5 Simple Tips For Happy, Healthy Holidays


The holiday season is often seen as a break from healthy habits. What with all the cookies, candies and goodies lying around, who can be expected to stick to the diet, right? Well, keep telling yourself that. The fact is, the piper will expect to be paid in January, when extra pounds and low energy threaten to turn your New Year into a sad downhill slide.

This can be avoided, and without sacrificing all of your favorite holiday traditions. Yes, it's true: you can eat well during the holiday season and not end up in a shame spiral. Here are a few simple ways to do it:

Swap in healthy oils

Baking is what we do here. However, I am willing to admit that much of what makes baked goods so delicious also makes it hazardous in large quantities. We're talking about the butter and unhealthy oils that lend flavor and moistness. So this year, substitute at least half--or all-- of the called-for shortening with unsaturated oils such as avocado, grapeseed, coconut or olive oil. You can also use unsweetened applesauce, low-fat yogurt or even banana and fruit purees. This will significantly lower the amount of saturated fat you and your family consumes this holiday season--with no discernible change in flavor or texture.

Cut back on sugar

Sugar is essential in baked goods. But, all that deliciousness comes with a price: sugar is high in calories while at the same time offering no nutritional benefits. It spikes blood sugar levels and increases the risk of heart disease and certain cancers. So, one of the keys to healthy holiday baking is to find ways to cut back on the sugar. These substitutes eliminate white sugar from the equation while adding some nutritional value :

  • Dates/date sugar

  • Stevia

  • Honey

  • Maple syrup

  • Molasses

  • Monkfruit

  • Applesauce

Just make sure that you follow instructions for substitution. You will probably have to cut back on liquids in the recipes, and/or cut back the quantity of the substituted item. Another way to consume less sugar this holiday season? Serve fewer sugary drinks.

Replace white flour

Bakers have never had more options in flours, both gluten and gluten-free. The traditional white flour called for in most recipes lacks many of the nutrients found in less processed flours, so consider replacing it with more nutritionally-dense flours like whole grain, whole wheat, whole oat, spelt, coconut, almond or any sprouted flour.

Add fruits and nuts

Use your holiday baking as an opportunity to serve more fruits and nuts to friends and family. This can be as simple as using berries (high in antioxidants) as a garnish for that flourless chocolate cake, or subbing in fruit purees for sugar (see above). Frozen mango chunks or bananas make a delicious addition to your homemade smoothies and egg nog. Fruit is naturally sweet and loaded with vitamins,

Many holiday recipes can benefit from the addition of pecans, walnuts or almonds--all high in good fats, fiber and protein. I personally like to add pecans to my cranberry cream cheese muffins, and walnuts lend nice flavor and crunch to my apple spice oatmeal cookies.

Cut portions and stay active

No list of healthy holiday tips would be complete without this one. Let's face it--lots of delicious bakery + winter weather = less movement. So, while following the above tips, don't forget that whatever you are doing to make your bakery healthier should go hand in hand with smaller portions and adequate exercise. This will ensure that you step into the New Year with more energy and less guilt. And, you can do something more productive with your January then try to shed those extra pounds.

Happy baking, and Happy Holidays from The Country Oven!

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