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Healthier Holiday Treats

December 4th, 2008 · 2 Comments

I’ve been thinking about the best way to celebrate the holidays here at Foodie Tots. It seems that there are already gift guides galore for every man, woman, child and pet on your list, and no shortage of holiday cookie recipes to choose from. As I began hunting for healthier toddler-friendly holiday treats, it occurred to me that I could share with all of you some of my favorite fellow Foodie Mamas (and Grandmas, Dads, etc.). I am delighted that one of my new favorite bloggers, Jenna of Food with Kid Appeal!, agreed to guest post here with some advice on giving your favorite holiday treats a healthier twist. In addition to being mom to two young boys, ages 2 and 4, Jenna is a nutrition educator and her blog is filled with tips for getting your kids excited about the nutritional aspects of their food — who couldn’t use advice on that? Thanks so much, Jenna, for sharing your advice! Be sure to bookmark her blog, and follow her on Twitter.

Tips for Baking Healthier Holiday Treats

ginger drizzle cookiesBaking sprees are going on in many homes around the holidays. More candy, cakes, cookies and treats are available at school, at parties and at home for your kids to nibble. So how do you make sure they get enough “grow” food during the holidays? Can a treat be healthy? Healthy isn’t the right word, but you can add some “good” to that bad carbohydrate treat. Here are some tips to make tasty treats a little better for kids, when you’re doing the baking. By adding fiber and/or protein you can make those treats a little easier on your little one’s blood stream.

Healthy add-ins for holiday treats:

  • Ground flax seed (fiber and protein), substitute ¼ cup for flour, or use as an egg substitute.
  • Chopped nuts (fiber and protein) add them into batters or sprinkle on top. Walnuts have omega 3s, why not boost brain function while we indulge in treats?
  • substitute ¾ cup, plus 2TBS whole grain flour for one cup white flour (fiber and protein)
  • choose recipes that call for whole grains: oats, whole wheat fiber (fiber and protein)
  • choose recipes that call for fresh or canned fruit-in water not heavy syrup (fiber)

pumpkin nut cookiesOther tips:

  • Reduce sugar amounts. Most treat recipes are super sweet. I generally omit ½ cup (or more!) sugar from recipes and they are still tasty.
  • Add fresh or canned fruit- adding canned pumpkin, crushed pineapple, bananas, carrots, zucchini, etc. to cakes, muffins, and breads provides moisture and natural sweetness and allows you to reduce oil/butter and/or sugar from recipes. See this recipe for Pumpkin Morning Glory Muffins from Blissfully Domestic on how to eliminate ½ the oil from a recipe!
  • Icing is high in sugar and often in fat. Reduce icing amounts. Drizzle it on, instead of icing the whole top of the cookie.
  • Look for recipes using honey as a sweetener. The body still digests honey as sugar, but when in its raw state is a less refined product than refined white sugar. It also has the health benefit of being anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and in some studies has shown to help treat cough and upper-respiratory symptoms. Be careful with conversions from sugar, honey is sweeter than sugar teaspoon per teaspoon. Click here for tips on baking with honey.
  • Using whole grains-oats, whole wheat flour, etc.-will make your loaves and cookies heavier. Their texture will be altered. Most people appreciate an oatmeal raisin cookie even though it is denser than a chocolate chip cookie, you can enjoy your denser cookies and loaves for what they are. Just don’t expect them to be their white flour counterparts.
  • Choose recipes that use oil instead of butter. Oil is a little more health promoting that butter. Save butter for a treat on veggies!
  • When choosing recipes it’s best to use those that have been created or modified for alternative flours and sweeteners. Each grain has a different combination of gluten, starch and/or fiber, all of which effect the way a baked item rises.
  • If budget permits, use natural food colorings in lieu of traditional petroleum-based food coloring (Yes! There are petroleum products in that box of Adams Extract food colors in your pantry). Try Seelect Tea’s or India Tree’s products. Others have purchased Dancing Deer’s product at Whole Foods, but I was unable to confirm they still sell this at the time this article was published.

Recipe links from my fellow healthy foodies:

  • Meal Makeover Moms has a bunch of recipes using less sugar, oil instead of butter and including fruits, veggies (shhhh!), whole grains and/or nuts. Their Sugar Plum Fairy Treats recipe was published in a Kiwi article about a healthier cookie swap (pdf). They are packed with nutrition using two kinds of whole grain cereals, omega 3 nuts and plenty of dried fruit for a super natural sweetness. Now that’s a fruit cake made for kids! Thanks Liz for all the great suggestions!
  • Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies- I have already made these and they were a hit with the family and playgroup. Thanks Cookie Madness!
  • Black Bean Brownies– Thanks Karin! Haven’t tried these yet, but I like the idea of protein packed beans in dessert.
  • Roasted Pears -This delicious fruit treat is simple enough to make for a family dinner. Thanks to Michelle at What’s Cooking! Sprinkle some nuts on top for a little protein.

Jenna Pepper teaches Kid’s Nutrition classes for parents in Houston, TX. Jenna is on a mission to bust the myth that good food tastes bad. The Kid Appeal! blog can inspire the parents of even the pickiest eaters to help their kids make better food choices. The Kid Appeal! Forum is a place for parents to ask questions about concerns they have about their kid’s diet.

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Tags: baked goods · dessert · healthy eating

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Madhuram // Dec 4, 2008 at 2:48 pm

    That was surely a very interesting and informative post, especially that I’m struggling with my preschooler who is a picky eater. Recently I came across The Sneaky Chef and trying out recipes which is a grand success with my kid.

  • 2 foodietots
    Twitter: foodietots
    // Dec 5, 2008 at 3:08 am

    @ Madhuram – So glad you enjoyed Jenna’s post! Hope some of the tips help you with your picky eater.