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Choose Whole Grains
There’s a reason the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend to make at least 50% of your grain’s whole: they’re packed with essential vitamins and minerals that keep your body running at its peak! When gearing up to bake that family favorite sugar cookie or bread loaf, consider swapping half of the all-purpose flour for a whole-wheat flour until you can make the full switch (this Healthy Chocolate Chunk Pumpkin Loaf is a great recipe to start with!) Traditionally, when you start small like this it’s an easy way to slowly get your pallet to adjust to the change while boosting the fiber of the entire slice (or cookie) too! If you’re gluten-free, consider using a recipe that calls for gluten-free oat flour or almond flour (like these Healthy Pumpkin Muffins) so you also reap the benefits of the fiber.
Amp Up Those Omegas with Walnuts
Pumpkin, pecan, or apple pie calling your name this season? Consider swapping out that white flour and butter crust for a delicious (and nutritious) walnut-based crust. Walnuts pack 2.5 grams of the plant-based version of the omega-3 fatty acid known as alpha-linoleic acid (ALA), in addition to 4 grams of protein and 2 grams of fiber in a one-ounce portion. While many name brands have begun selling their own walnut crusts in the baking section at your local market, they often contain flour and butter in small amounts to help hold the crust together. Not a deal-breaker if you’re tight on time, but defeats the purpose of the swap if you’re trying to keep this treat gluten-free and vegan. Consider making your own (check out a simple recipe idea here) by pulsing walnuts with a date paste or syrup in your food processor, then shaping into a pie crust and freezing until ready to bake.
Related: 7 Tips for Shaking Sugar
Think natural When It Comes to Sugar
It’s no secret most people eat WAY more added sugar than recommended (for reference, on average Americans eat about 17 teaspoons of added sugar a day when the recommendation is closer to 12 teaspoons or below for a 2000 calorie diet!) And friends, beware, coconut sugar, maple syrup, honey, and good ole’ cane sugar are ALL just different types of added sugars (one isn’t better than the other.) To help satisfy that sweet tooth, consider using the natural sugars found in sweet fruits and vegetables, like apples, dates, and sweet potatoes, in your baked goods. Depending on the type of recipe you’re making, you should be able to reduce the added sugar by at least a third when you sub in unsweetened applesauce (like these Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bars do!) Note you will also need to modify the fat amount (like the oil or butter used) so the texture continues to be the same.
Boost Fiber with Beans
Chocolate is abundant this season and for good reason: it’s delicious and it’s packed with flavonoids. But what if you took that decadent chocolate and brought it up a notch to boost the fiber and create a decadent dark chocolate dip to serve alongside graham crackers, gingerbread, or fresh fruit? You’d be the hostess with the most-ess for sure! Begin by pureeing a cup of beans alongside melted dark chocolate or dark cocoa powder, dates for natural sweetness, and your favorite nut or seed butter of choice. Blend until it’s a smooth, hummus-like consistency and enjoy! (Use this Sweet Hummus Recipe as your guide.)
Power Up with Protein
Cream pies and bundt cakes are certainly popular around the holiday season, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do over the dairy! Swapping in a portion of reduced-fat Greek or skyr yogurt for sour cream helps to boost the protein while minimizing the saturated fat of your treat. If you’re still not a big fan of Greek yogurt, then ease into it by starting small with the swap, with roughly a third used in place of the sour cream. In no time you’ll be adjusted and making the full swap, pinky promise! (Try this Butterscotch Cheesecake Pie for a nice addition to your menu this year!)