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Healthy Holiday Baking

Tis the season!

No, I am not taking about Christmas… I am talking about Baking Season. This time of year it seems like all anyone is ever doing is baking. Myself included. And what comes along with baking lots of yummy, sweet treats? Eating lots of yummy, sweet treats. Guilty as charged!

Now, there is nothing wrong with indulging in a slice of full-fat, high-sugar goodness now and again. The problem comes when you do it on a continual basis…which lots of us tend to do this time of year, whether we choose to believe it or not! “Oh, did I just eat half of that pie? Nah, couldn’t have been me….”

Here are some simple tips you can use in the kitchen to help cut the fat, calories, sugar, etc. from your dishes, while still keeping the taste and texture up to standards.

Does this mean that I can still eat half the pie since it’s healthier? I won’t tell if you wont…. proceed at your own risk.

Butter: Use ¼ of what the recipe calls for, and ½ of the amount in non-fat plain greek yogurt (Example: if it calls for ½ cup butter, use ¼ cup greek yogurt and 2 tbsp butter)

Oil: Give applesauce a try as a substitute. It measures at a 1:1 ratio quite nicely.

Frosting: Whip it! The volume will increase, leading to using and consuming less.

Eggs: Use 2 egg whites in place of 1 egg. I find that this works best if you still use a whole egg, for instance, if the recipe calls for 2 eggs, still use 1 whole egg and replace egg whites for only one of them.

Serving Size: Simply scale down the serving size. Make cookies smaller or cut a dish into more pieces than the recipe says. Many times at holiday gatherings we just want to try a little bit of everything, no need to have a whole serving of each. Food-coma no more!

Flour: Swap bleached, all-purpose flour for white whole wheat flour. Your guests won’t be able to notice a difference. Expect maybe they’ll feel fuller due to the higher fiber content.

Crust: dare I say it… Skip the crust! When it comes to pies and quiches, the filling is what it’s all about. Skip the extra calories by ditching the crust.

Have you ever tried one of these simple swaps? What was your experience with it? As always, feedback is encouraged =]

Happy Holidays everyone!

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Chocolate: The Ultimate Valentine

It’s that time of year again. Heart shapes are everywhere (even Duncan Donuts has heart shaped donuts) and red and pink color schemes seem to be as common as air. That’s right, it’s Valentine’s Day. This holiday either makes you giddy and so grateful for being with the love of your life (or whoever seems to hold your infatuation at the moment) or it instills fear and anxiety. No matter how you feel about this particular holiday, there is always one positive: Chocolate. Except for those odd few people who don’t like chocolate. (I still don’t understand how that is possible….)

Anywho, besides being delicious and the (unofficial) cure to all bad days, chocolate actually has health benefits such as….

  • Lower blood pressure
  • Improve cholesterol
  • Prevent memory decline
  • Lower risk of CVD
  • Improve blood flow
  • Enhance brain function
  • Activate brain receptors (causing a calming sensation that can boost your mood and ease stress)

The cocoa in chocolate is the prominent source  of the health benefits. Cocoa is a super good source for flavonols, which are an antioxidant. The less processed the chocolate, the more flavonols it contains. So, be sure to pick the least processed chocolate possible to get the most benefits. It’s quality over quantity here! Dark chocolate also packs more favonols than its milk chocolate counterpart. You would need to eat 1,500 calories of milk chocolate to get the same amount of flavonols as 300 calories of the dark variety.( i.e. more bang for your caloric buck!) You have got to be careful when reaching for chocolate labeled “dark”, though. The key is to look for at least 70% cocoa. Some chocolates labeled “dark” have only a mere 40% cocoa *Cough, M&M’s, cough* Also, take a look at the ingredients. Is cocoa the first ingredient or is sugar? We want cocoa to be #1.

Now, chocolate is pretty calorie dense and has lots of sugar, so you have to be careful about adding it into your diet. Cacao nibs, an unsweetened chocolate bar or unsweetened cocoa powder are your best bets. Try adding it to your smoothies, oatmeal or even cookies (Maybe I will try a chocolate version of my infamous breakfast cookies, sounds yummy, right?). Chocolate covered strawberries are also pretty popular around V-day. You can kill two birds with one stone here, flavonols AND fruit, score. I love adding a tablespoon or two of unsweetened cocoa powder to my protein shakes (I usually use Trader Joe’s Soy Protein Powder, the two really complement each other). Give one of these a try and tell me what you think!

Remember, one ounce of dark chocolate contains about 160 calories, so be sure to keep your serving sizes in check!

So, valentine or not, treat yourself to a little high-quality chocolate and feel good about doing it!