Wash your hands, disinfect frequently touched surfaces, avoid gatherings with friends and family who do not live in your immediate household, and don’t forget your mask!

These are by far the most important tips for a healthy holiday season in 2020.

But just because we are focused on slowing the spread of COVID-19, it doesn’t mean we can neglect other areas of our health. For those of us with high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, or other chronic illnesses, proper nutrition, tailored to our unique dietary needs, is key to feeling our best.

While this holiday season looks so different from seasons past, many of us still hope to celebrate with all our favorite holiday dishes. And we all can with help from Marilyn Mills, MS, RD, LD, CDE, Senior Clinical Dietitian at Elliot Hospital and Supermarket Dietitian in Manchester’s Hannaford Supermarkets.

“Whether you need to reduce your sodium intake, cut back on sugar, or avoid saturated fats, you can still enjoy all of your favorite holiday meals with a few simple ingredient swaps,” says Mills. “I’ve put together a list of substitutions that will help you enjoy the holiday season and stay on track with your health goals.”


Goal: Reduce Sodium (Salt)
Instead of This: Try This:
Salt You can omit or reduce the salt called for in your recipe by half in most cases (except for yeast baking recipes). Try seasoning food with herbs and spices, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, basil, or dill.
Seasoning Salt or Spice Mixes with Salt Try salt-free seasonings or spice mixes and consider reduced salt versions or mixed herb and spice blends. Have you ever tried nutritional yeast? It ‘s a flavorful substitute for salt. You can even use lemon juice, flavored vinegars, or cooking wine to flavor foods.
Broth, Stock, Bouillon, Soy Sauce, or Teriyaki Sauce Use unsalted, low-sodium, and reduced sodium versions of broth, stock, and bouillon. Or try coconut aminos. It’s a very low-sodium, soy-free substitute perfect for a stir fry or veggie flavoring.


Goal: Reduce Sugar and Artificial Sweeteners
Instead of This: Try This:
Sugar You can reduce sugar by one-quarter to one-third in baked goods and desserts. Use flavored extracts of vanilla or almond, ground cinnamon, or ground ginger to give the impression of sweetness. Consider using sugar and sweetener blends (Truvia or Stevia mixed with sugar) for baking. Monk fruit, Stevia, and Swerve are natural sweeteners. Note: Do not decrease the amount of sugar called for in yeast recipes as it’s needed to feed the yeast.
Syrup Substitute pure maple syrup with frozen fruit, canned pureed fruit, or fruit spreads.


Goal: Cut Back on Saturated Fat
Instead of This: Try This:
Butter, Shortening, Plant Oil Spreads, or Solid Fat (General Cooking) Try spreadable butter or liquid oils like olive oil, canola oil, or avocado oil. Just remember to use one-fourth less liquid oil than the butter that is called for in your recipe.
Butter, Plant Oil Sticks, or Solid Fat (Baking) Applesauce, baking dates, pumpkin puree, and even mashed avocado can be substituted for half of the fat called for in your recipe. Pro tip: You may need to reduce your baking time by 15 minutes.
Whole Milk, Half and Half, Cream, Evaporated Milk, and Condensed Milk Use 1% milk, plain soy milk, fat free half and half, evaporated skim milk, condensed low fat milk, or almond milk with protein instead of full fat milks and creams.
Whole-Fat Cheese Use light cheese (50% less fat/saturated fat), 2% low-fat block cheddar, part-skim mozzarella, or reduced fat swiss or provolone instead of whole-fat cheese.
Full-Fat Sour Cream Use light sour cream or plain Greek yogurt in place of full-fat sour cream. Just remember that that yogurt is not heat stable – mix it in at the end just before serving!
Beef with High Fat Content (Ribs or T-Bone Steaks) Try leaner cuts like beef tenderloin (filet mignon), eye of the round, top round, or bison tenderloin steaks.
Poultry with Skin Remove the skin from the breast meat of chicken and turkey.