November 28, 2014 at 8:00 am EST | by Bucky Mitchell
The substitution game
healthy recipe, gay news, Washington Blade

Substitute raw honey, maple syrup or agave nectar to rid your holiday favorites of unneeded sugar.

One holiday down, several more to go. How’s your waistline holding up?

Temptation abounds this time of year with all our favorite treats filled with sugar, butter, carbohydrates and heavy creams. From cookies, cakes and pies to mashed potatoes and casseroles, our holiday favorites pack on the calories and the pounds.

During the holiday season, the average American gains five-10 pounds. Instead of feeling guilty or denying yourself altogether, here are some tips to make your dishes a little healthier this season.

Cookies, cakes and pies

While I am sucker for a good apple pie and my mom’s pinwheel cookies, I still know that I can enjoy these treats in a healthier way. First, let’s talk sugar. While many think sugar is an actual food, it’s really just a chemical. In fact, it’s a pure chemical extracted from plant sources and its true name is sucrose with a chemical formula dubbed C12H0011. Sounds like something you want to eat, right? I didn’t think so.

Fortunately, there are some great substitutes for sugar that let your cookies and pies taste just as flavorful. For me, the best substitutes are raw honey, maple syrup or agave nectar. The key word being raw. Be sure you the label reads “raw” because often honey, maple syrup and agave are refined and further processed stripping them of their nutrients and at the same time adding more chemicals your body doesn’t need. Moreover, you can also use these substitutes in smaller amounts. Because honey, maple syrup and agave nectar are sweeter, you only have to use half of the amount you would for regular sugar. For instance, if your favorite cookie recipe calls for one cup of sugar, use a half cup of maple syrup or honey in its place.

In addition to great sugar substitutes, there are a great many substitutes for our favorite and most oft-used cooking ingredient, white flour. From coconut flour to milling flour and gluten free and whole grain flour, there are considerably better options. Because these flours tend to be a little heavier, sometimes we’re afraid of cooking or baking with them. Well have no fear. This little trick will help: when making a crust or making a cake, try beating or folding the dough less then you normally would. The less you do, the fluffier or flakier your favorite cake or pie will be. Give it a try.

Casseroles, pastas and side dishes

While it may not seem like a traditional holiday dish, I love some good ole’ fashioned macaroni and cheese with bacon and Gruyere cheese at holiday time. Once I have a good serving or two, I know that the food coma will set in and I will be taking a nap. Well instead of those carbs, creams and cheeses weighing us down and making us sleepy, there are some easy substitutions to make these dishes healthier.

A very simple way to substitute those creams and cheeses is by replacing them with Greek yogurt, which is packed with protein and has none of the fat and calories the creams and cheeses do. Because of its thickness and consistency, Greek yogurt binds well to food and holds up to heat very well.

While you’re stirring in your Greek yogurt to your favorite casserole or pasta dish, think about adding some veggies into the mix. Believe it or not, veggies can add great flavor and depth to any of your side dishes. Recently, I roasted some cauliflower and added it into my mac and cheese. I was pleasantly surprised. As a simple, easy tip, try only using half the amount of pasta or flour required and replace it with your favorite veggie. If you want to be really adventurous, replace your traditional mashed potatoes with mashed broccoli or mashed cauliflower.

Be sure that you give these simple substitutes and tips a try to make your dishes healthier this holiday season.

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