Holiday bakers are very busy right now! And if you’re one of them, you’re using a lot of butter, eggs and flour to create your favorite holiday cookies. All of us wonder each year if there’s any way we can make these sweet treats a bit healthier. It’s no secret that many of us have a tendency to end the holiday season a bit heavier than when we began the festivities. But it’s a difficult proposition. The holidays only come around once a year and no one wants to give us their favorite, once-a-year indulgences.
FoodFacts.com has discovered a few ideas for bakers that you may want to consider when you’re whipping up your next batch of holiday cookies!
Whole wheat flour for white flour
Add nutrients, flavor and texture. Whole wheat includes the outer shell of the grain, so it also provides more fiber, which helps digestion and even can lower the risk of diabetes and heart disease. For every cup of white flour, substitute 7/8 cup of whole-wheat. For nutty flavor and dense texture whole-wheat flour brings, just substitute half of the total flour.
Black beans for flour or as a fat substitute
You can swap out 1 cup flour for 1 cup black bean puree (about a 15 ounce can) in your recipes. Pureed white beans make a wonderful fat substitute as well. Use a one-to-one ratio when cutting out the oil or shortening.
Cut down the sugar
In most recipes, you can cut the sugar in half without sacrificing texture. To reduce sugar even more, here are some other options.
Coconut Palm Sugar: It has more vitamins and minerals than regular sugar. It also is lower in fructose (it’s mostly sucrose, while cane sugar is 50 percent fructose). It’s also easy, with a one-to-one ratio. Plus, the “coconut” taste doesn’t come through.
Unsweetened applesauce: One cup of unsweetened applesauce contains about 100 calories; a cup of sugar has more than 770. This swap is perfect for oatmeal raisin cookies. Substitute sugar for applesauce in a one-to-one ratio, but for every cup of applesauce you use, reduce the amount of liquid in the recipe by 1/4 cup.
Stevia: This natural sweetener is lower in calories and up to 300 times sweeter than sugar. But it can cost up to five times more. Be careful: A recipe calling for 1 cup of sugar should be swapped for only 1 teaspoon of liquid stevia (or about 2 tablespoons of stevia powder).
Honey: To substitute honey for white sugar, use 3/4 cup honey for every 1 cup of sugar. Honey adds a lot of moisture to a recipe, so reduce other liquids in the recipe by ½ cup for every 1 cup of honey added. Also, decrease oven temperature by 25 degrees to ensure your baked goods don’t brown too much.
Vanilla: Cut sugar in half and add 1 teaspoon of vanilla. Assuming the recipe originally calls for 1 cup of sugar, that’s already almost 400 calories cut out! You can’t sub this one in equal ratios, but next time you’re whipping up some cookies, try cutting 2 tablespoons of sugar and adding an extra 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract.
Go easy on the eggs
Consider dried egg powder: You’ll reduce calories and cholesterol. When adding dried egg powder to your cookie dough, add a little bit of liquid to give your powder the texture of regular eggs. Or, use egg substitutes, easy to find in the grocery store. If you’re committed to using real eggs, use only the egg whites.
Flax meal: Here’s an old vegan trick: Mix 1 tablespoon ground flax seeds (aka flax meal) with 3 tablespoons of warm water, and whisk with a fork to combine. Let sit in the fridge for 5 to 10 minutes before subbing for one egg in any baked recipe. This is great in pancakes, quick breads and muffins.
Instead of butter
Pureed avocado: Butter and pureed avocado have nearly the same consistency at room temperature. The creaminess and subtle flavor of the avocado lends itself well to the texture of fudge brownies and dark chocolate flavorings. It can take some experimenting to get this swap perfect, but generally, using 1 cup of avocado puree per cup of butter works. Save calories, and get more vitamins and minerals.
Mashed bananas: The thickening power of ripe, mashed banana acts the same as avocado to replace fat in baking. The consistency is ideal and adds potassium, fiber and vitamin B6. One cup of mashed banana works perfectly in place of 1 cup of butter or oil.
Great ideas! Just a few swaps can make our holiday baking a bit healthier. While these won’t make our sweet treats any less indulgent … perhaps we can cut some of the guilt involved in eating a few more of them!