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Nine Healthy Holiday Swaps to Lighten Up Your Baking

Mother and young daughter baking holiday cookies

Leah Cassella, RD, LDN, a registered dietitian and member of the Penn Bariatrics team, shares some of her favorite ways to lighten up your holiday baking.

There’s something about the holidays that makes us want to bake up a storm!  Why not experiment in the kitchen with healthy baking swaps to lighten up some of your favorite recipes. Check out nine of my favorite tips: 

  1. To add more flavor, and a nutritional boost, add shredded apples, carrots or zucchini to your baked goods.  This will also add more moisture to the final product.
  2. In many recipes, you can substitute white whole-wheat flour for all-purpose flour to add more fiber and nutrients.  Or you could use ½ all-purpose flour, ½ whole-grain flour without a noticeable difference in most recipes.  
  3. Use low-fat alternatives to save some calories and fat. Try replacing full-fat products with low-fat milk, low-fat buttermilk and low-fat yogurt.
  4. Skip the high-calorie, high-fat jarred frostings and make this simple lightened up version: Using a hand mixer, beat an 8-ounce block of reduced-fat cream cheese, 1 cup of powdered sugar and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract. 
  5. Try simply reducing how much sugar you add.  With most recipes, you can reduce the amount of sugar by 25 percent without noticing a difference! If a recipe calls for 1 cup of sugar, try cutting that to ¾ of a cup. You can also add some vanilla extract to help cut back on the sugar without sacrificing taste.
  6. Another way to save on the sugar content is to use unsweetened applesauce instead of sugar. Something to note: You might need to reduce the amount of liquids added to the recipe to get the desired consistency with this swap.
  7. Unsweetened applesauce can also be used in place of oil – sub half the oil the recipe calls for with applesauce. Mashed banana is another great oil substitute – just keep in mind, this will add banana flavor to your baked goods. One tablespoon of mashed banana provides only  about 15 calories where one tablespoon of oil provides 120 calories. 
  8. If a recipe calls for whole eggs, use 2 egg whites for 1 whole egg to save some fat and ½ the calories. You can also use ground flax seed as an egg swap – just mix with 3 tablespoons of water for a heart-healthy alternative.
  9. Pies are popular this time of year, but pie crust is typically packed with butter – or lard.  Graham cracker crusts are a nice alternative that do not require butter. Blend 10 graham cracker sheets in a food processor until they become fine crumbs. Add two tablespoons of low-fat milk and process until the crumbs stick when pressed together, about 30 seconds. Mold the mixture into a nine-inch pie dish and bake at 350° for 10 to 12 minutes. 

Happy baking!  

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Learn about bariatric surgery and get the support you need to continue on your weight-loss journey. We offer workouts, recipes and tips from Bariatric Surgery program team members, and stories from patients like you.

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