The holidays are almost upon us! And one of the best parts about it is all the delicious baked goods! This might make it hard to stay on track with your goals... however, there are ways you can stay on track and enjoy your holiday favorites too.
One great way to enjoy your favorite holiday desserts without feeling guilty is by tweaking your baking recipes! There are various healthy baking swaps you can make that can turn your desserts a little more nutrient dense – and still delicious! However, you can always enjoy your favorite desserts in moderation as they are and still stay on track... but it's always fun to try something new, and who knows, maybe these healthy baking substitutions will inspire new staple holiday recipes!
That said, we've compiled a list of the best and tastiest healthy baking substitutes you can use next time you're baking your favorite cakes, cookies, pies, etc.
Switch up the flour
Typical baking recipes contain all-purpose white flour, but if you want something a little more nutrient-dense switch it up! There are various types of flours you can use in your baked goods, here are some of the best ones...
- Whole wheat flour: 100% whole wheat flour is a great alternative because it packs in more fiber and other essential vitamins and minerals. Plus, it works just as well as regular white flour. However, it is a little denser than regular flour, so you might need to use a little bit less of it to get the texture right! We suggest using a 3/4 cup of whole wheat flour for every cup of white flour that your recipe calls for.
- Oat flour: Oat flour is made with (you probably guessed it) oats! So, it contains all the amazing nutrients found in whole grains, including fiber, calcium, iron, potassium, and more. Oat flour also has a different density and texture, therefore we recommend substituting 1 1/3 cup of oat flour per one cup of regular flour.
- Almond flour: Almond flour, made from ground almonds, is packed with calcium, vitamin E, manganese, and magnesium, and is also a good source of fiber. This makes for a great healthy baking substitute for white flour! You can substitute almond flour with regular flour at a 1:1 ratio, so if a recipe calls for one cup of white flour, use one cup of almond flour!
As an added tip, use protein powder in your mix with one of the flours above to add a boost of protein! You can't completely substitute protein powder for flour but you can use it in addition to a flour and make cakes, cupcakes, cookies, etc. Start by replacing 1/3 cup of protein powder for every cup of flour in the recipe. For example, if you're using oat flour in place of one cup of regular flour, use 1/3 of unflavored protein powder and one cup of oat flour.
Use healthy fats
One thing that makes desserts so good is butter. Everyone loves the buttery goodness in cakes and other desserts! However, butter is extremely high in saturated fats. If you want a healthier alternative to butter, embrace healthy unsaturated fats! The two best substitutes are ghee and coconut oil.
Ghee is actually a type of clarified butter that contains no casein or lactose, making it a great choice for those that are lactose intolerant. It has an aromatic and nutty taste that makes for a great butter substitution! Plus, it's easy to replace, it can replace butter at a 1:1 ratio.
Coconut oil can also replace butter at a 1:1 ratio, but it may slightly change the flavor of your dessert... not in a bad way! Coconut oil tends to have a rich coconut flavor which makes it work great with tropical or rich chocolate desserts.
Try a vegan alternative
Just because you're not following a vegan diet doesn't mean you can't use vegan ingredients! Substituting dairy products for vegan options can help make your baked goods healthier and more nutrient-dense. We've already talked about one great option – coconut oil in place of butter. Other great vegan alternatives include using non-dairy milk in place of cow's milk or using flax seed or chia seed eggs in place of chicken eggs.
Use a natural sugar alternative
An essential baking ingredient is sugar – it's what makes desserts so sweet and delicious! However, white table sugar can dramatically spike your blood sugar, especially if you're indulging during the holidays. One way to help reduce your sugar intake is by using a healthy sugar alternative!
Luckily, there are plenty great options to choose from, here are a few of the best ones...
- Honey: Honey makes for a great sugar substitute because it doesn't impact your blood sugar levels like table sugar does and it is digested and metabolized more easily by your body. Plus, it contains nutrients and antioxidants that aren't present in regular sugar. Honey is much sweeter so substitute about 1/2-2/3 cup of honey for one cup of white sugar.
- Maple syrup: Yes, maple syrup is considered all-natural! It comes from boiling the sap of the maple tree. It contains a good course of manganese and zinc, and it adds a caramel-like flavor to your baked goods. Maple syrup, like honey, is very sweet, so substitute 1/2-3/4 cup per one cup of sugar.
- Coconut sugar: Coconut sugar makes a great replacement for any baked goods that require brown sugar because its similar in taste and colors. It has the added benefit that is has a low glycemic index, meaning it doesn't spike your blood sugar quickly. Best of all, it contains minerals like potassium, zinc, iron, and calcium! It has a 1:1 ratio with regular sugar, so simply replace 1 cup of white or brown sugar with 1 cup of coconut sugar.
- Stevia: Stevia comes from a plant that is native to South America, and what makes it a great healthy sugar substitute is that it has no calories and doesn't have an impact on blood sugar levels. Stevia is also much sweeter than regular sugar, and the ratio varies from brand to brand, so we recommend looking at the manufacturer's label to see how to substitute it correctly.
- Pureed fruit: If you really want to go all-natural, puree some fruit! Banana, applesauce, and even mango make for a great sugar replacement. However, fruit puree will not work well in all recipes, so choose wisely when using this sugar alternative. You can replace one cup of sugar with up to 1/2 cup of pureed fruit, but also reduce the amount of liquid in your recipe by two tablespoons as most fruit purees contain liquid.
Use vegetables to make your cakes moist
Some people hate eating vegetables, so the thought of adding them to baked goods may not sound appetizing, but here us out...
Using vegetables, like zucchini, sweet potatoes, carrots, and squash, can add a nutrient punch to your baked goods while adding moisture! Pureed carrots and squash make for a great chocolate cake batter, pureed spinach and zucchini can be used for brownie batter, and pureed carrots or sweet potatoes can be used for chocolate chip cookies. You won't even taste the veggies in your desserts, but you'll certainly be reaping the health benefits!
You can still enjoy your favorite desserts during the holidays, but if you want to try something new and something that will help you stay on track with your fitness goals then the healthy baking substitutions listed above! They are just as good and will turn your favorite usual holiday desserts into a healthy treat that is packed with nutrients while still being delicious
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