It’s almost that time you guys!!! Obviously I’m talking about Christmas….I know you’re probably just as excited as I am. But you know what my favorite part about Christmas is? Not the presents or anything like that (though that part is always fun) but I LOVE cooking/baking with my family and enjoying all the yummy treats. Holiday sweets are the best right? In past Christmases, I always felt so guilty for indulging in the desserts and candies. Let’s be honest, Christmas candy and treats have the bad reputation of containing some of the most unhealthy ingredients; powdered sugar, corn syrup, margarine, you name it. So in my days of obsessively counting calories and such, I would either eat some and then feel gross and ashamed after, or I just would avoid it completely. LAME.

I eventually go sick of depriving myself like this; it made the usual fun of baking with my family seem stressful. PLUS, if you’ve ever tried to avoid eating Christmas candy like peanut butter balls, fudge, or peppermint bark….you know how HARD and MISERABLE that is. Since I’ve learned how to change up my favorite recipes with healthier ingredients, eating sweets and other yummy treats isn’t such a hardship anymore! There is a healthy substitute for almost anything you can think of when it comes to baking and I’m super excited to share with you some of these alternatives that I use on a daily basis.

When substituting healthy ingredients for unhealthy ingredients, I always try to get organic products when possible. I also look for products that say non-GMO or no artificial colors/flavors/preservatives. Just try to get products with the most REAL ingredients.

 This means I get to eat yummy food all the time and still eat clean! Sorry but I can’t live off of kale and eggs, especially with my serious sweet tooth. I hope these ingredients will help you stay on track through the holidays. I know personally that I work really hard all year to maintain a healthy lifestyle so I don’t want to just blow all of that hard-work.

The best part is, you won’t even be able to tell the difference between the unhealthy and healthy versions! That’s why I love these substitutes so much.

1. Sugar Alternatives:

  • Truvia Baking Blend-  I am such a fan of Truvia; I use the Baking Blend and Brown Sugar a lot in my recipes. It tastes and bakes just like sugar, better than any other sugar substitute. It’s not the CLEANEST sugar alternative because it does contain some sugar, but it’s definitely a healthier option. For every cup of sugar in a recipe, use 1/2 a cup of Truvia. This also means that you cut out half of the calories that would normally come from the sugar in that recipe! Most grocery stores carry Truvia. 
  • Kal Stevia- I ran out of Stevia last week and let me tell you…it was AWFUL. I did’t realize how much I rely on this stuff until we were without it for a week. I seriously use it 3-5 times a day! I sweeten my tea, coffee, shakes, and hot cocoa with it. It’s also great to use in recipes when you don’t want to use much sugar. If you’re just using sugar in a recipe to sweeten and not for the texture, you can either use Stevia in place of it or in addition. Like when I make whipped cream, I just add some Stevia to sweeten instead of sugar. If you need a dessert or something really sweet, you could always use another substitute and then some Stevia in addition to get the sweetness you want. I’ve said this before in previous posts but a TINY amount goes a long way. 
  • Organic Coconut Sugar- Coconut sugar is a great alternative for brown sugar or other sweeteners in desserts. I use it in place of brown sugar with some Stevia sometimes if I don’t need the brown sugar for it’s texture. Coconut sugar is not as sweet as sugar, so you will want to mix it with something like Truvia or Stevia when using it in most recipes. My homemade Butterscotch Sauce uses coconut sugar and Stevia and it is INCREDIBLE. You can find this at Whole Foods or Earth Fare. 
  • Organic Pure Maple Syrup- Maple syrup is great to use in recipes when you need a smaller amount of sugar/sweetener or even when a recipe calls for corn syrup. I usually use 3-4 tablespoons MAX of maple syrup just because it does still contain sugar and the calories per serving are pretty high. Sometimes in recipes like muffins, flavored pancakes/waffles, or other pastries I will use maple syrup as the sweetener. You can get this at most grocery stores. 
  • Raw Honey-  Raw honey is one of my favorite things to put on biscuits or other breads to just sweeten them up a bit. You can also use honey in recipes like the maple syrup, in smaller amounts. I like getting local honey because it seems to just taste better and it’s as pure as you can get. 
  • Organic Powdered Sugar- Powdered sugar is used a TON at my house during Christmastime, especially when making candy. There is no extremely healthy alternative for powdered sugar; the only option is just using Organic Powdered Sugar that is corn-free and non-GMO. This makes it a little healthier for you than normal powdered sugar.  I wouldn’t recommend eating it in large amounts, but it’s great if you’re just eating a small serving of dessert or candy. This is available at Whole Foods. 

2. Flour Alternatives: 

  • Unbleached All-Purpose Flour- It is really hard to substitute flour for many recipes because a lot of flour substitutes don’t bake like flour or have the same texture. So many times I will use unbleached flour because it’s definitely healthier than regular bleached enriched flour. Because it is a grain, it’s much better for you in small doses. If you are scared to change a recipe too much and want it to be just as close to the original, I would recommend using this, especially around the holidays when you are cooking for family and friends. You can get unbleached flour at almost any grocery store.
  • Organic Coconut Flour- Coconut is a really healthy alternative for flour and it’s gluten-free. Unfortunately it has an odd texture and doesn’t bake like regular AP flour. That’s why I like to use it in small amounts and mix it with other flours when I’m baking with it. You can find this at Whole Foods or Earth Fare.
  • Spouted Flour (Einkorn)- Sprouted flours are a great alternatives for regular flour, and most of them just bake like a normal whole-wheat flour. I have used Khorasan before and it worked really well, but the hot new thing is Einkorn flour. I have heard great things about this flour and I can’t wait to start baking with it! This flour is the original wheat flour, meaning it has never been hybridized and is extremely good for you. It bakes like an AP flour, and people with gluten allergies can actually have it because the gluten in it is actually healing for our insides. I use sprouted flour in place of AP flour 1:1, and sometimes I even mix it with coconut flour. If a recipe calls for 2 cups of AP flour, you could use 1 1/2 cups of sprouted flour and 1/2 cup of coconut flour. 

3. Liquid Alternatives: 

  • Organic Whole Milk- This is pretty basic and you can get organic milk at any grocery store. But the point I want to make with this is that whole milk is so much better for you than skim milk. I know that is totally opposite of what most people tell you and the media portrays. Whole milk is better because it still has the nutrients and cream from the milk…the healthiest parts! Skim milk removes the good fats and nutrients so there is really no nutritional value at all. I use organic whole milk obvious in place of regular milk in recipes. 
  • Organic Heavy Whipping Cream- Like the whole milk, heavy whipping cream still has the CREAM in it which is super nutritious and beneficial to our bodies. You want it in small amounts because it does have fats, but they are good fats. Heavy whipping cream makes things like scones and biscuits extra light and fluffy, and I LOVEEE making whipped cream with it to top my desserts, hot cocoa, and other treats at Christmas. Just add a little Stevia and vanilla extract to your heavy cream and whip until it reaches the light and airy consistency of whipped cream! You can get this at any grocery store.
  • Organic Coconut Oil- Does anyone else use coconut oil for everything? I know I do. It’s great for a lot of things, but cooking especially. Anytime a recipe calls for oil I almost always use coconut oil. I recommend melting on a stove-top at medium heat instead of using a microwave because microwaving it just nukes out all the health benefits really. My Mom used to constantly yell at me for it so I just adopted it as habit lol but I’m really glad I did.  You can find this at almost any grocery store, but I recommend the Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s brands. 
  • Unsalted Kerrygold Butter- OBSESSED with Kerrygold butter you guys…like really obsessed. The great thing about Kerrygold butter is that it’s grass-fed, which means that the cows have been fed grass instead of grains, WHICH MEANS more nutrients for us and less grains in our diet! I use this several times throughout my day because it’s such a good source of fat. I also use it in place of butter or margarine in all of my recipes. You can get this at most grocery stores now including Whole Foods and Wal-Mart. 
  • Non-Stick Coconut Oil Cooking Spray- Cooking sprays usually have so many added ingredients that are bad for you and SO unnecessary. I really like using non-stick spray that is made with coconut oil. It works just as good! Trader Joe’s brand is really great. 
  • Organic Molasses- Because gingerbread cookies are such a Christmas staple, I though I would include this. Organic molasses are found at places like Whole Foods or Earth Fare. The ingredients are MUCH cleaner than other brands of molasses. I posted my favorite Healthier Classic Gingerbread Cookies earlier this week and it’s the best gingerbread cookies recipe EVER. PROMISE. 
  • Organic Vegetable Shortening- Now obviously shortening is not the healthiest thing for you, but if an old family recipe calls for Crisco (because older people thought Crisco was just the best thing ever apparently) then you will want to substitute it with organic shortening. It’s going to give you the texture and consistency that makes that recipe so great; it’s really hard to mimic that with another substitute. 
  • Organic Whole Milk Yogurt- I like using yogurt in place of oil sometimes in certain recipes. It works well in baked goods to give them a fluffy and light consistency. 

4. Extras: 

  • Unsweetened Cocoa Powder- I use cocoa powder SO MUCH…I think I’m addicted to chocolate guys, let’s be real. I always get unsweetened cocoa powder and then you can sweeten it with whatever healthy sweetener you like; usually I use Stevia. The Trader Joe’s brand of cocoa powder is really good, but any organic cocoa is great as well. 
  • Semi-Sweet Organic Baking Chocolate Chips/ White Chocolate Chips– Like I said, addiction. You can find organic chocolate chips and healthier brands at most grocery stores. There aren’t really “organic” white chocolate chips, but there are some brands with cleaner ingredients. I like to get the Whole Foods 365 brand. 
  • Natural Peanut Butter- Peanut butter and chocolate go so well together don’t they? You can find all-natural peanut butter at most grocery stores. I like getting the nut butters at Whole Foods and Earth Fare where you buy it in bulk. It’s much cheaper that way and usually they are healthier that way as well. 

I hope you guys feel much more confident about cooking and baking for Christmas this year! Spend less time worrying and more time enjoying all the yummy foods and fun that come with the holidays. Check out my Holiday Recipes page for some great recipe ideas and be sure to tag me on Instagram @adancersplate and #embraceyourplate. I can’t wait to see all of your yummy holiday creations!

Check out the video that I made in addition to this post that will give you even more info about these products (don’t forget to Subscribe)! <3

“I never eat December snowflakes, I always wait until January.”- Lucy

May your days be merry and bright,

Ashlyn Tori <3