4 Simple Ways to Lighten Up Winter Foods

When you think of winter, you probably think of the holidays, hot chocolate and warm comfort foods. Many of these foods, although tasting fantastic, can weigh you down. This winter, rethink your dishes by making small fixes and substitutions for healthy meal makeovers. Show your family and holiday guests that healthy adjustments to traditional meals are just as enticing and still result in warm, cozy dishes. We’ve got tips from subbing oil with applesauce for baked goods, using whole milk instead of heavy cream and the low-down on lowering sugar!

Let’s Talk Appetizers

Everybody loves the teasers that come before the big meal. They help get the party going and build anticipation for what’s in store for the main course. But appetizers can be heavy on the calories and these fun, bite-sized pieces can easily lead to overeating, before the first course.

Start with the obvious calorie givers — cut out the juice and soda and serve up flavored sparkling water with the appetizers. It will help keep the alcohol down, lightening your calorie load and keeping your food inhibitions in check.

Next, cut out the traditional chips and offer strips of red and green peppers with a garlic bean dip or non-fat Greek yogurt dip, which is filling, tasty and lower in calories. If the chips aren’t there to eat, guests won’t even think twice about picking up that carrot stick for a dipper.

Don’t forget to put a spoon in the dip! It encourages smaller portions of the dip and helps prevent the spread of germs.

Swap It Out, Trade Up, Explore!

Explore food substitutions. You know, when you conjured up that great idea to make a unique dish, with a long ingredient list, you shop, return, and oh no, you realize you forgot the thyme and yellow mustard! Twenty minutes back to the store? No thank you!

Instead, you use some rosemary and Dijon that you had in your fridge, and guess what, you’ve found a sub for thyme and yellow mustard. When you’re in a bind, don’t forget to Google food substitutions. You’ll find hundreds of moms who asked the very same question, along with several ingredient replacements. Once you start exploring ingredient swaps, often out of necessity, you’ll find yourself getting more daring!

Keep That Engine Running With the Right Fats

Try swapping in applesauce for part of the oil. Bonus – it also adds natural sweetener with phytochemicals (plant compounds that fight off disease) and allows you to cut back on the added sugar in the recipe. Just make sure the applesauce goes with the flavor of the baked good. It’s a 1:1 ratio when replacing oil with applesauce in your baking recipes.

Example: a third cup of applesauce for a third cup of oil. Don’t replace all of the oil, start with a third and see how the recipe tastes. If you’re doing a boxed recipe and they provide an oil and a butter option, make sure to substitute for the oil, not the butter.

TIP: Because fats (like oil and butter) are what help brown your baked goods while cooking, you may not be able to use visible browning as a cue your goodies are almost done. Always keep a watchful eye on your time and temperature, as these sauced up (applesauce, that is) baked goods may end up overcooking. Drop a toothpick in the center to test if it’s ready (it should come out clean without any batter sticking to the sides).

Replace heavy cream with whole milk. This one is as easy as it sounds, just make the swap and you’re good-to-go. It will add the creaminess and fullness you’re looking for, with a fraction of the calories and fat.

Swap the Sweets

Try swapping out some of the sugar for stevia. Stevia, also known as the “Sweet-Leaf” comes from the natural herb, Stevia Rebaudiana. It’s 200-250 times sweeter than regular sugar and contains zero calories. This herbal sweetener is heat stable (up to 392 degrees Fahrenheit) and therefore, a great replacement for sugar in cooking and baking. Some brands have a bit of an aftertaste. You can find on-line stevia calculators that show sugar to stevia calculations like this: https://sweetleaf.com/stevia-conversion-calculator/.

TIP: Because you’re losing some of the bulk and binding power that sugar provides, you’ll want to slightly increase the baking powder/soda, add an egg white, fruit puree or yogurt.

The holidays and winter season does not have to mean baggy sweater and one-size-too-big pants to cover up the hearty seasonal eats. Try some of these healthy swaps. Your guests will be thanking you in the long run, and I bet they won’t even notice you used half the sugar or subbed a healthy fat alternative!

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