Simple Swaps for Your Favorite Holiday Foods & Beverages

by JJ Virgin

The holidays are a time for friends and family, relaxation, reflection, and for most people, feasting.  

Whether you’re attending an end-of-the-year office soiree or traveling cross-country to visit family, you can be sure that lots of food—and let’s be honest, mostly unhealthy food—will be among the company and festivities. 

That doesn’t mean you should succumb to whatever high-sugar-impact catastrophe lingers at a friend’s party or when you’re holiday shopping. Nor do you need to ply your own guests with endless varieties of sugar-loaded, empty nutrients. 

For almost any holiday favorite, you can create simple swaps, or what I call lateral shifts. These swaps give you all the satisfaction of your favorite foods and beverages without the added sugar, food intolerances like dairy and gluten, inflammatory oils, and other nasty ingredients that can hijack your waistline and overall health.  

Read on to learn simple swaps for your holiday favorites, whether you’re out and about Hannukah shopping or hosting your own gathering.

Simple Swaps on the Run

Whether your grocery store is doing a special Christmas baked-goods display or you’re ogling seasonal beverages at your coffee shop, you know that temptations lurk almost everywhere during the holidays.  

The key to staying on track involves thinking ahead, being a little creative, and sometimes bringing your own food to eat. The payoff? You can enjoy nearly any food or beverage—in a healthier but equally satisfying way.  

Need some ideas to get things rolling? Here are a few of my favorite holiday swaps. 

Swap Your Store-Bought Dip for This Roasted Artichoke Dip

What’s an evening curled up on the couch binge-watching holiday classics without a dip to dive into? With this recipe, you can use conveniently frozen artichokes. And unlike dips from the grocery store, you’ll feel confident knowing exactly what ingredients you're enjoying. 

Swap Your Favorite Holiday Munchies With Cinnamon Roasted Pecans 

Devouring a handful of chips or Snickerdoodles isn’t going to do you any favors with your blood sugar or your cravings. That’s why I recommend keeping emergency packs of nuts nearby when you’re stranded at the airport or stuck in traffic to your family's house.  

Nuts are loaded with hunger-crushing protein, fiber, and healthy fats (the same trifecta you’ll get when you eat by the plate!). This recipe steps up the flavor with cinnamon, and a little bit of monk fruit provides sugar-free sweetness too.  

Learn more about eating by the plate here 

Swap Your Coffee-Shop Cappuccino for This Upgraded Christmas Cappuccino 

Raise a mug to this creamy, healthy version of the traditional cappuccino. Coconut milk and my All-In-One Protein Shake upgrade this coffee-shop classic, with all the flavor but none of the added sugar or dairy you usually find in traditional versions.  

Read 4 reasons why coffee is good for you in this blog.  

Swap Your Gingerbread Cookies for This Spicy Gingersnap Shake 

Trade your beloved cookies for this creamy loaded smoothie. Almond milk, flaxseed, and our All-In-One Protein Shake make this treat healthy and delicious. 

Swap Your Peppermint Cocoa for This Candy Cane Hot Chocolate 

Coffee shop hot cocoas come with loads of added sugar and dairy. Upgrade this winter classic with my easy recipe, which combines my All-In-One Protein Shake, real vanilla extract, and peppermint oil to give this hot beverage serious flavor and nutrition. 

Swap the Sugary Alcoholic Beverages for This Champagne Twist Cocktail 

Here’s a cocktail you’ll want to raise a toast to (and with): we’ve combined vodka, freshly squeezed grapefruit juice and lemon juice, and sparkling water for a bubbly taste without the sugar in traditional champagne. Almost any bartender can whip up this cocktail! 

I hope you’re beginning to see how, with a little creativity, you can transform nearly any food or beverage into a smarter version! You’ll find lots more amazing swaps on my recipes page 

Simple Swaps When You’re Hosting 

Holidays also mean hosting your own gatherings, and here’s where you can really swap out the foods that are hurting you for an A-list menu that delivers on flavor and nutrients. 

Ready to dazzle your guests? I’ve put together the perfect holiday meal, with upgraded versions of all your favorites as well as a few other fab suggestions that will make your gathering rave worthy. And deprivation? Forget about it with this plan! Nobody will even know these are healthy unless you tell them. 

Swap Out Your Appetizers for These Favorites 

Creamy dips and endless varieties of chips, breads, and other empty carbs are popular starters at many gatherings. Most of us are familiar with how a few chips or crackers becomes… more than a few. This year, start things out with some non-starchy veggies served with a delicious twist!  

Looking for a unique spin on traditional dips? This Smoky Baba Ganoush comes packed with fiber, protein, nutrients, and incredible Mediterranean flavors. Likewise, this Nutty Roasted Red Pepper Hummus makes a creamy dip with just a hint of sweetness. 

For easy finger foods, try these Easy Detox Vegetable Fritters. They combine nutritious broccoli and shiitake mushrooms in a delicious, guaranteed-hit appetizer.  

Swap Out Your Sugary Ham for These Main Entrees  

Glazed ham is code for meat drowning in sugar. You can stick with turkey instead, but why not mix it up with a new entrée this year? This Healthy Slow Cooker Lemon Thyme Chicken combines thyme, red pepper flakes, and garlic… and it’s so easy to throw together in a crock pot.  

If you’re feeling a bit fishy, this Blackened Salmon delivers a healthy dose of omega-3 fatty acids and serious flavor. 

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Swap Out Your Stuffing for This Gluten-Free Recipe 

What’s turkey without dressing? We’ve ditched the gluten and other problem ingredients with Gluten-Free Bone Broth Stuffing. Traditional stuffing gets upgraded here with portobello mushrooms, garlic, grass-fed ghee or olive oil, and bone broth or vegetable stock. 

Swap Out Your Canned Cranberry Sauce for This Simple Recipe 

Canned cranberry sauce is a massive sugar overload! No need to skip out on this traditional side, though, with my Nutty Orange-Cranberry Sauce, which uses fresh or frozen cranberries and raspberries. Monk fruit extract provides healthy sweetness, while walnuts give this a pleasant crunch. You’ll never look at canned cranberry sauce the same way again! 

Swap Out Your Green Bean Casserole for This Cruciferous Favorite 

Most holiday dinners aren’t complete with this classic, which drowns healthy green beans in unhealthy cream, starch, and other “no” ingredients. How about we nix the green beans altogether this year and make this Braised Kale instead? We’ve provided kale with some serious flavor using onion, garlic, and chicken or veggie stock. 

Swap Out Your Mashed Potatoes for These Upgraded Recipes 

Typical mashed potatoes are high-carb, low-nutrient bombs that are very easy to overeat. Bone broth or veggie stock upgrades these flavorful Healthy Garlic Herb Mashed Potatoes.

Want to skip out on potatoes? Mix things up with Roasted Acorn Squash Purée for a delicious, colorful spin on this nutrient-dense, slow low carb. 

Swap Out Your White Rice for This Flavorful Pilaf 

Unlike nutrient-empty white rice, this Wild Rice and Vegetable Pilaf comes packed with protein and fiber. We’ve managed to squeeze in some veggies in this recipe, too: garlic, zucchini, and yellow squash give this side dish color and flavor. 

Swap Out Your Pumpkin Pie for These Blondies 

Sure, pumpkin pie is the traditional way to end your meal… but why not opt for these Gluten-Free Pumpkin Spice Blondies instead? We’ve combined organic packed pumpkin puree with good-for-you coconut milk, flax seeds, and almond flour, sweetened with monk fruit. You can even opt for unsweetened dark chocolate chips or chopped nuts if you’d like. You can prepare these in advance, and they’ll go quickly!  

Swap Out Your Desserts for These Guilt-Free Delights  

I get it: not everyone shares my love for pumpkin desserts. These Avocado Fudge Brownies are a guilt-free alternative to the classic recipe. Sweetened with monk fruit, they’re loaded with fiber and healthy fats from avocado and flaxseeds.  

I’ve got lots more recipes to hit the sweet spot, including these No-Bake Strawberry-Vanilla Cheesecake Bites, on my recipe page here. 

Swap Out Your Sugary Alcoholic Beverages for These Recipes 

Whether your CEO calls for a toast or your sister wants to “cheers” to an amazing year, the holidays frequently involve alcohol.  

If you imbibe, stick with red wine (my favorite brand is Dry Farm Wines). Feeling a bit more festive? These KeVita® Margaritas combine tequila with KeVita® sparkling drink for a flavorful, probiotic spin on the classic.   

Navigating temptations around the holidays can be challenging! The good news is that with the right approach, you can indulge and imbibe… without guilt or regret. My Holiday Help Cheat Sheet gives you smart, simple strategies to have fun, partake intelligently, and make the most out of this meaningful season. Grab it for FREE here.

Final Thoughts 

With these strategies, you have everything you need to navigate nearly any social function and host your own gathering with ease. While the holidays can be challenging, making smart food decisions and avoiding the foods that are hurting you shouldn’t be! Here’s to a festive, happy, healthy holiday season from all of us at Team JJ! 

The views in this blog by JJ Virgin should never be used as a substitute for professional medical advice. Please work with a healthcare practitioner concerning any medical problem or concern. The information here is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease or condition. Statements contained here have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. 

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.