It's cookie time. Tradition of leaving cookies for Santa started back in the Great Depression. It wasn’t standard practice to leave cookies and milk out for Santa Claus until the 1930s. Historians posit that it was something parents encouraged children to do in order to teach them how to share and be charitable during a time of economic depression. The tradition stuck and Santa’s pants have never fit the same. He visits over 500 million homes where he encounters about billion cookies. If you hypothesize that he takes about two bites of each cookie he is given, it means he eats a total of 336,150,386 cookies and too many calories to count! Help lean out Santa with these baking tips.
- Bananas for fats: The creamy, thickening-power of mashed (ripe!) banana acts the same as avocado in terms of replacing fat in baking recipes. The consistency is ideal, and the bananas add nutrients like potassium, fiber, and vitamin B6. One cup of mashed banana works perfectly in place of 1 cup or butter or oil!
- Nut flours for flour: A word of caution: Nut flours don’t rise the same way as wheat flour so an additional rising agent might be needed when replacing more than ¼ cup of wheat. Many gluten-free blogs detail how to streamline nut flour-based baking. And while these flours are typically higher in calories and fat, they also have more fiber and protein. Nut flours do tend to be heavier than classic wheat, so make sure to up the amount of baking powder and baking soda in the recipe so the dough can rise as normal. Another option is to replace only part of the flour in a recipe with nut flour!
- Vanilla for sugar: Cutting sugar in half and adding a teaspoon of vanilla as a replacement can give just as much flavor with significantly fewer calories. Assuming the recipe originally calls for one cup of sugar, that’s already almost 400 calories cut out! You can't sub this one in equal ratios, but next time you're whipping up some cookies, try cutting 2 tablespoons of sugar and adding an extra 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract.
- Avocado puree for butter: They’re both fats and have nearly the same consistency at room temperature. The creaminess and subtle flavor of the avocado lends itself well to the texture of fudge brownies and dark chocolate flavorings. It can take some experimenting to get this swap perfect, but generally, using 1 cup of avocado puree per cup of butter works.
- Two egg whites for one whole egg: One egg yolk holds more than half the recommended daily cholesterol for the average adult. Trading out the yolk for a second white will cut out the cholesterol while doubling the protein. If making a dish that requires more eggs, keep one to two yolks for their rich vitamins A, E, D, and K content, but consider swapping out the rest.
- Skim milk for whole or 2% milk: Fewer calories and fat with the same amount of protein makes this switch well worth it.
- Unsweetened applesauce for oil or butter: Don’t knock this one till you’ve tried it. The applesauce gives the right consistency and a hint of sweetness without all the fat of oil or butter. This works well in any sweet bread, like banana or zucchini, or in muffins—and even with pre-boxed mixes! On your first try, only try swapping out half the fat (so a recipe using 1 cup of oil would use 1/2 cup oil and 1/2 cup applesauce). If you can't tell the difference with that swap, try swapping a bit more of the fat next time around.
- Stevia for sugar: The natural sweetener stevia is lower in calories and up to 300 times sweeter than sugar. But watch the grocery bill—this fashionable sweetener can also cost up to 5 times as much as granulated sugar. Since it's so much sweeter, swap with caution: A recipe calling for 1 cup of sugar should be swapped for 1 teaspoon liquid stevia (or about 2 tablespoons stevia powder).
- Natural peanut butter for reduced-fat peanut butter: While they may appear better than traditional Skippy or Jiff, reduced fat versions of peanut butter can actually have more sugar—and an extra-long list of artificial additives—than the classics. Natural peanut butter (preferably unsalted) provides the same sweetness without call the extra junk.