Top 4: Alternatives for Healthy Holiday Baking

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Eating healthy during the holidays—or any other time of year—does not have to be a daunting task. And contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to sacrifice flavor for calories! A little tweak here and a little addition there can add up helping to reduce calories and fat, while increasing vitamins, minerals and fiber—all leading to an overall healthier diet during the holidays.

Save Calories by Substituting Applesauce for Butter

Applesauce is a healthy replacement for butter in baking; however, a 1:1 substitution ratio is almost never correct.  Butter is a lipid whereas applesauce contains pectin, a soluble fiber that can turn your recipe into a jelly-like consistency. Additionally, you may need to reduce the amount of sugar elsewhere in the recipe because applesauce contains natural sugars—even the unsweetened type—that may offset the taste.Applesauce Experiment first by slowly increasing your substitution. Start with a ratio of 1/2 butter, 1/2 applesauce, or maybe 1/4 butter and 3/4 applesauce. By substituting at least 1/2 cup applesauce for 1/2 cup butter you’ll save more than 750 calories.

Increase Fiber by Adding Fruits and Nuts

Give your cookies, muffins and other treats a fiber boost by adding nuts, seeds or dried fruits. Mixing these wholesome foods into the batter, or adding them as a topping for desserts helps increase fiber and may decrease refined sugars since you are using less sugar—anywhere from 1/4 to 1/2 cup, depending on the recipe. Adding one cup of chopped walnuts increases fiber by 7.8 grams, a cup of raisins by 6.1 grams and one cup dried cherries by 10 grams. Toss in 1/4 cup of flax seeds and you’ve just added 11.5 grams of fiber to your savory dessert.

Improve Nutrition by Adding a Flavorful Twist

Bananas, berries or other fruit purées can improve both nutritional value and flavor in any classic dessert. Give cookies a nutritional boost by adding mashed bananas. A raspberry purée will give muffins and cupcakes an additional antioxidant boost. Purées are excellent fat substitutes, and can be used to replace butter or oil in baked goods. You can add two to four tablespoons of purée to most baking recipes without altering them. In addition, by substituting about half a cup of fruit purée for every cup of fat, you can reduce your recipe by at least 1,700 calories!

Enhance the Flavor by Roasting Nuts

Nuts are nutritious but the calories can add up. A roasted nut has more intense flavors than an unroasted nut, so you can use less and still get a great nutty taste. Roast nuts just before using to retain their fresh taste. In a shallow baking pan, place nuts in a single layer and toast in a 350°F oven for 5–10 minutes, stirring them occasionally. By replacing one cup of slivered almonds with one-half cup toasted slivered almonds, you can reduce your recipe by 266 calories. Now that’s a savings you can go nuts over!