How to Bake Healthier This Holiday Season
by Yana K·
With the holidays fast approaching, staying on track with your fitness goals gets more and more challenging. Between the time off and all the delicious food, it can be difficult to maintain your healthy habits both inside the gym and out.
The holiday season is particularly popular for its tasty treats and desserts, present in all kinds of gatherings, and can even inspire you to bake your own at home. And while baked goods tend to be heavily carb-filled and not very nutritious, there are ways to turn that around and make them perfect for a healthy diet!
So, if your goal for the holidays is to make sure you’re staying on track with both your fitness goals and your healthy eating habits, you’ve come to the right place. We’ll tell you some of the best ways to bake healthier this holiday season so that you can enjoy your tasty treats without guilt!
Go for 100% whole wheat flour
Whether you’re baking bread or your favorite cupcake recipe, one of the main ingredients that you use is probably white flour. And while this is a common staple in many kitchens, there are much better options!
Because of how it’s processed, white flour is filled with refined carbohydrates and lacks many important nutrients that your body needs. But if you change things up a little and choose 100% whole wheat flour instead, you’ll get the nutrition of the whole grain, including fiber, vitamins, and minerals that white flour doesn’t have.
This is because white flour is made from only the endosperm of the grain, while whole wheat flour is made from all three parts: the endosperm, the bran, and the germ. The additional wheat content makes the flour look darker and maybe taste slightly different, but nothing too crazy!
If you prefer to keep the original flavor of your recipes, you could try adding half whole wheat flour and half white flour. But if you’d rather go the healthy route, maybe try whole wheat flour in recipes where there are stronger flavors present, such as banana oat bread or a mixed berry pie. Get creative!
Try non-wheat flours instead
Given that flour is present in most, if not all baked goods, it’s only fair to have more options other than different kinds of wheat flour. Luckily, these substitutes aren’t only varied and delicious, but healthier too!
One of the most common flour substitutes in baking is oats because of their texture. You can use rolled oats if you’re fine with having small lumps in your mix, but you can also make your own oat flour by putting them in a food processor until you get a fine powder. Oats are highly nutritious and are packed with fiber and antioxidants, so you can add them to any baked recipe to make it healthier.
You can also try nut flours, which are gluten-free, low-carb, and rich in protein. Naturally, they pair better with nutty recipes such as walnut butter cake and pecan pie, but the nut flavor is a great addition to pretty much any recipe. Nut flours are denser than regular flour though, so if the recipe calls for 3 cups of flour, try using 2 cups instead!
Get your cocoa from a different source
If you’re a fan of adding chocolate to your recipes, whether it’s sprinkled, in chips, or melting whole bars, paying attention to the amount of cocoa in your chocolate could change the whole game!
As you probably already know, all kinds of chocolate come from cocoa seeds (yes, even white chocolate!). The higher the cocoa content in your chocolate, the healthier it will be, since cocoa is very rich in antioxidants and magnesium. Luckily, you can find many cocoa products that are perfect for baking in your local store.
The best way to add chocolate to your recipes is to use unsweetened cocoa powder, but if you prefer having small chunks of chocolate, you can also try cocoa nibs. When it comes to chocolate bars, go for dark chocolates since they’re the ones with the higher amounts of cocoa.
You can use them as you would with regular chocolate, whether it’s for chocolate chip cookies, your favorite brownie recipe, or maybe even chocolate croissants. It’s your choice, just try to aim for 80% cocoa or higher to keep it healthy!
Switch to healthier fats
Whether it’s oil or butter, your recipe probably calls for some fat to make whatever you’re baking more moist and tender, plus they give baked goods a richer flavor. It’s a non-negotiable, but luckily there are healthy fat options for you other than saturated fats!
When it comes to oils, canola oil and other vegetable oils are very popular in baking, but these oils have little to no nutritional content and they contain inflammatory agents. Instead of these heavily processed oils, try using options such as avocado oil and olive oil, which are tastier, richer in nutrients, and heart-healthy!
You can also use these healthy oils to replace butter, but if you must use butter in your recipe, go for ghee butter. You can even use peanut butter or almond butter if you have a nutty recipe such as banana nut bread or walnut brownies.
Another great substitute for fat in your recipes is pumpkin puree! We know it sounds odd, but it’s a delicious ingredient and you can add it to your fruit pies for extra flavor.
Test with different sweeteners
What’s a baked good if not sweet? Well, at least most of the time! Even some savory recipes call for sugar, so it’s a good idea to recast sugar in your recipes with something healthier.
Instead of throwing a couple of cups of regular table sugar into your mix, which is nothing but simple carbs with no real nutritional content, try using honey! It’s a naturally sweet ingredient that serves as a great sweetener for your recipes, it’s more easily digested than table sugar, and it’s rich in nutrients.
You can also try maple syrup in your recipes! This is particularly delicious if you’re making pancakes or a vanilla cake, but note that honey and syrup are sweeter than sugar, so you need to use fewer quantities. They’re also liquid, so play with the liquids in your recipe to ensure a good consistency in your mix!
Choose plant-based milk
This is probably the easiest swap on the list because most people with a healthy diet already have their plant-based milk of choice. But if you still use regular cow milk for baking, consider trying different milk alternatives, such as oat milk or almond milk.
Plant-based milk is highly nutritious and generally lower in calories, fats, and carbs than cow milk. The protein content is lower, but that shouldn’t be a problem if you make sure to add some kind of protein to your mix – like protein powder!
Protein powders can make your baked goods tastier and they’re perfect if you’re planning to keep your muscle-building goals during the holidays. You can use unflavored powders or try different flavors such as the Chocolate Cheesecake Whey Protein Isolate from 373 Lab for your brownies and chocolate cookies.
Healthy ingredients support healthy habits
All in all, baking healthy during the holidays is perfectly doable and can align with your fitness goals, you just need to know which ingredients to use. So don’t be afraid to get creative in the kitchen with these alternatives – you definitely deserve to enjoy your holiday treats as much as anyone else!
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