5 Swaps for Better-for-You Holiday Baking

5 Swaps for Better-for-You Holiday Baking

Publish Date September 21, 2023 4 Minute Read
Author Kroger Health Registered Dietitians

Have you ever looked at a recipe and wondered if there is any way to make it better-for-you? Whether you’re looking to decrease sugar intake or add a nutrition boost to your favorite muffins, there are plenty of smart swaps you can make! Let’s dive into 5 ways you can add a healthier twist to your next holiday dessert.

1. Chocolate Swap

Try dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate. Chocolate with 70% cacao or higher contains magnesium and iron which helps your body perform at its best. Dark chocolate also has antioxidants, which are beneficial nutrients that neutralize free radicals in our bodies and reduce oxidative stress. Another bonus: dark chocolate is lower in added sugar than milk chocolate; the American Heart Association recommends limiting added sugar to 36 grams or less per day for men and 25 grams or less per day for women. Consider making desserts such as dark chocolate raspberry S’mores, dark chocolate covered berries, or chocolate covered pretzels. You can also enjoy a few squares of high-quality dark chocolate to satisfy your sweet tooth.

Another option when baking is to choose chocolate chips that are sweetened with a zero-calorie sweetener like stevia. This will decrease the overall caloric density and limit the amount of added sugar in your dessert. We recommend using Lily's Dark Chocolate Baking Chips in your next batch of chocolate chip cookies or to melt and drizzle on a homemade oatmeal bar.

2. Sugar Swap

Use naturally sweet fruit like mashed bananas, apples or dates as an easy and healthy swap for table sugar in your desserts. Fruit also offers fiber and nutrients, such as potassium, that sugar doesn’t provide. Keep an eye out for ingredients like honey, maple syrup, and agave; while fine in small amounts, these are other sources of added sugar in baking recipes.

Pitted dates can be finely chopped up and added to your dessert bars, muffins, cookies, or loaves. Alternatively, you can soak dried dates and puree them to use instead of sugar.

Unsweetened apple sauce is also a popular substitute for sugar (or oil) when baking. You can swap one cup of unsweetened apple sauce for one cup of sugar. Applesauce contains approximately 120 calories per cup while the same volume of sugar amounts to 720 calories!

You can also use sugar substitutes in place of cane sugar as well. Products such as stevia or erythritol blends can be used as a one-to-one substitute for sugar in recipes.

3. Flour Swap

You can get more protein, fiber and nutrients when you use flours made from whole grain sources such as beans, oats, quinoa or wheat. Using whole wheat flour in place of white flour is a simple place to start. Switching to any whole grain flour provides a more filling and satisfying bite that helps everyone stick to smaller portions. Consider whole grain flour as a high-quality ingredient that can level up any dessert you’re planning to make!

Looking to try something new? Try making these Low FODMAP Oat Breakfast Cookies for a sweet treat in the morning.

4. Sour Cream Swap

Do you use sour cream to add moisture to your baked goods? Sour cream can increase the saturated fat and calorie content of your recipe significantly. Even just 30 grams (two tablespoons) of regular sour cream has 3.5 grams of saturated fat and 60 calories. Plain non-fat Greek yogurt is a protein-packed alternative that can be added instead. In comparison to sour cream, 30 grams of Greek yogurt has about 18 calories and 0 grams of saturated fat, has and even provides 3 grams of protein as a bonus.

Sour cream is most popularly used in baked goods such as cakes, muffins, and brownies. It also gives a small tang to a dessert, which Greek yogurt also replicates. When substituting Greek yogurt for sour cream, you can make a one-to-one swap without any pesky conversions. Still intimidated? Try starting off making Healthy Chocolate Pumpkin Muffins and see how you feel about using Greek yogurt in baking.

5. Butter Swaps

Butter is utilized in many recipes for flavor, structure and even leavening. Some recipes are best left how they are with butter due to its importance to the structure of the baked goods, such as pie crust and puff pastry. However, in other recipes such as cakes, muffins, and brownies, butter can be replaced or reduced with ingredients such as pureed prunes, mashed bananas, and pureed avocados. By swapping or reducing butter with any of these ingredients you can lower the saturated fat content of a dessert and make it better-for-you.

If you are experimenting with changes to your recipes, remember to only change one thing at a time, and start with the smallest possible change. For example, if you need one cup of butter and want to make a swap, start with using ¾ cup butter and ¼ cup pureed prunes, and increase your substitution from there.

These baking ingredient substitutions will have minor impact on flavor and huge impact on your health. Smart swaps aren’t about restricting the foods you love; they’re about boosting the quality of your food for a delicious and nutrient-packed holiday season! If you are still confused and looking for more ways to add nutrition to your baked goods and meals, schedule a one-on-one Telenutrition appointment with a Kroger registered dietitian today! You can also explore more healthy living advice from our team of experts on Kroger's website.

Disclaimer: This information is educational only and not providing healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider