3 tips for healthy holiday baking

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Holidays can be seen as a vacation from healthy eating habits, but consider this before you decide to go off the rails: The average American puts on 2 to 4 pounds between Thanksgiving and New Years’ Day. While 2 to 4 pounds may not seem like much, it can add up over the years until 2 pounds turns into 20, and 4 pounds into 40. Following are some baking tips that will allow you to still enjoy your holiday treats without overly sacrificing your healthy habits or taking in extra calories.

Swap butter or shortening for healthy oils

Baked goods are often loaded with butter or unhealthy oils. Substituting half of the called-for butter or shortening with a healthy, unsaturated oil such as avocado, grapeseed or olive in everything you bake will significantly lower the amount of saturated fat you’ll consume.

“Or, try substituting applesauce for oil, butter or margarine in muffins or breads to cut down even more on fat,” said Madysen Jourgensen, a dietetic Intern who will become a registered dietitian for Memorial Regional Health once she passes her registration exams.

Exchange sugar for alternatives, or simply cut back

There’s a good chance you already know eating a high-sugar diet is bad for your health. Sugar has zero nutritional value. It spikes your blood sugar levels, may increase your risk for heart disease and certain cancers and may even affect the health of your brain.

“Sugar is high in calories but does not provide any nutritional benefits. If someone is eating a diet high in sugar, they are likely eating less of more nutritious foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables and lean meats,” Jourgensen said.

To cut back on sugar in baking, substitute dark chocolate for milk chocolate, substitute dates or applesauce for sugar, frost with powdered sugar or a drizzle of chocolate or simply cut 1/3 or 1/2 of the sugar from a recipe.

Don’t forget to serve fewer sugary drinks. Instead of offering hot apple cider or hot chocolate, serve cinnamon tea or coffee with a tip of cream — which has less sugar than milk. Offer kids sparkling water with a splash of juice rather than soda.

Replace white flour with a healthier alternative

Most cookie and cake recipes call for white flour. Add nutrition by replacing all or half of the white flour in your recipe with a healthier alternative, such as whole grain, oats, almond or bean flour. Serve a fruit-based pie rather than a cream pie for better nutrition. But, when it comes to pies and desserts, the best way to limit calories and added sugar or fat is to simply request a small slice.

“A diet high in refined and processed carbohydrates rather than whole grains can really cause an individual to miss out on a lot of important nutrients, including fiber, vitamins and minerals,” Jourgensen said.

If you have questions on nutrition, don’t hesitate to ask your provider. Soon, Jourgensen will be available at Memorial Regional Health to answer your questions. As a Craig native, she’s excited to finish her exams and serve the community in the new year.

“Excited is an understatement. I have always wanted to come back to Craig and give back to the community that I was lucky enough to grow up in. MRH is a phenomenal organization that is only improving with each year. I am so lucky to have the opportunity to join their team,” she said.