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The Top 3 Essential Cooking Swaps

Thanksgiving and Christmas are right around the corner.  And thanks to these holidays it means we will be eating a lot more treats and indulgent foods and traveling more than usual.  Which makes it a lot harder to stick to your health goals.  But by making a few tweaks to your favorite recipes, you can make any meal healthier and better for you at the same time. 

Savoring a special meal or dessert surrounded by friends and family is an essential ingredient to enjoying a fulfilling life.   It can help boost your physical and mental health, give you a sense of belonging, and help you to be a positive influence for yourself and others on their health journeys.  So don't let this time stress you out when it comes to your health goals. 

Here are my top three simple swaps for a holiday recipe makeover, making any meal tastier and better for you.   



1.  Swap your vegetable or seed cooking oils for coconut, avocado, extra virgin olive oil or ghee.  

I've written about this in a previous post but since most typical American recipes call for vegetable or canola oil it definitely needs repeating:  Cooking oils like canola, corn, soybean, cottonseed, sunflower and safflower oil, go through a ridiculous amount of processing with chemical solvents, steamers, neutralizers, de-waxers, bleach and deodorizers before they end up in that bottle on the shelf in the grocery store.  Get rid of them ASAP and swap them for coconut, avocado, extra virgin olive oil or ghee.   The health issues these overly processed oils are linked to from cancer to inflammation are reason enough to stop eating them right away.  



2.  Switch to Organic Flours

The process of milling typical flour uses heat to crush the grain which destroys all of the essential vitamins and nutrients in the original grain and just leaves a white powdery so called "food" that has to be enriched with synthetic vitamins and minerals for human consumption.  

"The next part is even scarier because fresh milled flour usually isn’t acceptable for consumption because of the look, feel and smell of it. The FDA has approved over 60 chemicals for manufacturers to use to help these aesthetics and the shelf life of flour. Chlorine is used to bleach conventional flours to remove the smell and change the color. The flour is put into a gas chamber and treated with chlorine dioxide which leaches all the vitamin E out of the flour and leaves a chemical called dichlorostearic acid that remains in the flour. Additionally treating flour with chlorine can create more chemical byproducts that have been known to react to other proteins and cause nervous system damage in humans."  (Vani Hari,

Also, in the US, non-organic wheat is heavily sprayed with glyphosate, an herbicide linked to cancer.  

"This herbicide is a toxin that can accumulate in your body the more you are exposed to it. It has been linked to kidney disease, breast cancer, and some birth defects. According to Dr. Stephanie Seneff, a senior research scientist at MIT, glyphosate is largely responsible for the escalating incidence of autoimmune and other neurological disorders that we are experiencing. " (Vani Hair, Food Babe)

If you see the words “wheat flour”, “enriched flour”, “bleached flour” on an ingredient list, put it back an look for healthier alternatives like almond, coconut, or cassava flours. 

Unfortunately, just swapping a flour for a gluten free blend isn't much better due to the types of flours they use in these mixes like rice and tapioca flours which are high in arsenic and can skyrocket your blood sugar levels.  But luckily there are a ton of healthy recipes online that you can find that use healthier for you flours.



3.  Replace and reduce refined sugar

It’s amazing how much sugar many recipes call for, especially holiday ones.  I’ve found my favorite traditional recipes taste just as great, if not better, by reducing the amount of sugar by about a fourth to a half. I recommend trying coconut sugar instead of granulated white and brown sugar. 

Natural sugars in fruit and vegetables are balanced by the fiber, vitamins, enzymes and other properties of the fruit/vegetable which slow sugar digestion and help the body deal with it more easily. Processed sugar, on the other hand, provides none of these benefits so there really isn't any safe amount of this type of sugar.  This is especially true for kids as they are still developing their nutritional foundation, metabolism, and hormones, so even a little sugar can be harmful. 

According to the American Heart Association, the average American consumes 22 teaspoons of added sugars a day in the form of foods, drinks, and sweets.

All the excessive sugar in our diets is one of the biggest health destroyers…increasing the risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, liver disease, and cancer – but its detrimental effects can take years to surface. It’s the hidden link to so much pain and suffering – AND it makes you feel and look awful!!! (Vani Hari, Food Babe)


“Dr. David Reuben, author of Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Nutrition says, “white refined sugar-is not a food. It is a pure chemical extracted from plant sources, purer in fact than cocaine, which it resembles in many ways. Its true name is sucrose and its chemical formula is C12H22O11. It has 12 carbon atoms, 22 hydrogen atoms, 11 oxygen atoms, and absolutely nothing else to offer.” …The chemical formula for cocaine is C17H21NO4. Sugar’s formula again is C12H22O11. For all practical purposes, the difference is that sugar is missing the “N”, or nitrogen atom.” 


"Sugar is different from other calories, “It scrambles all your normal appetite controls…driving your metabolism to convert it into lethal belly fat.” Ditching sugar is one of the fastest and most effective ways to lose weight! (Dr. Mark Hyman)

You can swap coconut sugar in any recipe and it will still taste delicious!  Or you can use real maple syrup or honey if your recipe calls for a liquid type of sweetener.  These are all forms of real sugar that have not been overly processed or laden with chemicals.  But it's important to keep in mind that even the real forms of sugar are sugar and it is harmful to our bodies. 

With all of the data out there on how bad sugar is for us, it's so important to make an effort to eat less of it and not overindulge this holiday season.  Not only will you feel better during the holidays but it will pay off in the long run for your long term health.  


I hope these tips help you make healthy holiday treats this season. Don’t be afraid to experiment, chances are you’ll find a new, healthier, family favorite that you can share for years to come!