Four ways to make your holiday baking healthier

Four ways to make your holiday baking healthier

With the holiday season in full swing, many people are baking more. Certain baking recipes may be nostalgic or a part of your holiday traditions, but often times, that means special treats filled with sugar, refined flours, fat and lots of calories. If you’re looking to be healthier this holiday season, here are four easy tips.

1. Cut down on the sugar.

For many baking recipes, sugar can often be decreased by as much as 1/3 without significantly changing the taste. Desserts such as pies, quick breads, cakes, no-bake bars and cake-like cookies all can be made with less sugar than the recipe calls for, often with little difference in the final product. It’s an easy way to cut back on sugar and calories in your treats.

2. Make healthy ingredient swaps

There are many ingredients you can swap out to make your baked goods healthier. Olive oil and canola oil can replace butter. Less processed foods with natural sugar like fruit purees, honey and pure maple syrup as well as sugar alternatives like stevia, erythritol and allulose can be used.

Switching to a different kind of flour can also be a good alternative. Using all or some whole grain flour can increase fiber and nutrients. Trying a flour with more protein and little or no carbs is also a good alternative. Almond, coconut and chickpea flours are all options you can try to see which one you prefer.

Baking involves a lot of chemistry to produce a desirable outcome, so you may want to find an established recipe that uses healthier swaps rather than experimenting on your own. Swapping ingredients can change the amount of moisture in the recipe or change the texture.

3. Pick smaller, healthier options

What you decide to eat can also make a big difference. Choosing healthier options, especially sweet treats that mainly consist of healthy foods, is one way to satisfy your sweet tooth while reducing calories. Examples of this include baked fruit, fruit crisps, fruit dipped in chocolate or chocolate bark.

Regardless of what treat you enjoy, picking bite-sized treats can be a great way to slow down on what you’re eating. It can help keep in check how much sugar, fat and calories you’re consuming. Try things like mini-muffins, small cookies, mini cheesecakes, fruit & nut truffles, cake pops, tartlets or parfait shooters.

4. Practice moderation

Sweet treats are everywhere during the holiday season, which can make it hard to practice moderation. There are some strategies you can try. You can give yourself a hard stop for how many treats you will eat, such as two or three a week. You can also phrase dessert occasions as a choice, saying things like “I could eat that right now, but I’m choosing not to right now.”

When you do have a craving, there’s a few things you can keep in mind. Most cravings pass within 10-15 minutes, so try drinking water and distracting yourself to ride it out. If you do decide to have a treat, keep in mind that healthier desserts have more nutrients but not always less calories, so you shouldn’t use that as an excuse to eat more of them.

Now is the perfect time to make an appointment with a primary care physician. Whether you live in Illinois or Wisconsin, it’s easy to find a doctor near you. 

Related Posts



  1. I do most of the baking in my household and have found, and regularly, swap out sugar (especially if multiple types are called for) with honey. In cakes you can easily swap out oils for applesauce (unsweetened) or even washed and dried (but still moist) sauerkraut.

  2. Hi Derrick. Great job limiting added sugars in recipes! Keep in mind that honey is also added sugar. In fact, honey actually has more grams of sugar compared to granulated sugar and brown sugar for the same volume (1/2 cup of honey = 140 g vs 100 g/1/2 cup granulated sugar vs 107g/1/2 cup packed brown sugar). If the amount of honey is small per serving then it’s fine. Or you could use less honey than what the recipe says to use for granulated or brown sugar.

    I love your other suggestions such as using applesauce in place of oil/fats. I’ve never heard of (or thought of) using washed and dried sauerkraut in baked goods, but glad it’s working out for you.

Subscribe to health enews newsletter

About the Author

Heather Klug
Heather Klug

Heather Klug, MEd RD is a registered dietitian and cardiac educator at the Karen Yontz Women's Cardiac Awareness Center inside Aurora St. Luke's Medical Center in Milwaukee, WI.