They’re in the office, on the kitchen counter, under the tree and everywhere in between - baked treats do their best to outnumber us during the holidays. These highly processed, extremely palatable, and energy dense goodies can make it difficult to stay on top of health goals - especially when they smell SO good! Luckily, we’ve got some tips and tricks to feel better about indulging, as well as a recipe to get started this holiday season!
Tip #1: Look at the ingredients list for potential swaps
In most cases, half of the butter or shortening can be replaced with Greek yogurt or a fruit purée such as mashed banana or unsweetened applesauce. This swap reduces the fat (and overall calories) and increases the nutrient density by adding vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. If you’re not willing to cut the fat, consider replacing the butter or shortening with canola oil, which withstands high cooking temperatures and has a mild flavour. This substitution will result in a soft, moist product.
Whole wheat and oat flours can be great substitutes to all purpose flour, as they pack a punch of fibre that will help to keep you feeling full[i]. You may need extra fluid for consistency when adding more fibre to recipes.
For most recipes, sugar can be reduced by half without a noticeable change in taste. Using high flavour sweeteners like honey and maple syrup can also help to reduce the amount of sweetness needed. As another swap, try dates! Naturally sweet, dates provide a host of other nutrients including potassium and fibre. For best results, briefly soak them in hot water prior to using - this will help keep baked goods. Alternatively, add extra water to the batter until the desired consistency is reached.
Tip #2: Go nuts
If weight loss, heart health, or improved blood sugar control are among your health goals this season, then tip #2 is for you - bake with nuts! Studies have shown that individuals who consume a moderate quantity (a handful) of nuts each day are more likely to reach a lower body weight compared to those who do not include these gems on the same calorie diet. While all nuts and seeds are beneficial, our pantry staple for the holidays is pistachios. They’re packed with monounsaturated fatty acids and antioxidants. Recent evidence also suggests that adding pistachios (and likely any nut or seed) to higher glycemic meals (cough, cough dessert!) may also help to lower one’s glycemic response to the meal and maintain blood sugar levels within a normal range[ii]. Now that’s a delicious way to help prevent a sugar rush! Pistachios are also naturally a festive green colour, which brings us to tip #3…
Tip #3: Naturally beautiful
Skip the artificial colours and flavours and take advantage of nature’s palette! Whether it be dried cranberries, fresh orange zest, toasted coconut flakes, or other, replacing highly processed ingredients with less processed ones can help increase the nutrient density of baked goods. It also scores major creativity points with others - Pinterest included!
So there you have it, three simple tips to help stay on track during the holidays while still enjoying, and even improving baked creations. Being that it’s the season of giving, check out our delicious recipe for Cranberry Pistachio Cookies to help get you started. Happy Holidays!
[i] Adam, C. L., Gratz, S. W., Peinado, D. I., Thomson, L. M., Garden, K. E., Williams, P. A., . . . Ross, A. W. (2016). Effects of Dietary Fibre (Pectin) and/or Increased Protein (Casein or Pea) on Satiety, Body Weight, Adiposity and Caecal Fermentation in High Fat Diet-Induced Obese Rats. Plos One, 11(5). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0155871
[ii] Dreher, M. L. (2012). Pistachio nuts: composition and potential health benefits. Nutrition Reviews, 70(4), 234-240. doi:10.1111/j.1753-4887.2011.00467.x