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The holidays are filled with family, friends and festive gatherings. Healthy eating during the holidays may seem like a challenge, but it doesn’t always mean giving up your favorite desserts and sweets. With a few small changes, it’s possible to maintain healthy eating habits during the holiday season.

Baking for the holidays? Small changes can make desserts healthier and cut calories without sacrificing taste.
We’ve got some simple substitutions that can make baked goods healthier or lower in calories.

The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan promotes a lifelong heart-healthy eating style. The DASH diet does not require special foods. The plan encourages the consumption of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat dairy products, fish, poultry, beans, nuts, and vegetable oils. It provides shopping tips, menus and recipes to help you limit foods high in saturated fats, such as fatty meats, full-fat dairy products and tropical oils such as coconut, palm kernel and palm. It also encourages limiting sweets and sugary drinks.

5 ways to make holiday baking healthier!

Substitute whole wheat flour. Flour Most recipes that call for flour can substitute wheat flour on a 1 to 1 basis. Wheat flour has more fiber and helps slow digestion and increase satiety. Not all recipes can take a wheat flour substitute because of color or flavor problems. Sugar cookies, for example, need white flour to maintain their traditional coloring.

Reduce sugar. Holiday desserts often call for sugar, honey, maple syrup and molasses. These sweeteners can raise blood sugar. For many recipes, you can reduce the recommended amount of sugar without changing the taste. Sugar substitutes can also be used as alternatives to sugar and add sweetness to desserts and meals without adding many extra calories. In some cases, a sugar substitute can replace half of the sugar called for in a recipe.

Reduce saturated fat. Your body needs healthy fats for energy and other functions. But too much saturated fat can cause cholesterol to build up in your blood vessels. Saturated fats raise LDL (bad) cholesterol. High LDL cholesterol increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. In most baking recipes, you can reduce saturated fat (butter, shortening, oil) by half without compromising the dessert. If a recipe calls for 1 cup of butter, try ½ cup. You can replace the remaining ½ cup with an alternative ingredient to ensure that the dessert has the same texture. Some substitutes might be fat-free sour cream, low-fat buttermilk, orange juice, low-fat yogurt, applesauce or low-fat cream cheese.

Use low-calorie products. Substituting low-fat and low-sugar ingredients in your baking recipes can make them healthier and lower in calories. You can substitute low-fat sour cream for sour cream, low-fat cream cheese instead of regular cream cheese, and low-sugar jams and jellies instead of regular jams and jellies. Other quick substitutes include light whipping cream and fat-free half-and-half.

Other tips to keep you on the road to healthy eating include

Control your portions. A small adjustment in portion size can help you avoid overeating. One way to control portions is to put food on individual plates instead of putting trays on the table. Try eating snacks from a small container instead of the original package. You can also replace candy dishes with fruit or vegetable bowls.

Reduce overeating and snacking. Making an effort to be aware of what and when you are eating can help you avoid overeating and snacking a lot. Snacks are plentiful and can be consumed in large quantities because their small size is often overlooked. For example: chocolate kisses (22 calories each), peppermint bark candies (66 calories each), toffee (67 calories), fudge (70 calories per square) and sugar cookies (113 calories each). Prepare healthy snacks ahead of time so they’re available if you get hungry between meals. Move healthier food to the front at eye level. Keep tempting foods, such as cookies, chips or ice cream, out of direct sight.

Don’t eat dessert at every dinner. Try sharing a dessert with a family member or friend or avoid eating dessert at every meal. Check out these healthy eating tips and resources to create a holiday meal plan.

Remember your mental health. During this festive season, don’t forget about your mental health! The holidays can be a stressful time, which can contribute to overeating. Be sure to stay on top of your stress levels and check out these resources for good mental health and ways to reduce stress during the holidays!

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