It’s the Holidays: Let Yourself Indulge with these Simple Ingredient Swaps

| 04 Dec 2013 | 10:49

By Amanda Agamy, RD, LDN, CSO, CDE

The holiday season is upon us, which means for many, it’s time to indulge in some delicious holiday foods. Unfortunately, that extra gingerbread cookie or two can lead to extra holiday bulge — making it no surprise when many studies show the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas are a common time for weight gain.

At Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) in Philadelphia, I work with patients everyday to make sure they’re meeting their proper nutritional and caloric goals. This doesn’t change when the holidays arrive; in fact, it is more critical than ever. To help them enjoy the season while staying healthy, we’ve developed several “swap” tips.

One of the easiest ways to indulge without adding on the pounds is to interchange simple holiday baking ingredients. While these “swaps” are essential for cancer patients to consider during this food-focused time of year, they’re also important for anyone looking to treat themselves but not derail their healthy diet.

Here are some swaps:
Avocado: The consistency of avocado makes it the perfect replacement for butter in holiday desserts. Swap out half of the butter in your recipe for equal parts avocado, which is heart healthy and packed with antioxidants. In addition to a baking substitute, avocado can also be a swap for alfredo sauce. Simply blend up avocado, lemon juice, garlic, olive oil, basil and salt and toss with pasta for a healthy alternative.

Applesauce: Using applesauce for oil or butter when baking is a great way to cut calories and fat from some of your favorite holiday recipes. If a recipe calls for a half a cup of butter, use half a cup of applesauce instead.

Greek yogurt: The new “it” food is definitely Greek yogurt and, as an ingredient, it can take the place of oil or butter in your next batch of brownies. If you need one cup of butter, instead use half a cup of butter and a quarter cup of yogurt. Or, a third of a cup of oil can be swapped for a quarter cup of yogurt. Greek yogurt can also be an easy substitute for sour cream in any recipe and will add more protein and calcium to the dish.

Black beans: If anyone in the family has a gluten allergy, they won’t have to skip the cake this holiday season thanks to one easy swap – substituting black beans for flour. Simply rinse, drain and puree one cup of beans to replace one cup of flour in chocolate cake and brownies. This will not only cut back on calories but also give the dessert a big protein boost.

For more information visit Cancer Treatment Centers of America at

— Amanda Agamy, RD, LDN, CSO, CDE is a Clinical Oncology Dietitian with Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) in Philadelphia.