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gut healthy holiday treats

Use These Substitutes To Make Your Favorite Holiday Treats Good For Your Gut

Make Holiday Treats Gut-Healthy With These Festive Alternatives 

We’re all excited about the holiday season and, of course, the delicious food that goes along with it. But many of us are feeling forced and obligated to eat and enjoy all of those traditional family treats despite our gut health goals whispering in the back of our minds.

This year, there’s no need to feel guilty about splurging on something you enjoy or telling Grandma you can’t eat a third helping of her cherry pie because you're on board for gut health—we have a solution to make those holiday eating decisions easy for everyone.

This holiday season we’re busting the myth that all things that taste good during the holidays must be bad for you. There are plenty of healthy alternatives that can be swapped into many of our favorite drinks and bites, keeping our bodies healthy and our guilty conscience quiet.

Toss Out The Canned Fruits For Something Fresh

A spoonful of cranberry sauce makes anything taste good, but before you go scooping this sauce think about this. Store-bought fruit sauces and canned fruits are often loaded with pure sugar and little nutritional value. When we talk about sugar, we’re not just referring to the natural sugar found in fruit but the added refined sugar you’ll find in canned items needed to make them shelf-stable. 

Refined sugar is a culprit in developing inflammation and messing with the balance of bacteria in the gut, so staying far away from large amounts of refined sugar is a must. Instead of buying canned fruits, try making your own fruit-filled dishes at home, ones free of processed ingredients and low on the glycemic index.

Cranberry Sauce

Give this healthy take on cranberry sauce a try this holiday season. This sweet recipe is made with natural ingredients and is free of any preservatives or refined sugars. Try it out: Gut-Friendly Cranberry Sauce Recipe

gut healthy holiday treats

Greek Yogurt Over … Everything 

Appetizers next to snacks next to hors d'oeuvres—the food is endless. Somewhere along the snack table, you’re sure to find a cheese dip or warm crockpot dipping sauce full of the following ingredient: sour cream. 

While this dairy option may sound good, it can certainly do some damage on your gut. Dairy products like sour cream, buttermilk, and cream cheese can throw off the balance of bacteria in the gut, causing inflammation and problems with digestion. Instead, we have a great alternative that’s dairy-free, lower in fat, and high in protein: Greek yogurt. 

Greek yogurt makes any dip, sauce, dressing, dish, or side guilt-free while still being delicious. Substitute Greek yogurt for sour cream in any of the following. 


Substitute 1 cup of sour cream for 1 cup of Greek yogurt in any of your favorite dip recipes. Greek yogurt tends to be a bit tangier than sour cream, so adjust your other ingredients according to the new but still delicious taste.

Baked Goods

If you want to bake healthier sweets, kick out the sour cream and opt-in Greek yogurt instead. Substitute 1 cup of sour cream with 1 cup of Greek yogurt and an extra teaspoon of baking soda for the same great texture and taste.

A Healthier Take On Creamy

Everyone’s a sucker for mashed potatoes, but with loads of margarine and sour cream, one too many spoonfuls of creamy potatoes are sure to give your gut an upset. Instead, trade out the sour cream and margarine with protein and healthy fats—Greek yogurt and olive oil.

gut healthy holiday treats


Sub Out The Crisco and Vegetable Oil

Grandma’s family recipe is sure to be full of one of these gut-buster ingredients—Crisco or vegetable oil. Now, don’t be fooled by the term vegetable, nutritious vegetables are not actually made into vegetable oil. Processed oils like vegetable oil generally comes from sources like canola, corn, cottonseed, safflower, sunflower, rice bran, and soy oil. The oil from these sources is extracted via a chemical process.

While Grandma might think that these ingredients give her dishes the perfect greasy texture and hearty flavor, they're bound to do damage to your gut. But, the good news is that you can still enjoy all of your family favorites, just substitute Crisco or vegetable oil for one of the following gut-healthy alternatives.

Pureed Fruits

In any baked good recipe that calls for vegetable oil, try using pureed fruit instead. Unsweetened applesauce, apricots, or prunes work great in baked goods and still give them that sweet, holiday flavor. You can even try using baby food jars if you can’t find the time to puree fruit yourself.

Coconut Oil

One of our favorite superfoods, coconut, creates healthy and delicious oil that can be used in many of your favorite recipes. Coconut oil has many health benefits including promoting good cholesterol, fighting obesity, and aiding in good digestion. You can replace Crisco or vegetable oil with coconut oil in just about any recipe. 

gut healthy holiday treats


Dark Chocolate Over Milk Chocolate

Keeping your gut in shape doesn’t have to mean giving up the good stuff—chocolate. In fact, you might even want to eat more chocolate this season to keep your gut healthy.

Besides being one of our favorite ingredients, cocoa is great for the gut because it’s rich in antioxidants and high in polyphenols, which makes it anti-inflammatory. The gut goes crazy for dark chocolate that is at least 70% cocoa and free of refined sugar and artificial sweeteners, making it the perfect swap for sugar-filled milk chocolate in this year’s holiday recipes.


Your long-time family brownie recipe is something you can’t miss out on this holiday season. Luckily, there are easy ways to make the tradition a bit more gut-friendly.

Swap out any sweetened chocolate for dark chocolate with 70% cocoa or more. Then, replace any refined sugars with natural sweeteners like coconut sugar, honey, or yacon root syrup. And enjoy a glass of milk on the side too. Almond, cashew, or coconut milk are great for brownie dunking. 

Hot chocolate

A warm holiday favorite—hot cocoa. After a long day of sledding or a few hours at the ice skating rink, there’s nothing better than a cup of cocoa. We have the perfect recipe to enjoy that’s free of unfriendly sugars and heavy dairy.

Gut-Friendly Dark Chocolate Hot Cocoa

  • 2 tbsp almond or coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp honey or natural sweetener
  • 2 tbsp unsweetened dark chocolate cocoa powder
  • 1 ½ cup hot water

gut healthy holiday treats

Dark Chocolate Cookies

Do you have a holiday baking day every year? If so, your countertops are probably filled with cookies and baked goods to hand out to the neighbors and place out for Santa Claus on Christmas Eve night. 

Give Santa and the neighbors a gut-friendly cookie option this year. Rowdy Bars has a Dark Chunky Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookie recipe that’s out of this world. These cookies are packed with protein, prebiotic ingredients, and are, of course, delicious.



Tips For Avoiding An Unhappy Gut During The Holidays

1. Chew Your Food Well and Eat Slowly

Distracted eating (like while talking with family at the holiday dinner table, for example) causes us to not fully chew our food before swallowing. When unchewed food enters our digestive system, it attracts bad-guy bacteria to help break it down. This can cause nasty symptoms like gas, bloating, and acid reflux, and can lead to long term symptoms like leaky gut and candida. 

Make sure to fully chew your food before swallowing. The goal should be to chew tough foods at least 30 times and softer foods at least 5 times before swallowing. 

2. Reduce Your Stress

There’s certainly no shortage of stress during the holiday season. With family, finances, gift wrapping, and sugary foods, stress is bound to find its way into your holidays. But in order to keep our guts healthy, managing stress is essential during this time of year.

To reduce stress, try making time for yourself, create boundaries when it comes to spending on gifts, and make healthy food choices. A stressed mind means a stressed body, and this means a bloated holiday belly and an irritable mood. Take care of yourself this season and reduce as many stressors as you can.

3. Drink A Cup Of Nutrient-Dense Bone Broth

In the midst of pie, egg nog, and coffee after dessert, your gut is probably hungry from some proper nutrients. Bone broth is a great alternative to regular broth in many recipes, but can also be sipped on in between meals to make your gut happy.

Bone broth is full of anti-inflammatory amino acids that help to reduce inflammation in the gut caused by stress, dehydration, and unhealthy food choices. Sip it from a festive holiday mug during post-dessert coffee hour to give your gut a boost.

4. Go For An After Dinner Walk

It might be tempting to lay down on the sofa and catch a cat-nap after a big meal, but laying down is the worst thing you can do for your gut after a holiday dinner. When food is trying to digestive in your stomach, laying down can stir up acid reflux.

Instead of taking a snooze, opt for a post-meal walk. Moving around prompts the muscles in the gut to contract, helping your stomach move food and stomach acid into the intestines. And hey, while you’re out for a stroll, check out the neighborhood lights and decorations—we heard your neighbors are pretty festive this time of year.

gut healthy holiday treats


5. Drink Plenty of Water

With yummy holiday food and the occasion festive cocktail crowding our stomachs, we tend to drink less water during the busy holiday season. Without plenty of water, the gut can become somewhat like a traffic jam. 

Make sure to get your water in this season. Drinking water will keep you hydrated and help the digestive system get things moving, reducing the chance for constipation and stress on the gut. Plus, the more water you drink, the less likely you are to overeat.

6. Get Your Pre- and Probiotics In Daily

Incorporating plenty of prebiotics and probiotics into your daily diet is essential for keeping a healthy balance of bacteria in the microbiome. Stay in your gut-healthy routine even in the midst of this holiday season.

Pack plenty of gut-healthy snacks when you’re on the road to see family or are traveling cross-country to see some old friends. Making sure you have easily accessible snacks that will aid in healing your gut ensures that you don’t grab that sugar-filled snack on-the-go while your tummy is grumbling. 

Rowdy Bars are the perfect gut-health snack that you can take with you anywhere. They’re filled full of prebiotic-power and protein, giving you natural energy and a microbiome boost. Try our favorite holiday flavor Sunflower Butter N' Berries.

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