The Free Press, Mankato, MN

December 10, 2013

Smart and sensible solutions for savoring seasonal sweets

By April Graff
Hy-Vee Registered Dietitian

---- — 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.

■ Dried fruits add fiber and flavor to recipe favorites.

■ Nuts are packed with nutrients, including heart-healthy fats, fiber and protein.

■ Greek yogurt provides protein, helping you feel more satisfied by just one holiday helping.

Use nutritional trade-ups with NuVal.

Use NuVal, the nutritional scoring system, to help make your holidays happier and healthier. Try the following simple substitutions:

■ Use plain non-fat Greek yogurt (NuVal 94) instead of sour cream (NuVal 26).

■ For better baking, use canola oil (NuVal 24) instead of corn oil (NuVal 11).

■ Substitute fat-free evaporated milk (NuVal 100) for evaporated milk (NuVal 35).

■ Try Campbell’s Healthy Request cream of mushroom soup (NuVal 31) instead of Campbell’s 98% fat-free cream of mushroom soup (NuVal 26).

Pomegranate-Dark Chocolate Delights Serves 15 (1 tart each) All you need: 1/3 cup premium dark chocolate 1 (1.9 ounce) package prebaked mini phyllo shells 1 (6 ounce) carton Chobani non-fat pomegranate Greek yogurt Pomegranate arils, optional All you do: Melt chocolate on HIGH in microwave, stirring every 20 seconds until melted. Spoon approximately ½ teaspoon chocolate in the bottom of each phyllo shell, spreading up onto the sides of shell. Chill in freezer for 5 to 10 minutes. Spoon pomegranate Greek yogurt into phyllo shells. Garnish with pomegranate arils (optional). Nutrition info per serving: Calories 50, calories from fat 25, total fat 2.5 g, saturated fat 1 g, trans fat 0 g, cholesterol 0 mg, sodium 15 mg, total carbohydrate 6 g, dietary fiber 0 g, sugars 3 g, protein 1 g.