With Thanksgiving on its way, the holiday season of 2011-2012 is just about ready to kick off–and with that comes lots of delicious (and usually not terribly healthy) holiday food!

It may not be easy, but it’s a good idea to try not to overindulge during the holiday season–and there’s no shortage of tips on how you can succeed at that. One of the best ways? Make substitutions while cooking! We’ve listed some of our favorite substitutions, many of which we’d never even thought of before.

  1. Applesauce for oil or butter. Switching out the fatty oils for applesauce isn’t a new idea, but it’s one a lot of people might not be willing to try. The texture’s just right, though, and thanks to the natural sugars in fruit, even unsweetened applesauce can lend some sweetness to your baking!
  2. Graham crackers for cookies in pie crusts! Pies are one of the holiday standards, and while everyone loves a good Oreo or cookie crust, swapping that out for reduced-fat graham crackers can cut out up to half the calories while still tasting great!
  3. Stevia for sugar. This natural sweetener, which has recently been gaining in popularity is now more readily available, is lower in calories than sugar and up to 300 times sweeter. You read that right–300 times. Popular brand names are Sweetleaf and Truvia.
  4. Prosciutto for bacon. While bacon is an American standard year-round, it’s also well-known to be a major (if majorly delicious) health hazard. Prosciutto can lend a similar taste while having half the calories and two-thirds as much fat!
  5. Nuts for croutons. Serving up salad as a healthy option with your holiday meals? Croutons add a desirable crunch, but they can also pack quite a lot of fat and sodium. Instead, try lightly toasted almonds, pecans, or walnuts! Not only will you be eliminating those extra carbs, but nuts sneak in some extra omega-3 fatty oils.
  6. Pureed fruit for syrup. Looking to warm up on cold mornings with some waffles or pancakes? Instead of slathering them with syrup, try pureeing fruit with a bit of honey; it packs in a lot less sugar, and when it’s warmed on the stove beforehand, tastes even better.
  7. Frozen bananas for ice cream. You read that right! Freeze a couple of bananas overnight, then puree them in the blender; drizzle in a little bit of honey and some cinnamon. The texture’s almost identical, and the taste is to die for!
  8. Ground turkey for ground beef. Since turkey is a leaner meat, it makes a great (and seasonal!) substitution for ground beef. A few spoonfuls of chicken stock can keep it from drying out!
  9. Dry beans for canned beans. Sure, canned beans may be more convenient, but they’re so high in sodium and preservatives! Stock up on some dry beans; all it takes is a little extra soaking and boiling.
  10. Marshmallow Fluff for the butter and sugar in frosting. Believe it or not, this childhood favorite is actually healthier than most frosting; 2 tablespoons is not only fat-free, it only has 40 calories and 6 grams of sugar, while conventional frosting can pack in up to 100 calories and 14 grams of sugar (not to mention all that fat)!

Of course, indulging in some of the ‘bad’ stuff around the holidays isn’t a mortal sin–feel free to treat yourself, but remember that, like with all things, moderation is key!

Do you have any favorite substitutions? Let us know!

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