How to bake your holiday treats with far more nutrition

Page 38(NC) Fresh baked cookies, hot-out-of-the-oven pies, flaky pastries and decadent desserts are unavoidable during the holiday season. Some people look forward to holiday treats all year, but we know that baked goods tend to have a lot of sugar and fat. Avid bakers have become creative with ingredients to decrease the amount of empty calories in their recipes and replace them with healthy, natural alternatives that pack a nutritional punch.

Let’s start with a few inventive alternatives for white flour, refined sugar, butter and oil.

Substitute white flour with a can of black beans in your chocolaty brownies. Use one 15-ounce can (drained, rinsed and pureed) for every one cup of flour. It’s an excellent way to make your recipe gluten-free and the beans add protein. If you are making pie or cake in which you can’t use black beans because of the noticeable appearance, you can always use flour alternatives such as cashew nut, hazelnut and coconut flours. The Canadian Health Food Association (CHFA) says that these products can be found at their member health food stores.

Instead of using refined sugar in your recipe, you can substitute it with unsweetened organic apple sauce. This smart switch adds sweetness to delectable baked goods without the extra calories. Use a one-to-one ratio of applesauce for sugar, but reduce the amount of liquid in the recipe by one quarter of a cup for every cup of applesauce.

Avocados have a similar consistency to butter at room temperature, making them a great substitute for butter in your chocolate cake recipe. Use one cup of puréed avocado for every cup of butter. Bananas can also act as a substitute for oil and butter, and are low in fat with the added benefit of fibre. If you want to use bananas in your recipe, use one cup of mashed banana for every cup of oil or butter.

Chia seeds are a versatile ingredient that can be added to your smoothies and yogurt to increase nutritional content. They are high in protein and are packed with nutrients like potassium, calcium and omega-3 fats. But did you know you can use chia seeds to replace butter and eggs in your baked goods? Soak two to three tablespoons of chia seeds in one cup of water for 15 minutes and use the gel formed to substitute one cup of butter in your recipe. If you have an egg allergy or intolerance, you can use chia seeds as an egg alternative, too. One tablespoon of chia seeds soaked in one cup of water for 15 minutes can substitute for one egg.

Little changes add up over time and with the extra calories during the holiday season, these substitutions can make all the difference with far less guilt. Additional tips and healthy eating options are available at chfa.ca.