By Betty Murray
The holiday season is the season for baking. Cookies, cakes, candies, pies, and other yummy desserts abound. Unfortunately, many of these desserts can easily derail our efforts to be healthy and to lose weight (or maintain our weight) during the season.
But the holiday season just wouldn’t be the same without the chance to enjoy a few sweet treats. To enjoy your holiday treats guilt-free, be sure you are eating desserts that are gluten-free, and made with less fat and sugar than other desserts. Thankfully, there are plenty of healthier substitutes available for many of the unhealthy ingredients typically found in desserts. Here are a few tips for making guilt-free holiday desserts.
• Cut the sugar. Most foods, especially desserts, contain far more sugar than they actually need to taste delicious. Try cutting the sugar in your recipe by 1/3 or even 1/2. You might be surprised just how sweet it tastes, even with a fraction of the sugar — and thus a fraction of the calories! You can also substitute natural sweeteners for sugar (although this would not be recommended if you are diabetic or need to keep your blood sugar down). Honey and maple syrup are two natural sweeteners that are generally substituted 1:1 for white sugar. Palm sugar and coconut sugar are other alternatives with a lower glycemic load, and make great substitutions for brown sugar in recipes.
• Use nut flours instead of wheat flour. Wheat flour contains gluten, which can cause problems within your gut. Almond flour and coconut flour are two common alternatives for wheat flour that do not contain gluten. These flours do have different baking properties, flavors and textures than what flour, so it’s best to follow an exact recipe for a gluten-free dessert using nut flours, rather than attempting to simply swap out the wheat flour in your favorite recipe for a nut flour.
• Use natural fats. Eating healthy means staying away from processed foods. The more natural the fat you are eating, the better. In baking, some healthier alternatives are: coconut oil, butter, olive oil, and palm shortening. As a general rule of thumb, use 7/8 the amount of olive oil in a recipe calling for a solid fat such as vegetable oil or margarine. As with nut flours, you’ll find it easier to follow a recipe written specifically with natural fats in mind, rather than attempting to figure out the substitution ratio on your own.
Making substitutes in recipes can be tricky, but you will find it less frustrating to follow a recipe from someone who has already worked out the perfect healthy substitution. For recipes for guilt-free holiday desserts, just do a quick web search for “paleo dessert recipes,” or “paleo baked goods.” You can also be more specific, by searching “paleo brownies,” or “paleo chocolate chip cookies.” Paleo recipes use natural sweeteners and fats, and are gluten free, using nut flours instead of wheat flour.
Betty Murray, CN, HHC, RYT is a Certified Nutritionist & Holistic Health Counselor, founder of the Dallas-based integrative medical center, Wellness and founder of the Metabolic Blueprint wellness program. Betty’s nutrition counseling practice specializes in metabolic and digestive disorders and weight loss resistance. A master of the biochemistry of the body, Betty teaches her clients how to utilize nutritional interventions to improve their health. Betty is a member of the Institute of Functional Medicine and the National Association of Nutrition Professionals.