How to make any holiday baking recipe healthy - with real, whole foods ingredients!

WOW, how is it that there's basically only one or two days until Christmas? Like everyone else this year, I'm surprised that Christmas has shown up so fast, but I'll take it. I love this time of year.

I love national and international traditions, like holiday baking around this time of year, and I'm particularly excited now because I get to participate again! It's been almost a year since I changed my diet and started eating more nutrient-dense foods, and I love that that change has allowed me to bake again. I loved baking in high school, even though I didn't know much about it and didn't learn from my mom. There were some seriously ugly cakes in those years... but I learned by doing.

I'm learning again, now, and having a lot of fun baking with super high quality ingredients like homemade nut butter and pure cocoa powder and sea salt. No more boxed cake mixes for me! The stuff I'm making now tastes delicious and is pretty much as healthy as a Lara Bar. Not part of my diet for everyday, but a great guilt-free treat!

And with the holidays around, I've had occasions to make treats to share with everyone, and have definitely been looking for good real foods dessert ideas. My baking skills are a little rusty, though, so I'm sticking to simple recipes and I've been comparing them to classics like the Martha Stewart version of the same dish to balance proportions and flavors, e.g. (Some of my biggest successes so far: my freaking incredible chocolate chip sunbutter cookiessuper moist delicious sweet potato brownies, almond flour crust pumpkin pie!)

Of course, I can't always find exactly the recipe I want in a grain-free, gluten-free, processed sugar-free, real food version, so I'm learning to make substitutions and adapt old favorite recipes! Here's how:



Healthy Substitutions for Classic Baking Ingredients


You can make any baking recipe healthier by option for real, whole food ingredients from high quality sources rather than their cheaper, frankenfood conventional alternatives, or things that are often irritating to many people. These options will make even more delicious recipes!!

Try these substitutes:
  • OIL (vegetable, canola, whatever): Real butter (preferably from grassfed cows!), coconut oil (you all know I love it), or lard (also preferably from pastured pigs). Butter is an incredibly dense source of nutrients and heart-healthy saturated fats, particularly when it's from a grassfed cow. Incredible article about that here and great summaries here and here.)
  • FLOUR: Almond flour (or any nut flour). Make your own like I do, or purchase. (Danielle of Against All Grain is a serious baking/dessert expert and has this advice on almond flour.) (Note that coconut flour does not subsititute 1:1 for flour! It needs a lot more oil and gets really weird and dry if you use more than a couple tablespoons, in my experience.) 
  • MILK: If you can tolerate dairy, use full-fat milk, raw if you can find it at a store. I don't do dairy except butter, so I use minimally processed coconut milk instead. (Do not use soy milk--Soy products contain a number of anti-nutrients and hormone compounds that really disturb our hormones and metabolisms. It is also commonly genetically modified and highly processed. There are a million great articles about why we should avoid soy, too--here, and here are a couple.)
  • SUGAR: xylitol (or erythritol) taste exactly like sugar and are excellent sugar substitutes for baking or anything texture-dependent. Coconut palm sugar is also a good natural one. Honey is also fantastic, but you may need to adjust the proportions (here's a converter) and it may make dough too soft or spread-ey.
  • EGGS: Eggs. Unless you're allergic, no need to substitute because eggs are an amazing source of vitamins and Omega-3 fats. Yolks and all--the yolks are the healthiest part! (Amazing data on that in this article!)
  • SALT: Sea salt. For most people there's no need to reduce the salt content of homemade foods, but conventional table salt is a highly processed sodium product, not naturally occurring salt, and can contain toxic aluminum anticaking agents and other junk we don't want. You can substitute sea salt 1:1 for table salt and get a much purer taste!

With everything I choose to make and eat, my goal is for healthy, nutritious, delicious food! And I love how I can achieve that even with dessert treats with whole, unprocessed foods and healthy fats!

Here are a few of my fave recent real food baking successes:

It's insane how good these sunbutter chocolate chip cookies are.
my recipe post
My lard pie crust from the Paleo Parents recipe in Beyond Bacon... Grain-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, also egg-free but I think I might try with an egg next time... made with an almond flour blend.
my IG


This Boston Cream Pie recipe I made for my birthday blew my mind!!
my IG
The peppermint chocolate macaroons I made for my coworkers...
my IG
A grain-free version of classic "sugar" cookies--so many choices for grain-free versions, but I ended up using this recipe but half almond flour, half cashew flour because it's what I had. We'll be decorating them tomorrow!
my IG

The possibilities for baking with real, unprocessed ingredients are endless--and this is a great time of year to play around!

What are you making this season??! Find any new recipes this year, or do you stick to the same traditional ones every year?

4 comments

  1. Absolutely! I used to get sugar hangovers and wheat tummyaches from too many treats! Have a good holiday!

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  2. Thank you so much for this post, appreciate all the info.

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  3. How did the sugar cookies turn out?
    Tons of great info Suzannah, easy swaps and info to back them up. All the pictures look delicious.

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  4. They were delicious!! I ended up using another recipe (from a local blogger actually!) because they were more similar to the classic ones, with eggs. Just pinned a few here... http://www.pinterest.com/AdvDressmaking/real-food-dessert-recipes/ Used the pink one from A Girl Worth Saving.

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