• Tami Bruskotter

Post #36 Healthier Cooking & Shopping for the Holidays!

Podcast Episode #31 is all about Keeping the Flavor while Bumping up the Healthy Stuff in your Favorite Holiday Dishes.


Have that dish that’s always a crowd pleaser at family gatherings or holiday parties? And you know just a bite of it is sending you and everyone else into cholesterol and diabetes panic???

Why do we assume Celebrate = Heart Attack on a Plate?

You can share your traditions and culture and enjoy the holiday season without the guilt!

Just never tell anyone until after they’ve tasted and raved about it that you made the “healthy version”. And FYI, I’m not usually a fan of Lowfat anything, but I do have a few exceptions included in the suggestions.

What if you Don’t Cook or Bake: Then You Shop!!!

If you’re going to purchase an item to bring…find out if any of these options are available. Many supermarkets have healthier options now.

  • Always beware of the norm in commercially prepared foods lowfat = more sugar.

  • Buy mini cupcakes, mini pies, mini quiches instead of full size and put them in a more attractive packaging. Small bites of something decadent is best way to go!

  • No Sugar Added or Low Sugar desserts are everywhere.

  • Offer to bring the veggie side dish and skip buying anything swimming in cream or mayonnaise

Healthier Sweet Baking Substitutions:

Let’s start with the basics…Flour, Sugar, Eggs, and Butter. The most common ingredients in any sweet recipe. Here are the substitutions I use but really, you can Google any recipe with the substitution or lifestyle choice you’d like to try …Like German Choc cookies for Paleo or for vegans. Master Chef Google is always there and the King Arthur Flour website has so much!!!!

Ok let’s start with the Ultimate BadBoy… WHITE FLOUR

Its an empty dead food…That’s why back in the 1940’s the U.S. decided to make a permanent switch to enriched white flour which has the vitamins and minerals added to it synthetically. Thanks Federal Govt! It also makes your blood sugars go up, and your insulin spike and leads to diabetes…

· Whole wheat flour, whole grain flour actually has natural vitamins and minerals & fiber and protein. The extra fiber helps aid in digestion and has been shown to lower risk of heart disease, diabetes, colon cancer, etc.

Whole wheat flour is denser than white flour, so small recipe adjustments may be needed like more liquid, more fats, pureed fruit to ensure a moist finished product instead of a dry, hard rock.

(1 cup of white flour for ~¾ cup of whole wheat flour OR 1 cup WW + 2 more tablespoons of liquid)

This substitution works best with practically any type of baking! Breads, cookies, brownies, etc.

· Nut flours are naturally heavier & denser than other flours, so it is important to use extra leavening agent OR only substitute a fraction of the nut flour.

(For combo - Mix ¼ cup nut flour with ¾ cup whole wheat or white flour, or add an extra ½ tsp leavening agent like baking powder, baking soda to get that lighter texture.)

This substitution works best with cookies, cakes, and some sweet breads

· Coconut Flour is gluten free, hypoallergenic, high in fiber, and high in protein. It’s the super hero of flours! But…Coconut flour is higher in fat, so be aware and it can have an bitter taste if used in excess, so just substitute ½ cup at a time. You can mix it with nut flours or wheat flour.

(1/3 cup coconut flour, 1 egg, and 1 dash of water is best taste and texture to start)

This substitution tastes great in pancakes, muffins, cakes, and sweet breads. And it pairs with chocolates really well!

BadBoy #2 SUGAR

Ugh, it tastes so good, but added sugars are literally killing us. There are 17 teaspoons of added sugar daily in the US diet. We are shortening our lives and the lives of our children because we feel bad if they don’t get treats…right.

Sugar does add tenderness to baked goods – that’s why dry cakes can be saved by many frosting layers. How bout we cut that one out? Just use less frosting, keep it one layer!

· Try Using: Natural Honey, Agave Nectar, Maple Syrup, Coconut Sugar or Ripened Bananas or Unsweetened-Pureed fruits like Applesauce, etc.

· Natural Stevia is a great option because it adds no carbs/calories, but is doesn’t have volume or moisture! So its best when mixed with other granular sugars ½ & ½ , added to liquids sugar sources, or mix with nut butters, pumpkin puree, applesauce to keep your baked items moist and light. Lotsa recipes out there for this one.

These natural sources of sugar are less likely to spike your blood sugar like table sugar and are more easily metabolized in the body. A lot of these are naturally sweeter than table sugar, so you may be able to use less in your recipes! Try a combination of the two to get the best of both worlds.

EGGS: Use Flaxseed Meal or Chia Seeds

Eggs are an incredible source of protein and choline (B vitamin) and the only reason I wouldn’t use them in a recipe is if 1) I was baking for a vegan friend or 2) if I ran out and am too lazy to go to the store and buy more. Eggs are good! But sometimes you need an alternative, for whatever reason.

Flaxseed Meal, why it works:

Flaxseed is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, contain a high amount of fiber, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. (You can by flaxseed meal at the store or by them whole and grind them yourself in a food processor or blender)

Add 1 tbsp of flaxseed meal to 3 tbsp of water and allow it to sit for 3-5 minutes. Use in place of 1 whole egg for an extra kick of nutrition to your recipe.

This substitution works great in muffins, cakes, and breads


Chia Seeds, why it works:

Also rich in omega-3’s and fiber, they also help boost energy and stabilize blood sugar. Some studies show that chia seeds may help prevent diabetes.

Add 1 tbsp of chia seeds to 1 cup of water and allow it to sit for 10 minutes. Eliminate 1 egg with the cup of softened chia seeds. (I would not suggest using both flax “eggs” and chia “eggs” in the same recipe.)

This substitution works best in muffins, cakes, and cookies.

OIL/BUTTER: Use Applesauce, Bananas, or Nut Butters

These ingredients provide fat to help soften the texture of your finished product. There are so many alternatives which may not give the same flakey, buttery taste, but they’ll save you calories, fat, and still have a texture worth chewing.

APPLESAUCE when unsweetened contains only 80-100 calories per cup and 2-3 grams of fiber. Table sugar can contain up to 700 calories per cup with 0 grams of fiber! Making this swap can save you from gaining unnecessary weight when indulging in a baked good.

Applesauce has a high percent of water content, so it is important to reduce the overall amount of liquid in your original recipe by 2-3 tablespoons. If you still crave that sugary taste, try to add Stevia and a bit more applesauce with each batch until you’ve eliminated half the original sugar content.

This substitution can work with anything, but I recommend trying it in your cookies and sweet breads.

RIPENED BANANAS for baking only

Bananas are full of vitamins and minerals. They are rich in fiber, vitamin B6, potassium, and help improve digestion.

After a little oxidation (ripening), bananas natural sugars increase but the starch content decreases, creating a softer texture and sweeter taste, perfect for baking!

This substitution works best in cookies (breakfast variety), sweet breads, pancakes, and even brownies.


When it comes to nut butters, natural is always better. Reduced-fat varieties often have high amounts of sugar and salt, so you’re better off going for the full-fat, natural selections. Nut butters contain healthy fats, protein, fiber, which will help you feel fuller for longer. Nut butters contain just about the same amount of fats, but in the form of omega 6 instead of trans fats making them more heart healthy! (Depending on the type of nut butter, different nutritional benefits will apply)

This substitution is best in cookies, brownies, muffins and sweet breads.

More Healthy Baking Substitutions:

Greek Yogurt instead of Sour Cream:

Slash those extra calories from fat and boost your protein intake by using plain non-fat Greek yogurt in your next cake or cupcake recipe instead of the sour cream. The texture is still just as moist and creamy and hard to believe that it’s a healthier alternative!

Meringue (egg whites), Marshmallow Fluff, or Ganache (cream & chocolate) instead of Frosting:

Why sacrifice flavor when counting calories? Are you a cupcake connoisseur who dreads thinking of how most of the calories are coming from that mound of butter and sugar on top? I’m here to tell you that you can still enjoy that mound of flavor for half the calories! Sure, chocolate ganache on a cupcake doesn’t look the same as frosting, a lot of people actually prefer the taste of ganache to frosting…

Graham Cracker Crust instead of Pastry Crust:

Who doesn’t love a good graham cracker crust? Graham flour is a whole grain!!! Next time you’re thinking of making a pie or tart, see if you can’t get away with making this crust instead. You’ll find the flavor factor can make a positive difference and you won’t have to feel as bad about consuming as much butter with each bite

Evaporated Skim or lowfat Milk for Heavy Cream:

Consider those baked goods a healthy snack when you make this exchange. This may not work for all recipes, but do some experimenting be surprised at how creamy the end product is and you cut a bunch of milkfat!

Coco Nibs or Dark Chocolate instead of White Chocolate:

Personally I hate white chocolate. So why not have a chocolate with proven nutritional benefits instead of something that we all know goes straight to your thighs? Dark chocolate is rich with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, and has been proven to help lower blood pressure…the darker the better!


Mashed Potatoes: If you make this ahead a day or two and refrigerate it, not only do the flavors grow but you make this a Resistant Starch dish!!! That means you process these carbs better, not such a sugar/insulin reaction!

1. Substitute Lowfat Cream Cheese for Milk and Butter. Use the cream cheese at room temp or slightly heated, then add Roasted Garlic (adds more buttery feel), SeaSalt Black pepper as your base. You will not believe how light and creamy, and you’ve eliminated the extra carbs from the milk and the extra fat from the milk and butter

2. Mix Riced or Pureed Cauliflower ½ & ½ with the potatoes…depends on which texture you like

3. If you must have butter…GRASS FED ONLY, PLEASE!


  • · Greek Yogurt for Sour Cream in any dip, or go half. Even Lowfat Sour cream is better

  • · Cream Sauces…Afredo, stroganoff, etc: Use greek yogurt and/or LF cream cheese

  • · Corn Tortillas instead of Flour AND make enchiladas open face to get more protein on there, not just cheese

  • · Splurge on the Grass-Fed Beef!

  • · Mix ground chicken or turkey into beef or pork meatballs to cut the fat

  • · Spaghetti squash or veggie noodles for half the pasta

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