Healthy Holiday Baking Recipes

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Healthy Holiday Baking Recipes

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One of the top requests we get during this time of year is for lightened-up, healthier holiday recipes. After all, who doesn’t want to indulge in the holiday treats and prevent weight gain at the same time? Here are some baking pointers and recipes we share with our clients so that they can have their cake and keep their healthy waistlines, too:

Swap fatty, calorie-dense baking ingredients for Greek yogurt.

You’ll save hundreds of calories, boost protein and calcium, add creaminess and keep the delicious flavor.

  • Replace 1 cup oil with ¾ cup 2% Greek yogurt (and save approximately 1,300+ calories)
  • Replace 1 cup sour cream, 1 cup cream cheese or 1 cup crème fraiche with 1 cup Greek yogurt (and save 300 to 650 calories)
  • Replace 1 cup heavy cream with ½ cup Greek yogurt and ½ cup heavy cream (and save about 320 calories)
  • Replace 1 cup butter with ½ cup butter and ¼ cup Greek yogurt (and save nearly 800 calories).

Looking for some recipes that make the most of yogurt? Check out the holiday recipes below listed under the yogurt category. 

Sugar replacements: Boost vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and fiber, and slash calories by using applesauce and other fruit to replace sugar.

One cup of unsweetened applesauce contains only about 100 calories, while a cup of sugar has more than 770 calories. You can sub sugar for applesauce in a 1:1 ratio, but for every cup of applesauce you use, reduce the amount of liquid in the recipe (milk, water, etc.) by 1/4 cup.

Fruit can also be used to replace other typical baking ingredients add-ins like candies and chocolate chips. Boosting the amount of fruit in a recipe or using it to replace other calorie-dense ingredients can be a real winner for your waistline. For example, in the cookies below, the mashed banana eliminates the need for added sugars. The apple and pineapple in each of the recipes also reduces the amount of peanut butter and other higher calories ingredients.

Replace butter and oil with applesauce, banana, pureed avocado and pumpkin puree. While applesauce and banana make fabulous swaps for both sugar and fat, you also cut calories and artery clogging saturated fat when replacing the butter.

    • For baking, use applesauce (this is especially good in quick breads, muffins and cakes) or banana in a 1:1 ratio instead of butter. You’ll get only a quarter of the calories and virtually no fat. If the sacrifice in flavor is too much, start by using half butter and half the swap.
    • Use pureed avocado in in place of an equal amount of butter in any recipe. You’ll cut calories and fat in half, and add 2 grams of fiber per ounce as well as some potassium.
    • When using pumpkin puree instead of oil, the ratio is 1:1. When using it instead of butter, multiply the amount of butter by 0.75. If a recipe calls for one cup, use 3/4 cup puree in its place. If you're not ready to give up all of the butter, for every one cup of butter, use 1/2 cup of butter and 1/2 cup of pumpkin puree. 

Boost nutrients by choosing fortified ingredients.

  • Whether your recipe calls for almond milk or orange juice, you can increase vitamins and minerals when you choose calcium-fortified varieties.
  • Choose whole-wheat flour and whole-wheat pastry flour instead of white flour and regular pastry flour for extra nutrients and fiber. For every cup of white flour, use 7/8 cup whole-wheat flour.
  • Choose eggs that are higher in nutrients. Many eggs are now fortified with omega-3s and vitamin D.
  • While these substitutions may not directly affect your waistline, they can help improve your overall health and well-being.

Try coconut palm sugar instead of regular sugar.

Coconut sugar is the boiled and dehydrated sap of the coconut palm tree, so it’s less chemically processed than other sugars. It contains a bit less fructose than other sugars, which is beneficial because fructose appears to be associated with diabetes, obesity, heart disease and cancer and only your liver can break it down. Coconut palm sugar also has a slightly lower glycemic index (a measure of how food impacts blood sugar), compared to table sugar. If you are looking for an alternative to sugar, you may want to give this a go. Just be aware that it contains the same number of calories as cane or beet sugar so you still want to limit your consumption. You can substitute coconut palm sugar for typical white sugar in baking and normal cooking at a 1:1 ratio. See recipes noted below that use palm coconut sugar.

Yogurt-containing holiday recipes:

Fruit-, pumpkin- or avocado-containing holiday recipes:

Recipes featuring coconut palm sugar:

The Nutrition TwinsThe Nutrition Twins Contributor

Tammy Lakatos Shames and Elysse (“Lyssie”) Lakatos, The Nutrition Twins®, share a passion to teach people how to eat healthfully and exercise so they'll have energy to live happy lives. The twins have been featured as nutrition experts on Good Morning America, Discovery Health, Fox News, NBC, Bravo, CBS, The Learning Channel, FitTV, Oxygen Network, and Fox & Friends. They co-wrote The Nutrition Twins Veggie Cure: Expert Advice and Tantalizing Recipes for Health, Energy and Beauty, The Secret to Skinny: How Salt Makes You Fat and the 4-Week Plan to Drop A Size & Get Healthier with Simple Low Sodium Swaps. The twins are both ACE Certified Personal Trainers, and members of the American Dietetic Association and several Dietetic Practice Groups.

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