Trim the Treats

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When it comes to the holidays, diet is truly a 4-letter word. The majority of Americans want to have their cake and eat it, too. Who can blame them? From holiday traditions to treats shared by neighbors and friends, food has always been a way to celebrate the season.

But for individuals with chronic medical conditions, the holidays can wreak havoc on their health. For someone trying to manage poorly controlled diabetes, a box of candy or homemade fudge may not be the best gift. Even so, someone with diabetes should still be able to enjoy sweets in moderation.

If an individual is suffering from high blood pressure or congestive heart failure, some tweaks in recipes to reduce sodium may be a welcome way to prevent a trip to the emergency room. Below are some ways to ‘trim the treats’ when family or friends need to watch their diets.

Sweet subs

Most recipes can withstand a 25% reduction in white or brown sugar without significantly changing the taste. For example, if a recipe that calls for 1 cup of sugar, reduce the sugar to ¾ of a cup.
Instead of heavy frosting on a cake, dust the cake with powdered sugar or chopped nuts as a garnish. Berries or other fresh fruit is a sweet topper for cakes in place of frosting, too. This adds color, texture, fiber and nutrients.

Some sugar substitutes such as Splenda Stevia granulated sweetener are appropriate for baking and can be used in a 1:1 ratio. This type of sweetener does not caramelize like sugar, so may work best in cakes or quick breads.
Splenda allulose is a sweetener that caramelizes when baked and can be used in a 1:1 ratio for regular granular sugar.

Fat replacers

Depending on what you use, reducing fat may increase the amount of carbs in the recipe. Fruit purees like pureed prunes or applesauce work well in quick breads or cakes to reduce fat. These will add more moisture to the dessert.
A “flax egg” made with 1 tablespoon flaxseed and 3 tablespoons of water may be used to reduce saturated fat in a recipe or make the recipe vegan. Whisk the two together and allow to sit for 5 minutes before using.

Using 25% less fat in cookies or swapping some of the butter with oil can reduce saturated fat in recipes. Try 1 ½ sticks of butter instead of 2 sticks in drop cookies such as chocolate chip or oatmeal cookies.

Canola, corn or avocado oil may also be used in place of butter or lard in cake or quick bread recipes to reduce saturated fat.

Greek or plain yogurt can be used in place of butter or oil in recipes, but may add more moisture. Use 75% of the amount of fat in a recipe with yogurt (i.e. ¾ cup yogurt for 1 cup oil or butter). Yogurt works well in cakes, quick breads and brownies.

Cut the sodium

There’s a handful of ways to reduce sodium in baked goods. For starters, leave out the salt in cakes, cookies and breads. You likely won’t miss it.

Another option for cookies is to substitute rolled oats for part of the flour. Flour is high in sodium. Using rolled oats not only reduces the sodium content but also increases the fiber in baked goods.
In soups, stews or sauces, use low-sodium broth or season with herbs or spices such as oregano, basil, rosemary, cumin, paprika or other spices.

Replace bacon with low-sodium ham in green beans, soup or other items. Or- go meat free and use onions, garlic or herbs and spices instead.

Do with less

Another way to ‘trim the treats’ is to make half a batch of cookies or brownies instead of a full batch. Cookies can also be rolled smaller and cake and/or brownies may be cut into smaller pieces.

You can also serve seasonal fresh or dried fruit for dessert! These tips can be used any time of year to make your holidays a little lighter.

Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD, LD

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