Better-for-You Holiday Baking
Festive desserts are some of the holiday’s sweetest pleasures. This season, use our tips and tricks to turn up the nutrition of your favorite recipes. These subtle tweaks will go unnoticed, yet the sweet treats you bake for gifts, swaps or your family will boast more fiber, whole grains and healthful fats with less sugar and saturated fat.
Adding whole grains and fiber to holiday baking recipes is easier than you think. Try replacing all-purpose flour cup-for-cup with white whole wheat flour that bakes up with the same texture and flavor as the all-purpose variety. Old-fashioned oats can also stand in for flour. Simply substitute rolled oats for up to one-third the amount of flour in the recipe or take it a step further and create oat flour by placing it into a food processor or blender and pulsing until the oats turn fine and flour-like.
In addition to adding sweetness to baked goods, sugar also enhances the texture and appearance of the finished product. While it’s a vital ingredient in most recipes, the good news is it can be reduced without an obvious difference. A general rule of thumb is to reduce the amount of sugar in a recipe by around 25 percent. For instance, if a recipe calls for four tablespoons of sugar, reduce it to three tablespoons. When trimming sugar, you may also need to increase the liquid.
Add Heart-Smart Fats
You can easily give baked treats a boost of heart-smart unsaturated fat by adding nuts and seeds. In varying amounts, they also supply fiber and plant-based protein. Stir pecans, almonds, pistachios or walnuts into cookies, biscotti or quick bread batter or sprinkle them overtop for added crunch and a nutty flavor. Chia seeds and ground flaxseeds go undetected when mixed into homemade granola, muffins and scones. Whole pumpkin seeds, chia seeds and flaxseeds also make attractive toppings.
Lower Saturated Fat
Try baking with heart-smart oils like canola or olive as a substitute for butter or margarine that are high in saturated fat. Light and delicately flavored extra light olive oil contains more healthful monounsaturated fats and less saturated fat than butter or margarine, making your best holiday cookies even better for you. To make the switch, use about 25 percent less when replacing butter with olive oil. For example, if your recipe calls for one cup of butter, use three-quarters cup of olive oil. Compared to cookies made with a solid fat like butter, cookies made with olive oil bake up with a softer and chewier texture.