Health-Conscious Holiday Baking Substitutions to Keep You on Track

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The holidays are here, and families all over are starting to plan their Thanksgiving, Christmas, and miscellaneous winter holiday celebration feasts. Whether you’re hoping to add some healthier options to an ultra-rich and indulgent Thanksgiving table or want to make your Chanukah cookies healthier because of a family member’s dietary needs, there are a number of healthy, simple substitutions that can turn even the most decadent of holiday treats into healthier yet equally delicious alternatives!

From flour substitutions to reduce gluten intake and calorie count to saturated fat substitutions to maintain heart health, there are plenty of kitchen hacks to improve the dietary value of your seasonal baked goodies.

1. Replace 1 cup of butter with 1 cup of pureed avocado. This substitution works best in brownies and chocolate cakes. Once pureed, avocado has a very similar texture and consistency when compared with room temperature butter. Both ingredients contribute to the smooth consistency of batter, but while butter is a source of unhealthy saturated fat, avocado provides the “good” kind of fatty acids. By switching out the heavy butter with avocado, you can maintain richness and flavor while improving the nutritional value of your chocolaty baked goods!

2. Replace 1 cup of refined sugar with 1 cup of unsweetened applesauce. You should reduce the liquids that you add to the recipe by ¼ cup for every cup of applesauce used. This substitution is a vegan go-to, and can be used in just about any baked recipe. From oatmeal cookies to sweet breads, this sugar-cutting switch works wonders.

3. Replace 1 cup of flour with 1 cup of canned black beans. This substitution is best in brownies; it may not work as well in other dishes. It may sound strange, but it cuts gluten and calories while adding a punch of protein and fiber. You may notice a slight difference in texture, but it won’t impact the flavor much. It also adds extra depth to the color of the finished brownies.

4. Replace eggs with flax meal in water. This substitution works best in muffins, cakes, and cookies that rely on eggs for structure and consistency. Mix 1 tablespoon of flax meal (fresh ground is ideal) with 3 tablespoons of water and let it sit for five to ten minutes. This mixture can replace a single egg; adjust as necessary for your recipe. Store flax meal in the fridge to increase its shelf life, or grind whole flax seeds, which can store for longer, as you need them.

5. Replace 1 cup of butter with chia seeds in water. It’s important that this substitution not be used if you’re also replacing eggs with flax seeds. This substitution works best in muffins, cakes, and sweet breads. Unlike the flax seeds, the chia seeds aren’t ground into meal. You mix 2-3 tablespoons with 1 cup of water and let it sit for fifteen minutes. This mixture can replace 1 cup of butter. The chia seeds add potassium and a little extra protein to the recipe, while cutting out a lot of fat.

6. Replace 1 egg with a chia seed mixture. Again, do not use this substitution in the same recipe as a chia seed and butter substitution. This is a well-loved vegan substitution that works in just about any baking recipe. Mix 1 tablespoon of chia seeds in 1 cup of water and let sit for fifteen minutes. This mixture can replace 1 egg. Scale up as necessary to reduce fat and overall calories in your favorite sweet baked goods.

7. Replace 1 cup of oil or butter with 1 cup of mashed, ripe banana. This substitution works best in brownies, cookies, or basic sweet breads (hint: try it with banana bread!). The banana has the same consistency as room temperature butter, and instead of fats, it adds potassium, Vitamin B6, and extra fiber to your sweet treats.

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