definitely give it a go. Alternatively, if you need a recipe you can decorate with icing, I found this Paleo Healthy Gingerbread Cookies recipe and it looks promising! If you simply want to modify your own, try an all purpose gluten-free flour and coconut palm sugar to replace white flour and sugar.

Healthier Nanaimo Bars Recipe

Nanaimo bars, or any layered dessert, can be quite complex and it’s a little difficult to sub out ingredients one for one. So for this healthy version, forget everything you know about nanaimo bars so far. It might seem odd to have avocado in a dessert but just trust us, avocado actually makes for a great substitution in treats like pudding, whipping cream and even creamy dressings, where you need a thicker base to hold a flavour. Here is our Mint Chocolate Nanaimo Bar recipe. These are vegan, paleo, and of course gluten-free, dairy-free and even egg-free.

Healthier Hot Apple Cider Recipe

Apple cider is a great example of a recipe that really should be considered healthy, but often isn’t. At its core, apple cider is just apples boiled down with some citrus and spices, but many store bought ones have large amounts of added sweeteners, preservatives, and even come in a powdered format where you just add water.

We recommend buying a large bottle of real cider from a farmer’s market or even a healthier grocery store where there is no added sugar. Then, you can sweeten as needed (it’s usually not needed) and add little fresh squeezed lemon juice with a cinnamon stick. If you’d like to make your own, we found this recipe online that we’re looking forward to trying ourselves.

Healthier Sugar Cookies Recipe

After multiple attempts, we managed to make a gluten-free sugar cookie that doesn't crumble! These can either be thicker, softer sugar cookies or thinner, slightly harder ones for decorating. Click here for Gluten-free Cut Out Sugar Cookies.

How to Make Your Favourite Holiday Recipes Healthier

Healthier Shortbread Recipe

Unfortunately this is a recipe that we haven't remade ourselves, but have a few similar versions to this keto-friendly one online. Like sugar cookies, butter is an important ingredient in shortbread cookies and helps to serve as a binder. In moderate amounts, butter isn't something to be concerned about. If you have an issue with even the smallest amount of dairy, you could try coconut oil, however the cookies may have to be served frozen since butter acts as a binder. We don't suggest replacing the butter with margarine, as it contains inflammatory oils.

Healthier Icing Recipe

Icing is a tricky one, because it should really be sweet, so it wouldn’t be considered “healthy” but can definitely be made a little healthier. It may be difficult to find a recipe for icing on it’s own, so a great starting point is to look for healthier cupcakes or cookie recipes and use the icing directions they give. If you need a chocolate icing, we have one in our Gluten-Free Double Chocolate Cake (by the way this cake is an amazing celebration cake). You can also substitute a combination of Greek yogurt and cream cheese for cream and butter. You can substitute the sugar for a few Medjool dates, which have a very strong sweetness more similar to icing sugar.

Healthier Stuffing Recipe

For stuffing, try our Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Stuffing Recipe that has some simple substitutions.

Other Ways to Make Your Holiday Recipes Healthier

  • Pie Crust: Substitute for a sweet potato crust or a crumble made with oats and nuts.
  • Heavy Butter Recipes: Substitute for coconut oil or grass-fed butter, if you’re not dairy intolerant.
  • Cream-Based Recipes: Substitute for cashew cream or canned coconut milk.
  • Soup Stock or Broths: Choose Organic when possible and read the label and choose ones without sugar in the ingredient list.
  • Creamy Dressings: Simple add tahini or blend up avocados if eating right away.
  • High Sugar Recipes: If the recipe requires cane sugar, try coconut palm sugar instead, which has a lower glycemic index. Unsweetened apple sauce, bananas, Medjool dates or date pasta are great for baking.
  • Cheese Sauces & Cheesy Dishes: For a “cheesy” flavour, nutritional yeast is our go-to. If it’s more of a thick, creamy sauce I have also seen combinations done with tofu, cashews, butternut squash or even pureed cauliflower.
  • Bread: Try to source it from a natural bakery and choose Organic whole grains, gluten-free or sourdough.
  • Chocolate Chips: Try to choose the allergen free dark chocolate ones like Enjoy Life or sugar-free ones from Lily’s which is sweetened with Stevia.
  • Bacon Bit Toppings: Replace with something salty, but healthier, like salted pumpkin seeds or almond slices.

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