Healthy Food Swaps for Happy Holidays

By Melanie Beasley, RD, LD
December 15, 2020

‘Tis the season to be jolly! However we’re also in the season of COVID-19, which makes everything about this holiday season different. One thing that remains the same is unhealthy food. Even more so this year, as fear, stress, and anxiety cloud everyday it can be comforting (in theory) to reach for that cookie, glass of eggnog or wine … however it’s often going to leave you feeling worse than when you started. Something we don’t wish for anyone during an already stressful season!

To help you navigate this holiday season, we’ve created a short quiz of typical holiday fare with one twist; one is healthy and one isn’t … and our recommendations may surprise you!

Without further ado, what would you choose between the following options? 

Baking with Butter vs Fat-Free Margarine

Our pick: Real butter is a rich source of vitamin A and trace minerals, such as selenium and conjugated linoleic acid, which support immune function we all need during the holidays. Many times margarines contain bad fats that lower our immune function and create inflammation in our bodies. Plus, can we all agree butter just tastes better?!

Dark Chocolate vs M&M’S® Candies Holiday Blend

dark-chocolate.jpgOur pick: We suggest aiming for 70-85 % cocoa. Dark chocolate is high in magnesium, copper, iron, and potassium. This holiday favorite is also loaded with antioxidants that help with anti-aging. Finally, dark chocolate has a low glycemic index, meaning it won't cause large spikes in blood sugar levels which contribute to weight gain and overeating.

M&M’s have a candy coating that contains artificial colors dyes and sugar. Additionally, the chocolate is even more diminished by the added sugar that later may send you back to the bag due to sugar cravings.

Cream in Your Coffee vs. Fat Free Spice Latte Creamer

Holiday-food-swaps_coffee.jpgOur pick: Top your coffee off with real cream! Full-fat cream keeps blood sugar balanced and gives the body a sense of satisfaction without causing inflammation which occurs with more processed products. Plus, fat keeps you feeling full and satisfied instead of wanting cookie after cookie.

Holiday creamers are laden with sugar, bad fats, food colorings and chemical additives. These festive bottles of flavor turn your coffee into a cocktail of chemicals.

Full-Fat Eggnog vs Sugar-Free, Fat-Free Nog

eggnog.jpgOur pick: Classic, full-fat nog is a healthier choice because it contains good fat from cream that helps to stabilize blood sugar and gives the body a sense of fullness.

The fat-free, sugar-free eggnog is full of chemicals and additives designed to taste like real ‘nog without the calories. Low-fat ‘nog sacrifices nutrition for calories making you believe it is a healthier version.

Sparkling Water vs Wine

Our pick: Spruce up sparkling water with lime or lemon wedges. Your body and skin will thank you for the hydration without any of the side effects of alcohol.

Wine raises our blood sugar, which is linked to weight gain, high triglycerides, food cravings and poor sleep. It can also result in hypoglycemia which has been shown to cause anxiety, fatigue and irritability. Who needs that during an extremely stressful year? Opt for sparking water to avoid the repetitive cycle of wanting another glass of wine tomorrow night because you still feel off (but probably can’t pinpoint why) from consuming alcohol the day prior. 

If you do slip up over the holidays, or have felt the slip starting earlier in quarantine, don’t worry! We are here to help you get back on track with our virtual (live teachers and classmates) and online (recorded teachers and classmates) Nutrition 4 Weight Loss program. The 12-week program provides the education and support you need to make your weight loss goals a reality. The program also includes two hour-long consultations with a licensed nutritionist – but for a limited time we’re going to make that THREE hour-long consultations to give another boost to your 2021 health goals.






About the author

Melanie is a licensed dietitian at Nutritional Weight & Wellness. In 2005, two weeks after having invasive back surgery, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Then just eight months later she was diagnosed with multiple food allergies that included dairy, gluten, wheat, chocolate and Brazil nuts. After changing her diet to remove her allergy triggers and more, Melanie was able to stop taking three prescription medications and feel better than she had in years. As a nutritionist, she finds true joy from sharing that knowledge with others. Melanie has a Bachelors in Science of Food and Nutrition from the dietetics program at the University of Missouri Columbia.

View all posts by Melanie Beasley, RD, LD


Debra boos
Do you ever have classes in Duluth?
December 21, 2016 at 7:54 am


We haven't had any there, but thanks for the idea! We have a lot of online classes to choose from though so that's an option! 

3 Questions I have been meaning to ask:
1. If I am not gluten sensitive, can I have one piece of sprouted grain Ezekiel bread a day with my eggs? I am trying to lose weight.
2. Can I have a handful of Organic Blue chips with salsa and guacamole as a snack and lose weight?
3. Chicken from a can, is that okay to use? ( Ingredients: chicken breast meat, salt and water.)
Thank you for your time!
November 15, 2017 at 6:33 pm


Those are great questions! Ezekiel bread is one of the best breads to choose from.  A slice once a day with your eggs is certainly fine. I would also suggest a good vegetable at breakfast, such as mushrooms or spinach, to boost the nutritional impact.

I like the way you are thinking when you choose organic, however, a better choice would be some cucumber slices or carrots and celery to dip into the guacamole and salsa.  I would add a good protein source as well, such as a chicken leg or hardboiled egg.

Chicken from a can without any added oils is an excellent way to get some protein in!  I like to have a few cans on hand for when I have not made it to the grocery store.

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