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A table full of fresh vegetables

Up Your Holiday Meal Game with These 5 Plant-Based Baking Hacks

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The gift of health is one of the best you can give to or receive from your loved ones – that’s no secret. Incorporating more nutritious plants into your diet can help prolong your life, as well as enhance the health and well-being of your family and friends.

The reasons to incorporate more plants into your diet are simple, but impactful: 

(1) Get a natural boost to the immune system. Who wants to miss holiday fun because you’re stuck at home sick? Eating a plant-forward diet means you're taking in more vitamin C and zinc, two essential nutrients for fighting off a cold — no need to down the Emergen-C!

(2) More plants keep you regular, and regular people are happier people! Plant-based foods are naturally rich in fiber and prebiotics, essential components of a healthy gut. A healthy gut generally means fewer digestive problems and more regular bathroom breaks. There is nothing worse than tummy troubles to ruin your holiday. Eating more plants helps you stay regular, making it easier to spread holiday cheer.

5 plant-based baking hacks

(1) Avocado. Avocados can be used as an alternative to eggs, oil, butter, margarine, shortening and sour cream. Using avocado in place of traditional fats will add a boost of “heart-healthy fats” as well as vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. Avocados will also decrease the overall calorie load of the dish. For instance, 1 cup of butter contains 1,627 calories whereas 1 cup of pureed avocado contains 368 calories. 

To use, swap 1 cup of butter or oil for 1 cup of mashed avocado. When using avocado as a substitute for eggs, use ¼ cup mashed avocado per egg.

This recipe for Avocado Hummus is sure to have your guests going back for seconds.

(2) Cacao nibs. Cacao nibs are small pieces of crushed cacao beans – or cocoa beans – that have a bitter, chocolatey flavor. And since they are minimally processed, these nibs can be an easy substitute for chocolate. Not only are cacao nibs less processed and lower in sugar than traditional chocolate, but they’re also an excellent source of nutrients and antioxidants including magnesium, iron and fiber. They can be used in smoothies, sprinkled on oatmeal, or stirred in yogurt.

These seven ways to enjoy Cacao Nibs are sure to help you get going!

(3) Chia seeds. This superfood can add a boost of nutrition to almost any dish and can be used as a baking substitute for both butter and eggs. When used to replace butter, combine 1 tablespoon of chia seeds with 9 tablespoons of water and let sit for 15 minutes. If using as an egg substitute, use 1 tablespoon of chia seeds with 1 cup of water.

Not an ingredient you would typically reach for first, but in this recipe for Chocolate Covered Strawberry Chia Seed Pudding, chia seeds are a star.

(4) Applesauce. When it comes to baking, unsweetened applesauce is an easy way to reduce added sugar and fat. Substitute each cup of sugar in a recipe with 1 cup of applesauce and reduce the liquid in the recipe by ¼ cup. Use as a replacement for butter by using half the amount of butter called for in the recipe and the other half applesauce. One egg can also be substituted with ¼ cup applesauce and ½ teaspoon baking powder.

(5) Beans. Cup for cup, beans can be an easy swap for flour, helping to increase both fiber and protein while decreasing overall calories. Beans can also be used as a replacement for traditional shortenings, helping to reduce the fat content of your favorite baked goods. When baking, swap one cup of flour and ½ cup liquid for a 15-ounce can of pureed beans.

Beans, beans, they’re good for your – everything? And they taste great too! Check them out in this delish dish for Red Bean Red Velvet Cupcakes.

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