This special season from Thanksgiving to New Years brings all types of delicious foods in the name of tradition and celebration. Baking is a must for many families during the holiday season and everyone loves to enjoy all the different holiday items including cookies, pies, cakes, muffins, breads and gingerbread houses.
Many baking traditions are passed down for generations. Obviously, some recipes will remain the same no matter what but other recipes can benefit from a nutrition upgrade. It is also fun to add in new healthy recipes and possibly bring on new family traditions. Use any or all of these 8 tips to help make your holiday baking healthy and bright:
- Make Mini – Me Versions. Use smaller cupcake or bread pans to cut portion sizes while keeping all the traditional flavors.
- Cut Down on Fat or Sugar. There is usually not a drastic change in flavor or texture by cutting the amount of sugar or fat by 1/3 in a recipe. So if a recipe calls for 1 cup, decrease it to 2/3 cup. Try this with muffins, quick breads, casseroles, pies, crumbles, cookies, and cakes. Cut one item at a time and evaluate with each recipe.
- Upgrade Your Flour – If using all white flour, start by substituting ¼ whole wheat flour. So instead of 1 cup white flour, use ¾ cup white and ¼ whole wheat. In many recipes working up to ½ white and ½ whole wheat can still be delicious. Experimentation is key since taste buds are all different. If you’re an adventurous baker or have a food allergy/intolerance, explore and search on line for baked recipes using other types of flour since there are an abundance of flours on the market including coconut, oat, almond and chickpea.
- Substitute Whole for More Refined Ingredients – honey, molasses, maple syrup, coconut sugar or pureed dates have more nutrients and can be used in place of plain white or brown sugar. Replace some or all of the fats such as butter and oil with mashed fruits or veggies such as applesauce, banana, or pumpkin.
- Boost Fiber – Along with using more whole grain flour increase fiber by adding oats, ground flax, wheat germ, or seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, chia) to pancakes, waffles, muffins and quick breads.
- Spice It Up – The wonderful smells of Christmas and other holidays come from specific spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, clover, ginger, allspice, and peppermint. These spices have medicinal properties and are wonderful added to baked goods. Maybe add a little more of what the recipe calls for. And whether in a food or spray, candle or lotion, these scents keep us in the spirit of the season!
- Simplify –Simple baked fruits are a quick deliciously simple desert to celebrate the season without a ton of added fat and sugar. Enjoy baked apples or pears with nuts, oats, cinnamon, nutmeg and a drizzle of honey or maple syrup.
- Give it away. If you make or have too many baked goods around, give it away, send it home with someone, give it as a gift, take it to work/parties or stash it in the freezer. You may not even notice a taste difference in dishes but family and friends’ comments will give the final word on whether it’s a permanent change in the recipe. It’s finding the place where deliciousness and health meet. Here’s to a happy healthier holiday!