Can you smell that? It’s the aroma of your favorite holiday baked goods — cookies, pies, cakes, and breads — filling the air as you try to maintain the healthy eating habits you’ve worked so hard to establish throughout the year.
If you’re like me, you may struggle with wanting to enjoy your favorite treats without overindulging or completely derailing your day. (Or, let’s face it, your entire week.) The good news is there’s a plethora of alternative ingredients that allow you to give many traditional holiday baking recipes a healthy update, so you can partake in good conscious.
It can be difficult to know where or how to swap, so I pulled together this guide of some of the top ingredient substitutes to add to your pantry, so you’re ready when holiday baking commences.
Most baking recipes call for all-purpose flour or one of the many versions of this wheat-based staple. All-purpose flour is typically bleached and highly processed, making it ideal for baking, but less-than-healthy for you. The gluten in flour can also be problematic for some people, as gluten is a known cause of dietary inflammation that can lead to gastrointestinal problems, as well as other metabolic issues. There are now a multitude of other flour options on the shelves, including the gluten-free ones on this list.
We all know that sugar is one of the toughest things to limit throughout the holidays, particularly processed sugars, as they’re found in many packaged foods and other treats. So if you can choose healthier options and cut your intake back in even a few dishes, that’s a major win. Try using these more natural sweeteners instead.
Many recipes include vegetable oil, as it creates a binding effect that gives breads and cakes a soft, crumb-like texture. Most vegetable oils, however, are highly processed and contain hydrogenated oils that are inflammatory, among a myriad of other negative health effects. Instead of vegetable, soybean, or canola oil, try one of these alternatives, most of which can be substituted in a one-to-one ratio.
While eggs are not bad for you, sensitivities to eggs have become fairly common, so using a substitute is a great way for those individuals — or vegans — to still enjoy a sweet treat from time to time.
Milk or Heavy Cream
Unless you’re sensitive to dairy or looking to remove it from your diet, you can feel good about using organic milk or heavy cream, ideally choosing whole fat. The higher the milk fat, the less processed the product — and the more satiating it is. If you’d like another option, try one of these suggestions.
Margarine or Butter
Margarine is never a good choice as it can contain trans fats, which are pro-inflammatory, but the old adage that butter is “clogging your arteries” couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s simply about being a little more selective about the type of butter you choose.
Who doesn’t love a soft, warm chocolate chip cookie? The good news is there are a few simple ways to increase the health factor of the chocolate in this classic treat — and other recipes that call for it.
No-Swap-Needed Holiday Cookies
Not quite ready to experiment with your own recipe? Try these two holiday cookies that already have all of the healthy swaps made for you.
Makes 12 large or 24 small cookies, depending on size of cookie cutter
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 12 minutes
- 1 cup almond flour
- 1 1/2 cups raw oatmeal, ground into flour
- 1 1/2 tbs. pumpkin pie spice
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- Pinch of sea salt
- 1/2 cup blackstrap molasses
- 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- Oat flour for rolling the dough
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- In a medium-size bowl, add the almond flour, ground oatmeal, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, and sea salt. Whisk to combine.
- In a small, microwaveable bowl, combine the molasses, coconut oil, and vanilla. Heat until melted, about 30 seconds.
- Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir to combine.
- On a well-floured surface (using the extra oat flour), lay out the dough and roll with a rolling pin until it’s about 1/4-inch thick.
- Use a cookie cutter to cut desired shapes, and lay flat on a greased, 9×13 baking sheet.
- Bake for 11 to 12 minutes, or until browned.
Source: Life Time Training Team
Almond Flour Cookies
Makes 12 to 15 cookies
Prep time: 40 minutes including dough chilling time
Cook time: 15 minutes
- 2 cups almond flour
- 1 large egg (or equivalent substitute if you’re avoiding eggs)
- 2 tbs. coconut oil
- 2 tbs. pure maple syrup
- Combine all of the ingredients to form a dough, then chill it in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Roll the dough out until it’s about 1/4-inch thick. Cut into desired shapes.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, place cut cookies on it, and bake for 12 to 15 minutes.
- If desired, top the cookies with some nut butter, or a mix of coconut oil and honey for a healthy glaze.
Source: The Life Time Foundation