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Simple Swaps for Healthy Holiday Baking

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One of my favorite holiday traditions is baking.  I have such fond memories of being in the kitchen with family between Thanksgiving and Christmas. One grandmother was famous for her fudge and the other her peanut brittle (both things my kids look forward to having one time each year).

Unfortunately, most of the holiday traditions around baking are full of insulin spiking sugars, inflammatory oils, and grains that wreck havoc on the digestive system.  But, I refuse to believe that holiday baking can't be healthy!

In fact, whipping up healthy holiday treats may be easier than you think. You can make simple substitutions to create new traditions that won't sacrifice taste - or quality family time in the kitchen. 

Use the following swaps to deliver your favorites with a surprise dose of added nutrition. 

1. Swap Cacao nibs for chocolate

These antioxidant-rich cocoa bits are the unprocessed part of the cocoa bean.  They can be bitter on their own - no dairy or sugar - but in a recipe calling for chocolate chips you might be surprised that you don't need the added sweetness.  If you are melting chocolate, opt for 80% or higher dark chocolate for more cocoa flavor and less sugar.  

2. Swap heavy cream for coconut milk

Heavy cream is often bothersome to the digestive tract and causes inflammation in many people. By substituting coconut milk cup for cup, you'll get the same creamy taste and texture for about half the calories.  The coconut flavor will not dominate your baked goods but can add a hint of natural sweetness.  

3. Swap Buttermilk for Nondairy Milk

If dairy does bother you or a family member, you can make your own buttermilk with coconut or almond milk.  Just add two tablespoons of lemon juice or vinegar to one cup of nondairy milk and let it sit for 5 minutes.  Then, use in a recipe just as you would buttermilk!

4. Swap Wheat for Nut Flours

Replacing your white flour with nut flour increases fiber content, protein, and heart-healthy omega 3 fatty acids (in addition to making your baked goods gluten-free).  For best results, find recipes using nut flours as they aren't always able to substitute in one to one ratios.  I have had the most success in swapping almond flour in some of my favorite recipes. 

5. Swap Oil for Pureed vegetables

Choose pureed pumpkin, other squash, or even carrots to increase the nutrition value of your holiday muffins and cookies.  You will be adding vitamins, minerals, and fiber while decreasing fat and calorie content.  A one to one swap results in tender baked goods, but prevent them from becoming soggy by draining off any excess liquid (I drain purees over paper towels).  

6. Swap Vegetable Oil for Coconut OIl

Melt your coconut oil to liquid form and it will substitute equal parts for vegetable oil in any recipe.  It's a healthier option because it contains anti-inflammatory omega 3 fatty acids instead of the polyunsaturated fats in vegetable oil.  In addition, coconut oil is easily digestible and more easily used for energy instead of being stored as fat.  

Finally, enjoy your holiday cooking!  Bake with your children, icing that cake, add whipped cream to the pie . . . but choose your indulgences wisely.  I make my family favorites - fudge and brittle - but for cookies and cakes, we healthify.  

Try one of these swaps and let me know how it goes!

When you do choose to indulge - probiotics, digestive enzymes, and omega 3 fatty acid supplements can go a long way in helping your body break down the fats and sugars and combat the inflammatory effect.  To learn more about how quality supplementation can contribute to a health holiday, click the link below.