Eat, drink and be merry without adding notches to your belt

Holidays signal a break from work, spending time with family and… food. What would the winter holidays be without bowls of butter-smothered vegetables, crispy turkey skin, creamy eggnog and decadently rich desserts?

The problem with all of these tasty foods is that they expand our waistlines substantially. To prevent yourself from falling into the trap of gaining excess weight this holiday season, make these guilt-free substitutions. You won’t notice a difference in the taste – and you won’t notice your clothing size increase, either.

- Reduce the amount of sugar the recipe calls for by ¼. Reducing it by this much won’t change the texture or the taste.

- Instead of using regular white sugar, use organic cane sugar. It isn’t by any means “healthy,” but it’s much less processed than white sugar and that is always a good thing.

- Agave nectar is an all-natural liquid sweetener that tastes very much like honey, but it has little effect on blood sugar levels. It also tastes much sweeter than regular sugar, which means that you don’t need as much of it in the recipe. Use it any time you’d use regular sugar; just make sure that you reduce some of the liquid in the recipe to compensate, as well.

Browning bananas are incredibly sweet, so mash them and use them to replace some of the sugar in baked goods

- Exchange white flour for whole wheat, spelt or buckwheat. Experiment with different kinds of flour for a variety of nutrients and flavours. Whole-wheat pastry flour is a good choice for both pastries and cookies.

- Browning bananas are incredibly sweet, so mash them and use them to replace some of the sugar in baked goods. Applesauce, dried dates blended in the food processor or any kind of fruit puree works well too. Mashed beans and vegetables such as avocado or sweet potato can also be used to replace half the fat in a recipe.

- Use yogurt, skim or 1% milk in recipes that call for fattier milk, sour cream or mayonnaise. Thicken it with either arrowroot or flour for creamy texture.

- Herbs and spices have countless healing properties. Cinnamon is particularly rich in antioxidants and it also boosts metabolism and aids digestion. It adds tonnes of flavour to any recipe, so pile it and any other herbs and spices you enjoy into your cooking and baked goods!

- Just as herbs and spices add plenty of flavour without the calories to your dishes, play around with lemon juice, vinegar and vanilla or almond extract for extra zest in any meal.

- Instead of using large quantities of butter or oil in pans, put olive oil (or any oil of your choice) in a spray canister and spritz just a small amount instead. Or use non-stick pans.

- Spread parchment paper across a baking sheet in place of greasing the sheet.

University of Winnipeg student Sagan Morrow writes a health and wellness blog. Check it out at

Published in Volume 64, Number 14 of The Uniter (December 3, 2009)

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