During the holiday season, there’s no shortage of cookies, breads, pies, cakes, chocolate, and sweets. That doesn’t mean however, that everything you make must be loaded with calories, saturated fat and sugar to taste good. With a few simple ingredient swaps and substitutions and some healthy holiday baking tips, you can make delicious treats that are full of flavor and yummy goodness and may even have some extra nutrition to boot.
WHY I LOVE HEALTHY HOLIDAY BAKING TIPS
My kids and I bake together often, but during the holidays, it’s even more special.
As a child, I have fond memories of making chocolate-coconut Christmas cookies and these Betty Crocker candy cane cookies with my own mom.
Now that I’m a mom, I love holiday baking even more.
This year, my kids and I made Paula Deen’s Pumpkin Pie for Thanksgiving and for Christmas, we’ll make my grandmother’s famous cheesecake—it’s a secret recipe!
If there’s time, we’ll probably also make coconut macaroons and sweet and saltines, which are always devoured within minutes.
While most of our holiday baking recipes call for full-fat ingredients and a lot of sugar, it’s once a year so I don’t think it’s a big deal. Most of the time when we bake, we use healthy ingredient substitutions and use recipes that have less sugar, oil and saturated fat.
HEALTHY HOLIDAY BAKING TIPS
Here are healthy holiday baking tips and ingredient substitutions that will lighten up your recipes without losing any of the flavor, texture, or yummy goodness.
1. UPGRADE YOUR FLOUR
Sometimes you have to use regular, all-purpose flour in your holiday baking recipes, but many times, you can make a substitution with another flour that won’t change the taste or the texture.
White, refined flour lacks fiber and spikes blood sugar, so I tend to avoid using it.
Since my kids eat a mainly gluten-free diet anyway, I usually swap all-purpose flour for gluten-free oats that I grind up in the food processor or Vitamix.
You can also use whole wheat flour or almond flour, which is a good source of protein—7 grams in about a cup— as well as vitamin E and healthy, monounsaturated fats.
In some recipes, you can make a 1:1 substitution, but others, like coconut flour, may require less flour and more liquid.
Be sure to read the package for instructions on how to adjust your ingredients or look for a recipe that call for the specific type of flour you want to use.
2. CUT DOWN ON THE SUGAR
Sweeteners like coconut sugar may have a lower glycemic index than table sugar, and less of an impact on blood glucose levels, but it’s still high in calories.
“As a dietitian, I don’t feel comfortable calling any sugar ‘healthy,’ but it is a better choice than cane sugar,” Carissa Galloway, RD, said in this article.
What’s more, just because coconut sugar and others like honey are naturally- derived, they’re still considered added sugars and should be limited in our diets.
Related: What Are Added Sugars?
Of course, the holidays are a special occasion so I don’t see a big deal in indulging in sweets.
But if you know your kids will be eating a lot of holiday treats or you’re simply looking to cut back on the amount of sugar they’re consuming, you can cut the amount of sugar in a recipe by a 1/4 or a 1/3, which probably won’t make that much of a difference in the taste.
While pies, cakes and cookies usually need sugar to taste sweet, adding dried fruit like dates, raisins or cranberries to bread or muffin recipes can also be a healthy, delicious substitute for sugar.
3. MAKE MINI VERSIONS OF YOUR HOLIDAY RECIPES
One of the best ways to keep portions healthy for everyone is to create miniature cookies and desserts.
Try mini muffin tins, mini loaf pans, or ramekins for smaller, healthier versions of your favorite holiday treats.
Related: How To Teach Kids Portion Control
4. MIX IN SOME VEGETABLES
One of the best healthy holiday baking tips is to add pureed or grated vegetables like zucchini, carrots, beets, squash, and pumpkin.
Not only does incorporating vegetables add fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to holiday baking recipes that are otherwise devoid of nutrition, but they also add flavor and moistness.
Related: How To Eat Pumpkin Seeds
5. SUBSTITUTE AVOCADO FOR BUTTER AND OIL
Avocado is one of the healthiest foods you can feed your kids, especially because it’s high in fiber, has 20 vitamins and minerals and healthy, monounsaturated fats.
Avocado is also an easy, 1 to 1 substitute for butter or oil.
I’ve found that it often makes cookies or muffins have a greenish hue, which isn’t a big deal and makes them even more festive for the season.
6. MIX IN SOME CHIA SEEDS
When it comes to healthy holiday baking tips, adding chia seeds to your recipes is one of the best.
Chia seeds are high in fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, potassium, iron, and calcium—they’re a superfood for kids.
Incorporate chia seeds into cookies, muffins, quick bread, and cakes.
Adding them doesn’t change the taste or the texture but you may have to add additional liquid ingredients because they can thicken up the batter.
Related: 9 Kid-Friendly Ways To Chia Seeds
7. USE GREEK YOGURT IN PLACE OF CREAM
When a recipe calls for cream cheese, sour cream, or buttermilk, try using full-fat or low-fat Greek yogurt instead.
Greek yogurt is an excellent source of protein, vitamin B12, and potassium and helps to cut down on some of the calories and saturated fat.