Recipe substitutions: Lighten up your holiday favorites

A healthier holiday meal doesn't have to mean a big plate of raw carrots and kale – not that there's anything wrong with that. Instead, it can amount to a small change here, a small change there, and maybe a tweak beyond that.

Dietitians at City of Hope, which promotes a healthful lifestyle as a way of reducing cancer risk, suggest these substitutions for your holiday favorites. 

These tips are so smart, your guests might not even notice them. 

If your recipe calls for: Use instead:
Whole milk Fat-free milk or 1% low-fat milk
Heavy cream Evaporated skim milk, whole milk or light cream
Whole eggs 2 egg whites or 1/4 cup egg substitute or 1 tsp. oil and 2 egg whites, whipped lightly
Sour cream Nonfat cottage cheese with lemon juice, fat-free sour cream or nonfat plain yogurt
Cream cheese Fat-free cream cheese
Mayonnaise Nonfat plain yogurt or fat-free mayonnaise
Whipped topping Sugar-free whipped topping mix, nonfat vanilla yogurt, or light or fat-free nondairy whipped topping
White flour 1/2 white flour + 1/2 whole wheat flour or oat bran
Salt Fresh herbs and spices, lemon juice or hot pepper sauce
Sugar Reduce amounts, using non-nutritive sweeteners
Shortening Canola oil (3/4 cup oil = 1 cup shortening)
Meat, fish, poultry Use limited quantities; remove skin and all visible fat

Here's a favorite holiday drink using substitutions.

Egg Nog

Yield: 8 servings (serving size: 6 ounces)


  • 4 cups fat‑free milk
  • 1 cup egg substitute
  • Sugar substitute to equal 4 Tablespoons of sugar
  • 3 teaspoons rum extract or 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Ground nutmeg



  1. Combine milk, egg substitute, sugar substitute and extract.
  2. Beat with rotary beater or electric mixer until well blended.
  3. Chill thoroughly. Stir before serving and sprinkle with nutmeg.

Nutrient analysis per serving

  • Exchanges: 1/2 carbohydrate exchange (1/2 milk)
  • Total Carbohydrates: 6 grams
  • Calories: 50

MedLinePlus, offered by the National Institutes of Health offers more information on the connection between a healthy diet and lower cancer risk.