Holiday recipes are notoriously high in added sugar and saturated fat. Check out the list of simple swaps below to reduce the sugar and saturated fat in your holiday recipes without compromising flavor or texture.

Holiday Baking Ingredient Swaps

Bread crumbs- try plain quick cooking oats (not flavored oatmeal packets!). It adds fiber and nutrients to the recipe and absorbs liquid in the same way bread crumbs do.  

Butter, margarine or shortening- replace solid fats with liquid fats such as olive oil or grapeseed oil. This swap does not work when making pastry or pie crust but can be used in most other baked goods and recipes. In baked goods like cookies and quick breads, you can swap ½ the oil for prune puree, applesauce, or canned pumpkin to add extra fiber and nutrients (these will also change the flavor so keep that in mind). 

Cream- whole milk, evaporated milk, or canned coconut milk can be used to replace cream in recipes. These substitutions will not work if you are whipping cream, but can be used to make ganache, cream sauces, and casseroles with less saturated fat. 

Cream cheese- choose Neufchatel (also called 1/3 less fat cream cheese) instead of full fat or fat free cream cheese. It melts the same way full fat cream cheese does with less saturated fat and doesn’t have the same additives and starches that fat free cream cheese has.  

Sour Cream- choose plain Greek style yogurt for extra protein and less saturated fat. Yogurt cannot be heated to high temperatures without splitting, so avoid using in recipes that need to be cooked or stick to low heat and add it toward the end of the cooking time. 

Sugar- sugar is used as a sweetener and a way to hold moisture and create texture in baked goods. In general you can reduce the sugar in a recipe by 25-30% without losing quality (if the recipe calls for 1 cup of sugar, use ¾ cup or 2/3 cup). Lower sugar baked goods will get stale faster and may not brown the same way, so keep an eye them when baking so they don’t dry out. In fruit pies and compotes, sugar can be significantly reduced without an issue. Do not reduce the sugar in baked goods that involve yeast (such as breads). If a recipe calls for white or brown sugar, it cannot be replaced with liquid sugars without adjusting the recipe, so do not swap sugar for maple syrup or honey without first adjusting the recipe. If you’d like to bake with a less processed sugar like turbinado or sucanat instead of processed white sugar, measure by weight instead of volume (these sugars do not measure the same way because the crystals are different sizes). 


-  Katie Schaeffer, MS, RDN, CDN, CDCES



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