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Holiday Baking Done Light!

Healthy, flavorful baking tips that cut fat and calories

Plum PieThe holiday season is a tough time to stick to healthy eating habits. From sugar cookies to brownies, spice cakes to pies, temptations seem to be everywhere, including our own kitchen. Along with these treats comes the worry over fat and calorie intake. However with a few simple tweaks, this year you and/or your residents can have your cake (or cookies, brownies or pies) and not feel guilty about eating them too.

Bake without Butter

Fats are used to give baked goods their moisture, texture and flavor. However per cup, butter adds 1,627 calories and 184g of fat, shortening packs 1,845 calories and 205g of fat, and even heart-healthy oil boasts 1,927 calories and 218g of fat. Spread out over a batch of four dozen cookies and that’s at least 34 calories and 4g fat per cookie attributed to the oil (or butter) alone. Might not sound too bad, but when was the last time you ate just one cookie?

Making a commitment to healthy eating doesn’t mean you have to suffer during the holidays or put up with dry or chewy desserts. Fruit purées are an excellent substitute for fats in recipes. They will give your baked goods all the benefits of fat, without the calories and guilt. A good starting point is to replace half of the butter, oil or shortening called for with an equal amount of purée. Adjust as needed for future recipes.

  • Dried Plum (Prune) Purée: Has a delicious mild flavor that blends very well with chocolate baked goods, brownies, oatmeal cookies, spice cakes, pies and gingerbread. When using a dried plum purée, you can also reduce sugar by half the amount of purée used. Dried plum purée adds moisture as well as fiber, antioxidants and many other nutrients. Saves at least 1,365 calories and 184g of fat per cup. (Click here for an easy Dried Plum Purée Recipe.)
  • Unsweetened Applesauce: Has a neutral flavor that works well in most baked goods, especially cakes. Saves at least 1,550 calories and 184g of fat per cup.
  • Pumpkin Purée: It’s not just for pies. Unsweetened pumpkin purée will cut fat and add flavor to most baked goods. Best used in cakes or muffins, spiced breads, pancakes and brownies.

Cut back on Cholesterol

For each whole egg in your recipes, use just the whites from two eggs instead. That cuts cholesterol from 213 mg. to zero (daily recommended amount of cholesterol is less than 300 mg).

Reduce Sugar

Sugar is necessary in baked goods because it prevents the flours from creating gluten, which would yield tough, chewy cookies and cakes. When baked, sugar caramelizes, which adds color and a rich flavor to cookies, and helps cookies get crispy. However, sugar contains 775 calories per cup, and it quickly adds up as you make your rounds to the dessert table.

In pie fillings, cakes and cookies, you can usually reduce the amount of sugar in a recipe by up to half. Start by reducing sugar by 1/4 cup. If the recipe works, try reducing another 1/4 cup. Your family won’t notice, and the cookies will turn out about the same.

You can also replace half of the sugar in your recipe with your favorite fruit purée. I use dried plum purée or applesauce as they have mild flavors and are packed with nutrients.


  • Be patient and keep trying.
  • Experiment with just one substitution at a time.
  • Start small and cut back more each time you bake until the desired consistency is reached.
  • When baking with purées, reduce heat by 25 degrees and check often. Baked goods made with fruit purée often cook at a faster rate than those made with fats.

Try these substitution ideas with your favorite recipes and soon you’ll have lighter, healthier versions – guilt free!



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