BLUE SPRINGS, Mo. - You can eat healthier this holiday season if you make a few simple changes to recipes, said a University of Missouri Extension nutrition specialist.

"You can still enjoy your favorite holiday foods while providing your family with healthier and more nutritious alternatives," said Karen Elliott, who suggests 10 ways to reduce sugar, fat and salt in recipes:

  1. Use one-fourth to one-third less fat and sugar in baked products and desserts.
  2. Replace half or all of the fat in baked products with applesauce or other pureed fruit.
  3. Use skim or 1 percent low-fat milk. Substitute evaporated skim milk in recipes calling for regular evaporated milk or cream.
  4. Choose cooking techniques that don't add fat. For example, use a nonstick skillet with nonstick cooking spray.
  5. Add a small amount of vanilla, cinnamon or nutmeg to sweeten baked products when you reduce sugars.
  6. Leave salt out of most recipes.
  7. Try fruit juice, low-sodium broth or wine for cooking meat.
  8. Use onion and garlic powder rather than onion salt, garlic salt or other seasoned salts. Start with about half as much powder as you would salt.
  9. Choose whole-grain ingredients rather than refined products. Whole-wheat flour can substitute for up to half the white flour in baking.
  10. Add more fruits and vegetables to recipes, including the peel when possible.

Elliott also offers a few tips to avoid overeating during holiday gatherings:

  • Eat a light snack before a party or dinner. Yogurt or a piece of fruit before you go can take the edge off hunger.
  • Take your plate far away from the buffet table to minimize the temptation to nibble.
  • Take smaller portions of what you eat.
  • Chew slowly; savor foods.
  • Limit alcohol and sugar-sweetened drinks laden with calories; choose fat-free milk.
  • Eat until you are satisfied and then stop.

"Rather than making food the priority during the holidays, focus on socializing with family members and friends," Elliott said.