The holidays are a time for connecting with loved ones in the kitchen and over shared meals. But it’s also a season when many of us feel the effects of our traditional holiday cuisine, which can be heavy on processed ingredients and, of course, sugar. 

This year, try incorporating some of my favorite healthier swaps. It’s a creative way to keep your holidays filled with joy — and just as delicious.

  1. Instead of croutons, try roasted pumpkin seeds on top of soups and salads. You’ll add a crunch and trade simple carbs for omega-3s.
  2. Instead of bouillon or cooking wine, try bone broth or vegetable broth in soup and stew recipes.
  3. Instead of your traditional charcuterie board, create a colorful one! Some of my favorite additions are thinly sliced radish (watermelon radish is most vibrant), fennel, purple/yellow/orange carrots, red/orange/yellow bell peppers, lox, seed crackers (e.g. Flackers), green olives, blackberries, and dark chocolate.
  4. Instead of using actual potatoes in mashed potatoes, try using celery root or parsnips, which are both great sources of prebiotic fiber and create the same starchy potato taste.
  5. Instead of a holiday cocktail, try a mocktail: 50% sparkling water + 50% kombucha, with a splash of lime or bitters. To make it even more festive, add a few juniper berries and a sprig of rosemary.
  6. Instead of beer, try Lagunitas Hoppy Refresher. It’s just sparkling water with hops, so you get the taste of beer while drinking water.
  7. Try mixing in a few nut-based cheeses to your holiday cheese plate (which are lower in bad fats and higher in good ones). A few of my favorite nut-based cheese wheels include Miyokos and Dr. Cow.
  8. Instead of whipped cream, top your desserts with coconut whipped cream.
  9. Instead of craisins, use golden berries, goji berries, or dried unsweetened cranberries.
  10. If you need sugar in a recipe, try using honey, cinnamon, dates, or figs. If you tolerate alternative sugars, you could use monk fruit, stevia, or allulose instead.


  • Tess Bredesen

    Cognitive Nutrition Director at Thrive Global, Cognitive Health Nutritionist, National Board Certified Health & Wellness Coach

    Tess Bredesen is Thrive Global’s Cognitive Nutrition Director and an expert on the prevention of cognitive decline. She is the founder of Sia Health, a practice which specializes in the implementation of the Bredesen Protocol, the first program proven to prevent and reverse cognitive decline. She works with clients internationally through one-on-one online consultations, developing and coaching to adopt programs customized to an individual's risk factors. Find brain-boosting recipes, interviews, and program details at