Six Effortless Tips for Healthy Holiday Baking

The holidays can be a tricky time to stick to healthy eating goals, especially if baking is a part of your family’s traditions.

Stacy Kennedy, MPH, RD, CSO, a senior nutritionist at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center, shares a few simple ingredient changes that can help cut some of the fat, sugar, and calories out of your favorite sweet treats, without sacrificing the taste.

muffin, dessert, nutrition
Healthy wheat germ muffins, sweetened with maple syrup.

Sideline processed sugars. Substitute white or brown sugars in muffins or breads with pumpkin, mashed banana, or applesauce for natural sweetness. A touch of molasses, honey, or maple syrup will also do the trick, while adding electrolytes and important vitamins and minerals, including magnesium, B-vitamins, calcium, and potassium.

Swap flours. Use whole grain flour in place of the all-purpose flour many recipes call for. This adds more fiber to the recipe – plus, it makes cookie dough or pie crusts easier to stretch when rolling them out.

Fiber boost. Try adding rolled oats to your waffles, pancakes, or muffins. This adds extra soluble fiber, promoting a healthy heart.

Spice things up. A few dashes of cinnamon or nutmeg can give your recipe an extra kick while contributing additional nutrients. These natural spices will provide a sweet taste to your treats without added calories.

Halve it your way. Replace half of your recipe’s butter with canola oil. This provides good monounsaturated fat and less saturated fat, while maintaining the correct texture and taste.

Simplify. Get back to the basics and try a simple fruit compote of berries, chopped apples, or pears sweetened with cinnamon, honey, or maple syrup, and top with oats.


Check Dana-Farber’s Health Library for additional healthy recipes and tips that will delight everyone in the family this holiday season, or browse through Dana-Farber’s free nutrition app for iPhone or Android. Learn more about eating well during cancer treatment.