This time of year, you may be cooking up a storm for any friends or family who may be popping by.
For me? This season is all about the BAKING. Cookies, cakes, crumbles, this sweet tooth is here for it all. In your kitchen, you may be relying on faithful old family recipes, or perhaps experimenting with new ones.
Unfortunately, many “traditional” recipes contain ingredients that may not give our bodies the health support they need during a season known for its stress and overindulging.
To give ourselves the best chances of staying well and supporting a strong immune system, here are a few baking ingredients you may wish to steer clear of this holiday season.
#1 No-no: Refined, white sugar
If you’re still using refined sugar to bake with, there’s no time like today to stop! White sugar contributes to inflammation and worsens chronic conditions like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and various types of cancers. Unlike other less refined sugars, white sugar doesn’t contribute any trace minerals or vitamins.
Need something to replace it with? Consider coconut sugar, coconut syrup, maple syrup, green leaf stevia, Jaggery, and others.
#2 No-no: Refined, white flour
Bleached and highly processed until it’s “dead”, white flour is otherwise devoid of nutrients. It really serves no purpose in a healthy diet. Especially since there are so many better options!
Consider spelt flour if you’re not gluten-free, and if you are, sorghum flour, oat flour, brown rice flour, buckwheat flour, coconut flour, etc. All of these behave differently based on protein content, absorbability, fineness of the grain, and other factors. I use different types of gluten-free flours in the recipes on my blog.
#3 No-no: Vegetable oils
Vegetable and seed/grain oils like canola, soy, and corn are industrially and chemically processed oils that may not be the best choice for your healthy kitchen. They are often high in Omega-6 fatty acids and most of us already eat many of these, with a lack of Omega 3 fatty acids to balance them. Unless labelled organic, these seed and grain oils are usually genetically modified, though may not be labelled in your local grocery store due to extreme lobbying and lax government regulation.
Need something to replace vegetable oil with? Consider coconut oil, butter, ghee, or other animal fats (aim for grass-fed or pastured products), avocado oil, camelina oil, and others.
#4 No-no: Commercial fruit juices and drinks
Most of the fruit juices you find in the grocery store are packed with sugar. Not just fruit sugar (which can be difficult on your liver in great quantities), but also refined, WHITE sugar. Really, check out the ingredients.
First, you’ll be shocked, and then you’ll be mad as heck at how many grams of sugar are in a typical serving of orange juice! I doubt you’ll want to be consuming it anymore.
If you want to make a holiday baking recipe that includes fruit or vegetable juice, grab your blender, throw in some chopped whole fruits or vegetables, add some water and blend away until smooth. They don’t even have to be completely blended because you won’t be able to tell in most baking recipes!
Use an apple for apple juice, a carrot for carrot juice, even grapes for grape juice. You get the picture. Juices made from whole foods will retain more nutrients than the sugar-spiked junk foods that masquerade as “healthy” on grocery store shelves.
#5 No-no: Artificial flavour extracts
I admit that concentrated flavour extracts like peppermint and almond are enticing this time of year. Who doesn’t love a creamy mug of hot cocoa spiked with peppermint?
But if you’re looking to give your fav holiday recipes a flavour boost, it’s important to choose wisely. We want to choose whole foods (e.g. fresh mint) first and whenever possible. Whenever possible means: do they affect the integrity of your recipe? e.g. chunky bits of fresh mint floating in your hot chocolate are not sexy!
If you can’t use whole foods in your recipe, high-quality flavour extracts are the next best thing. Look for organic extracts derived from whole- and plant-based ingredients. And whatever you do, steer clear of those plastic bottles of synthetic, strangely coloured, and often dusty flavour extracts at the grocery store.
That’s it for my top 5 list of worst baking ingredients for the holidays. Avoid them and you’ll be headed in the right direction. Now, you can have your cake and eat it too!
Life is a plate… Eat up!