Typically, we think of the holidays as a time of indulgence. We toss out the idea of being healthy and enjoy ourselves.
But why not enjoy the holidays AND be healthy?
Bake with your family without any guilt. Fill your home with delicious memories from your childhood. And create new memories for your children.
We’ve got 3 delicious, easy ways to make holiday treats healthy simply by replacing sugar with healthy alternatives.
It’s a great way to transform your holidays into a time of both comfort and joy.
Coconut sugar is such a healthy, easy replacement I don’t know why everyone doesn’t use it all the time. Baked goods retain their consistency without any other adjustments. It’s a bit less sweet than sugar, but still delivers mouthwatering flavor. And it doesn’t just negate the harmful effects of sugar, it’s got all sorts of health benefits.
It’s also easy to buy from Amazon if your local market doesn’t carry it.
Ratio: Coconut sugar is an easy one to one replacement with both white sugar and brown sugar. You can also grind it up with a little arrow root powder in a coffee grinder or food processor to replace powdered sugar.
Health Benefits: Coconut sugar is low glycemic (35). Low glycemic foods help you maintain healthy blood sugar levels which can prevent type 2 diabetes. It’s also important for maintaining a healthy weight (especially this time of year).
It’s also packed with beneficial minerals like:
- zinc (which helps regulate white blood cell production)
- calcium (important for bone and dental health)
- potassium (an electrolyte that keeps vital organs in good condition)
- iron (important for getting oxygen from your lungs to your organs)
And it’s a good source of inulin, a prebiotic that supports gut health, helps your body metabolize fat and improves immunity.
Baking with raw honey will slightly alter the flavor of your holiday treats. For some recipes it’ll be an awesome replacement and for others it won’t work so well, which is when coconut sugar is a good idea. Honey adds moisture, giving cookies and other delights a creamy texture but also requiring slight adjustments of other ingredients. Raw is also really healthy for you!
Ratio: Raw honey comes in different textures, some more liquid than others. The ratio and other adjustments will depend on the texture and sweetness of the honey you’re using.
It’s best to start with approximately 1/3 cup honey for every 1 cup of sugar.
Reduce liquids (especially those over 1 cup) by 1/4 to offset the moisture of the honey.
Honey is more acidic than sugar so the whole chemistry of baking will be off slightly on recipes more sensitive to that. To counteract, add 1/8 tsp baking soda.
Most importantly, pay attention to your batter. You’ll probably be able to see if it’s the right consistency and adjust accordingly. You may also want to sneak a quick taste to gauge the sweetness.
Health Benefits: There’s a HUGE difference between honey and raw honey. Honey, as you generally think of it and buy it at the store, is heated and filtered which robs it of nutritional value. Processed honey is also moderate to high on the glycemic index (50-80 depending on the batch). Between the glycemic index and lack of nutritional value, if you’re not using raw honey the replacement isn’t doing you much good.
Raw honey, on the other hand, is kind of awesome.
Like coconut sugar raw honey is low glycemic (30-40 depending on pollen and other actors) so it helps maintain healthy blood sugar levels and sustain healthy weight (or even lose a few pounds).
Raw, local honey has also been known to prevent seasonal allergies. By ingesting local pollens in the honey, your body adapts to them, reducing allergy symptoms. It also contains polyphenols (great antioxidants which can reduce the risk of cancer or heart disease).
Like honey, maple syrup will alter the flavor and consistency of baked good some. With the right recipe it can add lush, creamy richness. Other recipes may end up better with honey or a simple coconut sugar replacement.
Ratio: You can use a one to one replacement with maple syrup and sugar.
Simply reduce other liquids by about a 1/2 cup for each cup of maple syrup to maintain the consistency. You should be able to tell from the batter if it’s a little too liquid or dense.
Health Benefits: The biggest value of maple syrup is that it’s NOT refined sugar (or high fructose corn syrup or an artificial sweetener). You can enjoy some sweetness without causing liver damage or spiking your blood sugar (which contributes to weight gain and type 2 diabetes). You protect yourself from cancer, candida, and leaky gut syndrome by avoiding sugar’s damaging effects.
Like honey (and peanut butter) there’s a huge difference between commercial, processed maple syrup and pure, organic maple syrup. Processing removes the nutritional benefits leaving you with only the empty sweetness – not a great replacement.
But pure, organic maple syrup contains 24 different antioxidants which can reduce inflammation and damage from free radicals. It also has minerals such as zinc (which can improve immunity) and manganese (a crucial part of calcium absorption as well as brain and nerve function) as well as potassium and calcium.
Pure maple syrup is moderate on the glycemic index (54). It’s not as beneficial as low glycemic sweeteners but also not harmful to blood sugar levels.
Whether you choose coconut sugar, raw honey or pure maple syrup you’ve got three simple, delicious ways to stay healthy and indulge in your favorite holiday treats!