During the holidays season there is nothing better than indulging in your favorite home baked goodies . Baking does not have to be seen as unhealthy as there are some easy substitutions that can reduce calorie intake, sugar, and fat while improving the overall nutrition profile. This month you will find some easy solutions for making your favorite holiday food a healthier treat everyone will enjoy!
Beans. Cup for cup, beans can be an easy swap for flour, helping to increase both fiber and protein while decreasing overall calories. Beans can also be used as a replacement for traditional shortenings, helping to reduce the fat content of your favorite baked goods. When baking, about one 15 ounce can of pureed beans can be used in place of one cup flour.
Avocado. Avocados can be used as an alternative to eggs, oil, butter, margarine, shortening, and sour cream. Using avocado in place of traditional fats will add a boost of “heart healthy fats” as well as vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. Avocados will also decrease the overall calorie load of the dish. For instance, one cup of butter contains 1,627 calories, whereas one cup pureed avocado contains 368 calories. To use, swap one cup butter or oil for one cup mashed avocado. When using avocado as a substitute to eggs, use ¼ cup mashed avocado per egg.
Cacao Nibs. Cacao nibs are minimally processed and derived from the cacao bean. They can be an easy substitute for chocolate. Not only are cacao nibs less processed and lower in sugar than traditional chocolate, they are also an excellent source of nutrients and antioxidants including magnesium, iron, and fiber. They can also be used in smoothies, sprinkled on oatmeal or stirred in yogurt.
Chia Seeds. This superfood can add a boost of nutrition to almost any dish and can be used as a baking substitute for both butter and eggs. When using to replace butter, combine 1 tablespoon of chia seeds with 9 tablespoons of water and let sit for 15 minutes. If using as an egg substitute, use 1 tablespoon chia seeds with 1 cup water.
Applesauce. When it comes to baking, unsweetened applesauce is an easy way to reduce added sugar and fat. Substitute each cup of sugar in a recipe with 1 cup applesauce, and reduce the liquid in the recipe by ¼ cup. Use as a replacement for butter by using half the amount of butter called for in recipe and the other half applesauce. One egg can also be substituted with ¼ cup applesauce and ½ teaspoon baking powder.
Spice it Up
One foolproof way to decrease sugar and fat in your favorite products is to use spices and natural flavorings! Here are a few of my favorite spices that not only make food taste delicious, but also add health benefits: Cinnamon. Cinnamon may help lower bad cholesterol and blood sugar levels. It has anti-fungal properties, has been shown to help improve headaches and joint pain, and has an anti-clotting effect in the blood.
Nutmeg. Nutmeg may reduce inflammation and help with headaches, as well as decrease bad breath.
Cloves. Cloves contain vitamins A and C and antioxidants and help with flatulence and inflammation.
Pumpkin Pie Spice. Pumpkin pie spice is usually a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. However, some brands do contain sugar, so always check the ingredient list and nutrition label.
Sage. Sage is commonly used with turkey and cornbread dressings. Sage has been said to help with inflammation and contains antioxidants; it also has been shown to improve memory.
Mint. Mint helps to promote digestion, decrease bad breath, improve coughing and respiratory illnesses, and calm nausea.
Have a Healthy and Happy Holiday!