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Bake Your Way to Healthier Holidays with These Top 10 Ingredient Swaps

Holiday baking season is in full swing.  It is one of my favorite times of year.  I love testing out new cookie recipes as well as making sure to bake the old favorites with my kids, like gingerbread cookies, sugar cookies with icing and anything chocolate and peppermint!  Unfortunately, most holiday baking recipes call for all sorts of unhealthy ingredients like refined flours, sugars and food colorings and shortening. 

Luckily, there are a lot of options nowadays for much healthier versions without the GMOs, pesticides, harmful additives and toxic ingredients so you can still enjoy yummy treats and baking with the kids!

Check out my top 10 swaps to make for healthier holiday baking.  The pictures show the top brands to avoid and my recommended brands to buy.  

 

1.  Grass-fed butter instead of margarine or conventional butter

  • Butter is made from cow's milk so when you are buying butter it is very important to buy the same quality butter as you would milk since factory farms use glyphosate, pesticides, GMO feed and antibiotics on these cows which end up in the milk and therefore the butter.  
  • Always look for butter that is free of hormones, the animals are grass-fed and given an organic diet.  

2.  Organic eggs 

  • Like dairy, most eggs are raised in factory farms where the chickens are raised on GMO grains, antibiotics, and don't even get to eat grass.   All of that ends up in their eggs.
  • Look for organic, non-GMO eggs from hens that are either pastured or given ample access to a healthy outdoor environment.

3.  Shortening

  • The primary ingredient in Crisco shortening is soybean oil – one of the most unhealthy oils out there which increases the risk of obesity, inflammation, cardiovascular disease, cancer, autoimmune diseases, and almost always comes from GMO soybeans. Crisco is also filled with fully hydrogenated oils, hidden trans fat additives, and is preserved with TBHQ (linked to increased risk of food allergies).
  • If you need to use shortening for any recipes make sure to look for one that is a non-hydrogenated oil without the use of hexane or other dangerous chemicals like the Nutiva brand.  

4.  Bleached flour

  • I talked about flour in a previous post, but remember, non-organic wheat is heavily sprayed with glyphosate, an herbicide linked to cancer, not to mention 60 different other chemicals including bleach!  It is so deplete of anything resembling food that it has to be enriched with synthetic vitamins.  It's not something you want in your baking so steer clear of it and opt for sprouted, whole wheat or organic wheat instead.  Or cassava flour works great if you are gluten free.

5.  Organic sugars - regular, brown and powdered

  • Some brands are made with cane sugar and some brands are made with GMO sugar beets.  But any sugar that is NOT organic could have been sprayed with Roundup weedkiller pre-harvest. So make sure to get organic sugar. 
  • Take it a step further and replace white sugar with organic coconut sugar. It’s a perfect 1 to 1 substitute for any recipe that calls for regular sugar. It’s completely unrefined and not bleached, helping to preserve all of its vitamins and minerals.
  • Coconut sugar is richer than white sugar, so it works well as a replacement for brown sugar and is more nutrient dense. 
  • Powdered sugars also contain non-organic corn starch, which may come from GMO corn.
  • I discussed how refined sugar is not the healthiest of ingredients as it provides no nutritional value in a previous post, but some holiday recipes require a little powdered sugar or brown sugar and by choosing an organic version you will ensure that it is not made with GMO sugar beets or laced with synthetic weedkillers and GMO corn. 

6.  Whipped cream

  • Popular brands like Reddi Wip are filled with factory farmed milk, mono-and diglycerides (hidden trans fat), carrageenan (linked to gut inflammation and cancer), and some also contain cellulose (linked to inflammation and digestion problems). Cool Whip is even worse made with high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, and a concoction of chemicals ranging from artificial flavors to numerous synthetic emulsifiers. 
  • And non-dairy whipped cream like So Delicious Dairy Free Coco Whip uses xantham gum and guar gum and natural flavors. 
    "Natural Flavors: The only difference between natural and artificial flavors mentioned above, is that natural flavors are derived from things found in nature (such as beaver glands). Just like artificial flavors, they are created in a lab by a team of scientists and can contain up to 100 hidden ingredients. The bottom line: You have no idea what you are eating – and it might be propylene glycol, BHA, and parabens." (Vani Hari- Food Babe)
  • You're better off making your own from scratch either from grass fed organic dairy or coconut cream.  It's super easy and way tastier than store bought!

7.  Spices - cinnamon

  • Many of the spices we find on the shelves are treated with chemicals, contain GMOs and are irradiated -potentially creating toxic, carcinogenic by-products in the food and increasing our exposure to free radicalsVirtually all conventional spices sold in the United States are fumigated [sterilized] with hazardous chemicals that are banned in Europe. (Vani Hari - Food Babe)
  •  Always buy organic spices.  Start by replacing any of your current non-organic spices with organic ones when you make a recipe and pretty soon you will have all organic spices in your pantry!

8.  Extracts - vanilla, peppermint, almond

  • Avoid “imitation” extracts of any flavor.  Imitation vanilla extracts are made with vanillin, which is typically sourced from petrochemicals and wood pulp. It is fake food and it tricks your brain into believing you’re eating real vanilla. It also doesn’t contain the antioxidants found in real vanilla extract that are good for the body. Many of these fake vanilla extracts are filled with controversial additives like caramel color (linked to cancer) and propylene glycol as well.

9.  Food colorings & sprinkles

  • Food colors and sprinkles made by companies like McCormick and Betty Crocker are made with artificial food dyes made from petroleum (Red 40, Yellow 5, Blue 1). These are linked to several health issues, including allergies and hyperactivity in children.
  • Dyes have also been found to be contaminated with carcinogens. Europe requires any food containing dyes to carry the warning label, “May Have an Adverse Effect on Activity and Attention in Children.” McCormick’s colors are suspended in a solution made with propylene glycol and preserved with parabens – endocrine-disrupting chemicals linked to breast cancer and reproductive problems.
  • Look for natural food dyes and sprinkles made from plant-based ingredients like beets, spirulina, and turmeric. 

10.  Baking powder

  • Most baking powders contain aluminum, which is linked to alzheimer’s. The popular Clabber Girl brand is also made with GMO ingredients.
  • Make sure to buy aluminum and GMO free brands. 
  • Or make your own:  2 Tbsp baking soda, 2 Tbsp arrowroot powder and 4 Tbsp cream of tartar

 

11.  BONUS - candy canes!

  •  Candy canes are the quintessential Christmas time favorite.  But most are made from GMO sugar, corn syrup, and fake peppermint extract and harmful food coloring.
  • Luckily Yum Earth brand makes ones that are free of high fructose corn syrup or artificial dyes and use organic sugars.

 

Now that you know what's really in some of your favorite baking ingredients, you feel better prepared to make better choices and buy better quality ingredients so you can bake yummy treats for yourself and your family this holiday season.  Knowledge is power and the more you educate yourself the better off your health will be!  Happy Baking!!