Holiday Baking: 6 Tips for Healthier Holiday Cookie Baking

BY HEALTHY EATING 
Do you put your healthy eating habits on hold during the holiday season? When you hear the “12 days of Christmas” do you think about the “12 pounds of Christmas?”

It is, without any doubt, the most difficult time of the year for people seeking to eat nutritious meals. But that doesn't mean we should give up! 

Below are seven tips that will help you with one part of the enticing rituals of the season - holiday cookie baking.
1. Reduce the fat in your favorite recipes.

Believe it or not, cookie recipes do have some quick substitutions that will reduce the fat but retain the flavor. But such substitutes don't always work with all recipes. Many low-fat and fat-free ingredients do not stand up to heat very well; others have different quantities of water which can influence the cookies' texture. Use cake flour instead of all-purpose flour will also help with cookie tenderness. 

To get the best results, you'll need to experiment a little-but it'll be worth it! 

Here are several substitutions in your favorite cookie recipes to reduce the fat (or the saturated fat):

Butter or margarine substitute: light butter, fat-free cream cheese, or even applesauce (you may need to reduce the amount of liquid elsewhere in the recipe).
Shortening substitute: use butter or margarine or light butter.
Egg substitute: use an egg substitute (amount as indicated on the label) or 2 egg whites.
Chocolate chip substitute: use mini-chocolate chips.
Chocolate substitute: use unsweetened cocoa powder (3 tablespoons for 1 oz. chocolate) and 1 tablespoon canola oil.
Nuts substitute: use crispy rice cereal.
Peanut butter substitute: use reduced-fat peanut butter.
Whole milk substitute: use skim milk to reduce the amount of sugar called for in your recipe by about one-third. This can often be done without affecting the taste or texture.
3. Use alternatives to granulated sugar. Here are some suggestions:

Honey: Use 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon honey in place of 1 cup sugar; reduce other liquid ingredients by about 2 tablespoons. Cookies made with honey brown faster.
Fruit juice concentrates: Use 3/4 cup of fruit juice concentrate (apple juice and orange juice concentrates are good) for every cup of white sugar; reduce other liquid ingredients by 3 tablespoons.
Molasses: Use 1-1/3 cups molasses for 1 cup sugar; reduce other liquid ingredients by about 5 tablespoons. Your cookies will look darker and may not be as sweet.
Maple syrup: Use 3/4 cup maple syrup for 1 cup of white sugar; reduce other
liquid ingredients by 3 tablespoons.4. Use sugar-free substitutes. There are sugar-free versions of many popular brands. If a recipe asks for jam or chocolate, use sugar-free versions.
5. Use artificial sweeteners WITH sugar. You don’t want to eliminate sugar altogether. Sugar keeps your cookies tender and moist. Artificial sweeteners with sugar reduce the number of calories. For best results, try half-and-half (for example, if your recipe asks for 1 cup of sugar, use ½ cup of sugar and ½ cup of an artificial sweetener).

Suitable artificial sweeteners include saccharin (Sweet and Low®); acesulfame potassium (Sunette® or Sweet One®); and sucralose (Splenda®).

Aspartame (Equal® and Nutrasweet®) is not good for baking but can be used in no-bake cookie recipes.

For all artificial sweeteners, be sure to read the label for sugar substitution tips.

Watch out, your cookies may tend to bake faster with some artificial sweeteners.

6. Instead of greasing cookie/baking sheet with shortening or butter, try lightly spraying vegetable cooking spray.
These suggestions will take some trial and error. With a little experimentation and creativity, you can have a healthier cookie baking holiday, yet still delicious tradition!
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