This post was originally published on December 24, 2015 and updated on December 15, 2020.

Yes, it is possible to celebrate the season without ruining your diet. Jonny Bowden, Ph.D., CNS told Baltimore’s Morning News viewers that the secret is making a few simple swaps at the grocery store. Best of all, the best-selling author says we don’t need to completely cut out snacks and sweets. Making healthier holiday meals may be as easy as replacing your current vegetable oil with Malaysian certified sustainable palm oil.

The holidays are about giving, not giving up. “I like to suggest swap-outs that aren’t too difficult to do,” said Bowden. His first tasty suggestion, although it may sound counter-intuitive, may prevent you from being mistaken for Santa. “Start snacking on foods which have higher fat and higher protein content, such as nuts, cheese and avocados,” he said. “These foods will fill you up, and they help prevent cravings.” Consuming healthy fats may prevent us from overeating the more diet-busting foods on the holiday table.

Bowden’s second swap is nearly invisible. “The number one thing we can do is swap our oil.” This easy change helps balance the diet. “We’re not going to get rid of sugar. We all love it too much. But sugar is very inflammatory, and inflammation is at the center of every major degenerative disease, especially heart disease. All of those oils we’ve been told to cook with – corn oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil  and soybean oil –  they are high in pro-inflammatory omega-6s. So swap them out for healthier oils,” he said. “One of my favorite oils is Malaysian palm oil.”

Bowden reminded viewers that saturated fats, such as those found in butter, coconut and palm oil, shouldn’t be shunned. These healthy fats are no longer linked to increased heart disease risk. He also praised red palm oil’s nutritional profile. “Its red color is from the carotenoids,” he explained. Red palm oil has 15 times more carotenoids than carrots, and is a rich source of vitamin E tocotrienols. “So start using something like Malaysian palm oil instead of corn oil,” said Bowden, adding that palm oil’s country of origin makes a difference. “Malaysian palm oil is certified sustainable. The country protects their forests, and the oil isn’t processed with lots of chemicals.”

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