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Treatment for many medical conditions like diabetes and heart disease often includes dietary restrictions. And more people are voluntarily adopting diets for reasons ranging from health improvement to social consciousness. In fact, a study conducted by Harris Interactive found that 5 percent of people in the United States are vegetarian; half of those are vegan. Also on the rise are gluten-free, dairy-free and soy-free diets.

If you’re cooking for a variety of needs and pallets this holiday season, here are a few easy substitutions that can transform traditional holiday dishes into fare that everyone can enjoy.

  • To reduce cholesterol, use two egg whites in place of one egg for the same great taste.
  • Those with heart disease and diabetes especially benefit from swapping white flour for whole wheat flour.
  • For vegan and lactose intolerant guests, replace cow’s milk in any recipe with soy, rice, oat or nut milk. This also is a great strategy for those trying to reduce dairy consumption.
  • For those with gluten allergies, use almond flour in place of wheat flour. Many people also substitute 1 cup of flour for 1 cup of black bean puree in baked goods like brownies.

For general cooking, unsweetened applesauce is a great substitution for oil or butter, especially in baked goods. The swap helps your dish maintain the right consistency, with just a hint of sweetness, minus all the fat. If you’re attempting this for the first time, try swapping out just half. For example, when your recipe calls for 1 cup of oil, use ½ cup applesauce and ½ cup oil. If you like what you taste, try using a full cup of applesauce the next time with no oil.

And when you’re trying to spice things up, don’t forget cinnamon. Some research has shown that cassia cinnamon may help lower blood sugar in people with diabetes. In lab studies, cinnamon also may reduce inflammation, have antioxidant effects and help fight bacteria. It obviously goes well with baked goods, but don’t stop there. Try sprinkling cinnamon in your coffee for that holiday taste, and adding it to savory dishes like chilies and stew for additional salt-free flavor.

Yes, food is an important part of the holiday season, but it’s not everything. Enjoy healthy cooking, sharing memories, and being with your friends and family.

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