Fire up the oven. Break out your frosting spatula. Arm yourself with parchment paper. It’s baking season!
As a functional nutritionist, I’m always looking to create the healthiest meals and treats possible. Trying new foods is a great adventure, but sometimes – especially as the temperature dips – you just want the old school classics (fluffy pancakes, fresh sourdough bread, cookies, brownies, and treats!).
If you’re like me and you want the best of both worlds – maintaining your optimal weight and enjoying the party – I’m here to help!
Holiday Weight Gain
Studies show us that the holiday season, beginning from the last week of November to the first or second week of January, is a critical time in weight gain for the average adult; this time period may account for more than 50% of the weight gained throughout the year. This information makes our food choices around this time a bit more critical than most other times of the year.
Here are some healthy holiday baking hacks to bring on the taste and memories, while keeping your goals in mind
Choosing plant-based foods can also be the most important action you take to protect our planet. Making these simples switches can have an impact on saving food sources, clean water, conserving water and reducing CO2 emissions. Learn more about it here.
Most baking recipes can easily become plant-based by finding different options for eggs, butter, and milk. Here is how you swap out some animal-based ingredients for plant-based options without losing taste or texture:
1) Egg Exchange
All of the following options are a good swap for 1 egg. Make adjustments based on what your recipe calls for.
- Vegan Mayo 3 Tbsp (my personal favorite – provides a create texture and keeps it moist)
- Applesauce ¼ cup
- Aquafaba: 3 tablespoons whipped
- Aquafaba is the liquid that comes in a can of chickpeas
- Consider adding a pinch of cream of tartar to help it whip up
- Chia or flax egg
- 1 Tbsp of chia or flax seed (ground)
- 4 Tbsp of warm water
- Mix the ingredients together and let stand for 15-20 min until a jelly is formed
2) Nutmilk Navigation
This is one of the simplest options. All you have to do is reach for a plant-based nut or seed-based option at the store.
Shopping trip tips: choose the unsweetened version so you’re not adding in unnecessary sugars. Plus, if you get plain flavor, you can use the beverage in savory recipes like mashed potatoes.
If you want to take it to the next level, make your own plant-based milk! This process only takes about 5 minutes. Learn how here.
3) Swap Your Sweetener
I don’t think anyone needs a lecture explaining that excess added sugar may lead to On with the sweetness!
To be clear, these options still have sugar. However, fruit sugar does not have the same mechanism of action on the body as processed sugars.
- Use a 1:1 ratio when swapping date paste for granulated sugar
- To make date paste
- Soak 1-2 cups of dates in filtered water for 30 minutes
- Remove dates from water and blend until smooth and creamy
- Use soaking water to adjust the texture if necessary
- Bonus tip: use the soaking water to make nut milk for a slightly sweeter result and reducing water waste!
- Side note: this will give your baked goods a slightly less sweet taste with a fluffy texture and may be more cake-like
- Use a 1:1 ratio here as well: if the recipe calls for a cup of sugar, use a cup of mashed ripe banana instead
- Choose a ripe banana with some brown spots (or even fully brown). Keep in mind, this will give your recipe a slight banana flavor
Monk Fruit or Stevia
This is one of my personal favorite options to keep my recipes lower in sugar. It works particularly well with muffins and cookies. If you are open to experimenting, try playing around with monk fruit and a bit of date paste. Just be aware that you have to make other adjustments to the recipe, as sugar provides a good bit of moisture and bulk to the end product.
- Use 1/3 to 1/2 teaspoon of undiluted stevia or monk fruit powder or 1 teaspoon of a liquid extract for each cup of sugar
- Remember you need to add a bulking agent! For each 1 cup of sugar substituted, use 1/3 cup of a bulking agent like banana, date paste, vegan mayo, apple sauce, unsweetened yogurt alternative or aquafaba
4) No Oil, No Problem
- 1:1 ratio of applesauce
- You can use other fruit purees as well
- 1:1 ratio of any plant-based versions of...
- Sour cream
- Mayo (best option for texture)
- Or just make sure you are using a good quality, unrefined, and organic oil like coconut, olive, or avocado oil
5) Banish Butter
The easiest option here is to use a plant-based butter with no hydrogenated oils in a 1:1 ratio.
Other options include:
- A good quality, unrefined, and organic oil like coconut, olive, or avocado oil
- For the following options use ½ of the measurement the recipe calls for. Example, if it calls for ½ cup of butter, you’d use ¼ cup
- Yogurt alternative (unsweetened)
- Apple sauce or other fruit puree
Remember that baking is chemistry! Give these options a try and know that some trial and error might happen – you’ll get the hang of it.
I usually end up using...
- Vegan mayo to replace eggs
- DIY nut milk in place of dairy milk
- Date paste and monk fruit instead of sugar
- Yogurt alternative (unsweetened) to replace oil
- And coconut oil or plant-based butter instead of butter
Remember you can always add a little extra nutrition by baking with Vega® plant-based protein powders, especially if you’re looking for gluten-free alternatives to traditional wheat flour.
Check out even more dessert recipes here. Do you have any healthy holiday hacks? Share them in the comments below and/or let us know what swap you are the most excited about trying out!