Baking is a beloved past-time during the holidays, whether you give baked goods as gifts, bake with your kids or simply bake for the nostalgic fun of it. However, it can be a not-so-innocent activity when adding up the calories that you could potentially be indulging in with every single bite. But seriously – you have to taste-test your own handy work, thus cannot be to blame!
If baking lighter interests you – read on. These fantastic tricks will slim down your sweets while simultaneously giving you an extra dose of nutrients – and still taste delicious! Magic? No. Simply smart decisions. Play around with it during the holidays to find your favorites that will work through the entire year – it’s a gift that keeps on giving!
1. Lighten up on the sugar: sugar adds sweetness and lightness to your baaked goods (it absorbs liquid during baking and slows the development of wheat proteins, which can weigh down your desserts) – but you can cut back on it by up to 25% and still keep the soft, airy texture – plus, since the amount of sugar usually called for results in overly sweet treats, you will not miss the extra sugar – and you might even prefer the flavor!
2. Sub low fats: In baked goods, there is usually no noticeable difference in taste or texture with full-fat vs low-fat cream cheese and milks. However, you might want to steer clear of “fat free” – these substitutes will often make your treats taste dry and rubbery. A little fat is necessary to get the right texture!
3. Pump up the produce in your batter: when making a muffin, bread or cake that calls for fruit or vegetables, add an extra cup: it will increase the volume and add fiber – keeping you fuller longer! Use with banana breads, carrot cakes and the like…you might be surprised! One study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that people actually preferred carrot cake made with extra veggies to the regular version – even though it had 102 fewer calories per slice!
4. Replacing fat (oils, butter, shortening) with fruit or veggie purees: these will definitely make your desserts denser (but there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that!) so you might want to play around with a 25-50% trade to find the right ratio you prefer
- Applesauce: the mild flavor of unsweetened applesauce works particularly well in muffins and cakes. Use an equal amount to replace the fat. Bonus: one cup delivers 3 grams of fiber for only 102 calories!
- Canned pumpkin or sweet potato puree: substitute either one for fat in a 1:1 ratio in spice breads, spice cakes or chocolate desserts. You can also add a can of pumpkin to a box of brownie mix in place of the eggs and oil! (shh!) Bonus: you’ll get a hefty dose of immune-boosing vitamins A and C.
- Prunes or dates: these add richness and deepen the color of gingerbread and brownies. Blend 1/2 cup with 6 tbsp water until smooth, then use the puree to replace an equal amount of fat. Bonus: prunes are a good source of iron, and dates provide nearly 2 grams of fiber each!
- Bananas: avoid adding bananas to anything you don’t want to taste vaguely fruity. Try subbing 1/2 the amount of hte oil called for with the same amount of mashed banana. Bonus: a large banana provides almost 500 mg of potassium, which helps protect your heart!