The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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December 10, 2013

Smart and sensible solutions for savoring seasonal sweets

Q: I love to cook and bake during the holidays but want to make my treats a bit healthier. Do you have any tips or suggestions of substitutions I can make to my recipes this year?

A: Healthier holidays are happier holidays! For happy, healthy holiday baking, experiment with simple substitutions and tasty trade-ups for festive and flavorful food. Seasonal sweets become delightful dishes with small changes to traditional recipes. This year, enjoy the sights, sounds and tastes of the season – the smart and sensible way!

Be ready with recipe reductions.

For a healthier holiday twist on traditional recipes, consider reducing the fat, calories, and sodium in your festive favorites.

■ To reduce fat, cut the amount in half and for the other half, substitute unsweetened applesauce, mashed bananas or pureed prunes. Use egg substitute in place of whole eggs. Use non-fat or light dairy products rather than the original version.

■ To reduce sugar, cut one-third to one-half of the amount in the recipe. Consider alternative sweeteners such as Splenda, Delecta or stevia for sweet treats without spoonfuls of sugar.

■ To reduce sodium, cut the amount by half or eliminate completely (except in recipes that include yeast). Substitute salt with festive flavors of onion salt, garlic salt, celery salt and seasoning salt with onion flakes, garlic powder and herbs.

■ Be practical about portions. Limit the number of options available to limit the number of temptations. Serve smaller portions of dessert items by cutting into bite-sized pieces.

Enjoy the extra nutrients.

Focus on fiber and pack in protein to make holiday baking scrumptious and satisfying.

■ Add flax seed, chia seed or oatmeal to your recipes.

■ Use whole wheat flour or whole wheat pastry flour in breads, bars, muffins, pie crusts, and cookies to turn tasty treats into satisfying sweets.

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