Tis’ the season to be snacking! The holidays are about sweets. But I will be fa-la-la-fatter, if I’m careful. I can’t abstain from Christmas goodies all season long, but I will make simple food swaps to curb my inner Christmas Cookie (Candy, Cake, Pie) Monster. Here are easy, low-sugar holiday switcheroos.
* Focus on favorites; forget the rest. Instead of a chocolate chip cookie (with all that added fat and sugar), treat yourself to a handful of dark chocolate chips. 30 have only about 70 calories. It’s the chocolate most of us crave, not the cookie anyway.
* Cut non-essential calories. Calorie counting isn’t just about sugar. It’s about fat, sodium and carbohydrates, too. Don’t like nuts? Omit these calorie-boosters in baked goods. Halving the salt in most recipes won’t affect taste.
* Skip artificial sweeteners. I won’t sacrifice taste for low calorie. I’d rather eat fewer full strength sweets, than more yucky-tasting cookies. Those are no treat and I’d have to eat more to satisfy my sugar craving. Exemptions are fruit pies and desserts with many; the intense flavors mask the fake sugar taste. But even then, cut half and half with regular sugar.
* Trade for low-calorie treats. Flavored coffee creamers offer low-sugar impact with high indulgence. Choose fat-free, sugar-free varieties, but even if you use regular coffee creamer it only has 35 calories per serving. Hot cocoa is another moderate calorie treat. One envelope has 100 calories.
* Hide food switches in baking. There’s no need to sacrifice in huge ways, when little ones do just as well. Substitute raw sugar (my favorites are Florida Crystals or Sucanat), pure maple syrup, blue agave syrup, honey, molasses and 100 percent fruit juice. Add more fruit and less sugar to desserts. I load my apple pies with raisins, apples, currants and sometimes cranberries. I use about half the sugar the recipe calls for.
* Keep fruit on hand. I can stave off sugar cravings with a banana, apple or half-cup canned or frozen fruit. Walmart sells a 4-pound bag of mixed fruit (strawberries, pineapple, mango and peaches) for $7.98. I mix it with plain low-fat yogurt for a sweet tooth taming treat.
* Substitute soy milk for sweetened milk. I never use the called-for evaporated milk in pumpkin pie. Lowfat milk or vanilla soy milk has half the calories and sugar. Soy milk makes a great milk substitute in egg nog. Replace cream or ice-cream in dessert coffee or alcoholic beverages.
* Be generous with spices. Load up on pure vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, mace, allspice and cloves to compensate for using less sugar. Spices trick your senses into thinking they’re getting a sweeter treat. I use double the spices and half the sugar in my pumpkin custard. When I’ve made it the regular way, no one likes it as well.
*Swap whipped topping for ice cream. Topping has fewer calories, less fat and less sugar than a la mode. A dollop makes a dessert out of anything.
Simple tweaks mean holiday indulgence without post-holiday poundage.