3 Swaps for Better-for-You Holiday Baking
by Victoria Le Maire, RD, LD
The holidays may look a little different this year, with fewer people surrounding you, but that doesn’t mean your favorite baked goods and desserts won’t be present. We all love to indulge in our favorite sweet and savory treats this time of year. Portion control and using smart ingredient swaps can help you live your healthiest life even during the holidays. Healthy holiday eating is within reach, and the following tips can help you cut out fat and sugar without sacrificing the taste of baked goods and other festive treats.
Try dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate. Chocolate with 70% cacao or higher contains antioxidants and nutrients such as iron, magnesium and calcium, to help your body perform at its best. Dark chocolate also has lower added sugar than milk chocolate; the American Heart Association recommends limiting added sugar to 38 grams or less per day for men and 25 grams or less per day for women. Consider making desserts such as dark chocolate-covered berries or pretzels, or enjoy a few squares of high-quality dark chocolate to satisfy your sweet tooth.
Another option when baking is to choose chocolate chips that are sweetened with a zero-calorie sweetener like stevia. This will decrease the overall caloric density and limit the amount of added sugar in your dessert. We recommend using Lily's Dark Chocolate Baking Chips in your next batch of chocolate chip cookies or to melt and drizzle on a homemade oatmeal bar.
Use naturally sweet fruit like mashed bananas, apples or dates as an easy and healthy swap for table sugar in your desserts. Real fruit also offers fiber and nutrients, such as potassium, that sugar doesn’t provide. Keep an eye out for ingredients like honey, maple syrup and agave, while fine in small amounts, these are other sources of added sugar in baking recipes. Pitted dates can be finely chopped up and added to your dessert bars, cookies or loaves. Alternatively, you can soak dried dates and then puree them to use instead of sugar. Unsweetened apple sauce is also a popular substitute for sugar (or oil) when baking. You can swap one cup of unsweetened apple sauce for one cup of sugar. Applesauce contains approximately 120 calories per cup while the same volume of sugar amounts to 720 calories!
You can get more protein, fiber and nutrients when you use flours made from whole grain sources such as beans, oats, quinoa or wheat. Using whole wheat flour in place of white flour is a simple place to start. Switching to any whole grain flour provides a more filling and satisfying bite that helps everyone stick to smaller portions. Consider whole grain flour as a high-quality ingredient that can level up any dessert you’re planning to make!
These baking ingredient substitutions will have minor impact on flavor and huge impact on your health and the health of those you love. Smart swaps aren’t about restricting the foods you love; they’re about boosting the quality of your food for a delicious and nutrient-packed holiday season!