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The FitDay Guide to Healthier Holiday Baking

Jul 21, 2014

The holiday season always seems to throw us all into a baking frenzy. We whip up dozens of cookies, cupcakes, pies, candies, and other treats that we then decorate with beautiful holiday colors. While all of this baking is a traditional part of the holiday celebration, repeatedly sampling all those treats can really add up to a lot of calories. However, there are ways to slenderize your pies and avoid calorie-mistakes with your cupcakes.

Cut the Fat

First of all, to make sure that you're using a heart-healthy fat, substitute canola oil for butter, margarine, or shortening, all of which are high in saturated fat (an unhealthy type of fat). Additionally, you can replace half of the fat called for in a recipe by using applesauce or some type of pureed fruit instead. Mashed banana and canned pumpkin work well since their flavors are mild and they have creamy textures.

Instead of using eggs, use egg whites or egg substitutes, such as Eggbeaters. You'll need two egg whites to replace one whole egg.

Choose Healthy Dairy

Try slashing fat and calories by using lower-fat dairy products. Instead of whole milk or cream, use skim milk or buttermilk. Replace regular cream cheese with the ⅓ less fat cream cheese (also called Neufchâtel cheese).

Another swap is replacing sour cream with fat-free sour cream or nonfat yogurt. Nonfat Greek yogurt has a really thick consistency and works well as a replacement for higher-fat dairy ingredients. Opt for fat-free or light whipped topping rather than using the regular fluffy, creamy stuff. You won't notice the difference, especially since it's mostly used for decoration purposes.

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The Flour Fix

You can also use whole-wheat flour in place of some of the all-purpose flour. I suggest just replacing half of the all-purpose flour with whole-wheat flour or else your finished product could turn out too dense.

For No-Fat Frosting

Here's an interesting dessert tip I recently discovered: Instead of using frosting on top of your cakes, cupcakes, cookies, and other delicious sweets, use marshmallow cream instead. While it's still high in sugar, it is fat-free!

Swap Out Sugar

Another simple way to cut calories is to simply reduce the amount of sugar called for in a recipe by about a third. And if you haven't tried artificial sweeteners, feel free to experiment with a few. Diabetics have been using them safely for decades, and many of the new non-caloric sweeteners don't have any bitter aftertaste commonly associated with some of the older sweeteners. These products have come a long way since their initial introduction to the public. You'd be surprised how well desserts turn out with these calorie-free sweeteners.

Sucralose (brand name Splenda) is easily the most popular for baking. Stevia (marketed as Truvia) is extracted from the leaves of a tropical plant and has even been said to have many health benefits. As it contains up to 300 times the sweetness of sugar, be sure to experiment before you bake!

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Add a Serving of Fruit

Another way to add loads of flavor without adding tons of extra calories and fat is to add fruit to your desserts. And no, I'm not talking about the stale, boring loaves of fruitcake that often end up as "re-gifts". Fruit can impart a natural sweetness and some tart flavor to many desserts.

Following these tips will save you calories while still allowing you to indulge in your favorite treats!


Kari Hartel, RD, LD is a Registered Dietitian and freelance writer based out of St. Louis, MO. Kari is passionate about nutrition education and the prevention of chronic disease through a healthy diet and active lifestyle. Kari holds a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics from Southeast Missouri State University and is committed to helping people lead healthy lives. She completed a yearlong dietetic internship at OSF St. Francis Medical Center in Peoria, IL, where she worked with a multitude of clients and patients with complicated diagnoses. She planned, marketed, and implemented nutrition education programs and cooking demonstrations for the general public as well as for special populations, including patients with cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, obesity, and school-aged children. Contact Kari at KariHartelRD@gmail.com.




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