Baking season is in full swing, and if you’re anything like me you’ll be making some delicious goodies for your friends and family (and yourself!) in the weeks that come. Most holiday recipes call for refined bleached flour… refined white sugar… food coloring…shortening… and all kinds of unhealthy ingredients. The good news is that you don’t need to sacrifice your health this time of year while still enjoying holiday treats. It’s all about making better choices, and this same philosophy applies any time of the year.
Ignore all those holiday baking displays full of GMOs and controversial additives at your grocery store and try these easy and healthy holiday baking swaps instead…
1. Butter and Margarine
I call conventional non-organic butter “Monsanto Butter” because it comes from cows fed almost entirely genetically engineered or GMO grains and Monsanto is the largest producer of GMOs. Conventionally raised cows are most commonly fed GMO corn and soy, however, some farmers fatten up their feed with additional sugar from GMO sugar beets. The harmful pesticides used on GMOs (like glyphosate) is also being eaten by these cows too and can end up in their milk – and thereby, butter. In the alternative, grass-fed or pastured raised cows produce more nutritious milk than cows raised with grains. The highest amounts of the most beneficial CLA and Omega 3 fatty acids naturally come from grass-fed cows. Also grass-fed cows produce butter with up to 50 percent more vitamin A and E and 400 percent more beta carotene (which gives the grass-fed butter a deeper yellow color).
Many people bake with margarine instead of butter. Margarines like Imperial and Blue Bonnet are made with inflammatory oils like soybean oil that are most surely GMO (unless specified otherwise). They also can contain hidden trans fat additives, artificial ingredients made from petroleum and unnecessary preservatives.
Good alternatives: Organic Valley Cultured Pasture Butter, Nutiva Buttery Organic Coconut Oil (for vegans)
2. Bleached Flour
Flour can be treated with any of the 60 different chemicals approved by the FDA before it ends up on store shelves – including chemical bleach. The industrial processing destroys nutrients, such as Vitamin E and fiber. It has no nutritional value and is essentially dead food, so they “enrich” it with synthetic vitamins (niacin, reduced iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid) that are not from nature. When wheat is not organic, it is often sprayed with Roundup weedkiller pre-harvest and residues can remain in the flour. The active ingredient in Roundup, glyphosate, is linked to cancer. Roundup is banned on all organic crops. Choosing an organic flour made with whole white wheat (not bleached, this is a variety of wheat) is a good alternative because it has a light texture for holiday baking. Sprouted flour is much more easily digested than starchy flour, and contains more vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Phytic acid is destroyed when the grain sprouts, so your body is able to absorb the nutrients in these grains – which makes them that much better for you!
Good alternative: Thrive Market Organic Sprouted White Wheat Flour
3. Powdered Sugar
While popular brands like Domino and C&H are made with cane sugar (instead of GMO sugar beets), any sugar that is NOT organic could have been sprayed with Roundup weedkiller pre-harvest. These powdered sugars also contain non-organic corn starch, which may come from GMO corn. While sugar is not a healthy ingredient by any means, some holiday recipes require a little powdered sugar and by choosing an organic version will ensure that it is not made with GMO sugar beets or laced with synthetic weedkillers and GMO corn.
Good alternative: Wholesome Organic Powdered Sugar
4. Whipped Cream
Popular brands like Reddi Wip are filled with factory farmed milk, mono-and diglycerides (hidden trans fat), carrageenan (linked to gut inflammation and cancer), and some also contain cellulose (linked to inflammation and digestion problems). Cool Whip is even worse made with high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, and a concoction of chemicals ranging from artificial flavors to numerous synthetic emulsifiers. Yikes.
Good alternative: Use Natural Value Coconut Cream to make homemade whipped cream. Recipe here.
Similar to dairy, most eggs are raised in factory farms where the chickens are raised on GMO grains, antibiotics, and they never eat grass. Ideally, you’ll want to source your eggs from local farmers who raise the chickens on pasture and never use unnecessary antibiotics or drugs. There are a few good organic pastured options in stores. You can also make a “Flax Egg” as a good vegan option that works well in most baking recipes. Simply mix together 1 tablespoon organic ground flaxseed with 3 tablespoons water per egg. Let it sit for 15 minutes to thicken before using.
Good Alternatives: Vital Farms Organic Pastured Eggs or Homemade “Flax Egg”
Crisco used to be made with partially hydrogenated oils and since they revamped their recipe to make it with “0 Grams of Trans Fat” it’s more toxic than ever. It’s primary ingredient is now soybean oil – one of the most unhealthy oils out there which increases the risk of obesity, inflammation, cardiovascular disease, cancer, autoimmune diseases, and almost always comes from GMO soybeans. Crisco is also filled with fully hydrogenated oils, hidden trans fat additives, and is preserved with TBHQ (linked to increased risk of food allergies).
Good Alternative: Nutiva Organic Vegan Superfood Shortening
Many of the non-organic spices we find on the shelves are treated with chemicals and pesticides before they end up in the bottle. Organic spices cannot have genetically engineered ingredients (GMOs), artificial colors, preservatives, and other synthetic anti-caking agents.
Good Alternative: Red Ape Organic Cinnamon
8. Vanilla Extract
Avoid “imitation” vanilla extracts that are made with vanillin, as this is typically sourced from petrochemicals and wood pulp. It is fake food and as an artificial flavor it tricks your brain into believing you’re eating real vanilla. It also doesn’t contain the antioxidants found in real vanilla extract that are good for the body. Many of these fake vanilla extracts are filled with controversial additives like caramel color (linked to cancer) and propylene glycol as well.
Good Alternative: Simply Organic Vanilla Extract
9. Food Coloring
Those food colors by McCormick and Betty Crocker are made with artificial food dyes made from petroleum (Red 40, Yellow 5, Blue 1). These are linked to several health issues, including allergies and hyperactivity in children. Dyes have also been found to be contaminated with carcinogens. Europe requires any food containing dyes to carry the warning label, “May Have an Adverse Effect on Activity and Attention in Children.” McCormick’s colors are suspended in a solution made with propylene glycol and preserved with parabens – endocrine-disrupting chemicals linked to breast cancer and reproductive problems. There are natural coloring kits available made from real food like beets, spirulina, and turmeric. This goes for holiday sprinkles too!
Good Alternative: India Tree Natural Decorating Colors
Refined white sugar has zero nutritional value. Eating refined sugar is addictive, makes you fat, tired, depressed, age faster, makes your skin dull, weakens immunity and when consumed in excess causes all sorts of diseases. Unless a sugar says it is “cane sugar” it is probably made from GMO sugar beets. Any sugar (including Cane Sugar) that is NOT organic could have been sprayed with Roundup pre-harvest. You can replace white sugar with organic coconut sugar. It’s a perfect 1 to 1 substitute for any recipe that calls for regular old sugar. It’s completely unrefined and not bleached, helping to preserve all of its vitamins and minerals.
Good Alternative: Nutiva Organic Coconut Sugar
11. Brown Sugar
Brown sugar is simply white sugar with molasses added to it. So, like all other types of sugar (see above), unless it’s organic it may have been treated with Roundup. It’s best to either choose an organic brown sugar, or better yet, use organic coconut sugar as a replacement. The flavor of coconut sugar is richer than white sugar, so it works well as a replacement for brown sugar and is more nutrient dense.
Good Alternative: Nutiva Organic Coconut Sugar or Wholesome Organic Brown Sugar
12. Baking Powder
Most baking powders contain aluminum, which is linked to alzheimer’s. The popular Clabber Girl brand is also made with GMO ingredients.
Good alternative: Rumford Aluminum-Free Baking Powder (non-GMO and aluminum free)
How we choose to spend our dollars is very powerful.
Wouldn’t it be amazing if everyone made these healthier baking swaps? If that happened, our stores would stop carrying all those toxic products and give us more good options!
If there is anything on this list that your local grocery stores do not carry, I encourage you to talk to them and request that they do. In this post I tell you EXACTLY what to say, to make it really easy for you.
Please share this post and show your friends and family why it is important to make better decisions when we shop for food. Let’s all vote with our dollars and protect our health – even during the holidays.
33 responses to “12 Healthy Holiday Baking Swaps!”
Thanks for the tips, I’ll try some of these on Christmas goodies 😉
Thanks for your tips but can you give recommendations to something that I can get at grocery store, including wholefoods for flour. As much as you recommend them I did not subscribe to Thrive Market. So another alternative would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.
Any organic flour would be better
Look for spelt flour Bobs Red Mill
You can get these most if not all of these items at Whole Foods or Amazon.
Try online. Vitacost.com
No membership, great prices, excellent customer care. If you order before 1p and anything above $49, the shipping is free. I love them. Plug in most anything you can get in a health food store and they have it and usually at much less money.
Thanks for these tips!
Love this post! Thanks so much!
I like some of the suggested swaps BUT I have an intolerance to coconut from overuse. What do you suggest in replace of all these coconut products?
I would like a suggestion also for something to replace coconut. Have developed an allergy
from overuse of coconut..and organic soy from overuse…
I also have developed an allergy to coconut, glad to see I am not alone. I was using it for everything. Please help with a replacement.
my daughter is also allergic to coconut, so I use Cassava Flour. I buy it at Vitacost.com or some stores have it, Shop Rite in the Nutrition Dept. or Wegman’s
Instead of the coconut oil- other oils will do, such as avocado oil.
Thank you for these great holiday swaps!! My family and I do not like coconut (although I wish we did because of the health benefits)… Can you suggest any substitutes? Thank you!
Look for “Sugar In The Raw”. It’s turbinado sugar that all I use for baking
It’s in a brown box. Vegan,Non GMO . 100% natural sugar cane
I use Frontier Organic non-alcohol Vanilla. Amazon.com or Vitacost.com
Thanks Vani….love you posts so much!
Thanks for the great information and tips!!
A lot of all this good stuff is not available in the area I live in Canada, can u suggest Canadian things?
Definitely make your our whipped cream because it’s much better for you and it tastes so much better! You can take pride in doing something yourself that is better for you and all your guests, then spread the word so they can do the same for you! However, you don’t want to feed everyone BPA’s or BPS (plastics). That’s why it’s worth it to source out ingredients that are NOT canned (containing BPA’s, BPS or whatever new source of plastic companies use to can with). Organic Valley: Heavy Whipping Cream might be a better healthier choice, Sweet Tree: Organic Blonde
Coconut Palm Sugar would be better than non-organic and another ingredient available at Wegmans is Wegmans Organic Premium Pure Vanilla Extract. I would list all organic ingredients in the recipe.
We switched to organic flour for our Christmas cookies this year and it was a disaster because the consistency was all off – dough was dry and crumbly and wouldn’t roll out properly. Do you have any advice on what we could have done to prevent this and still use better ingredients?
Try weighing the flour rather than measuring. It is my understanding that this method is more accurate.
Thanks so much for your articles!! I am curious, is Date sugar a healthy alternative?
Yes, but it’s not a good replacement for everything. Check out this article for more on date sugar: https://foodbabe.com/2011/12/19/ditch-refined-sugar/
I know any number of doctors who refer to sugar (ANY kind, any brand) as “poison”. And they really mean it! With the huge number of people we have who have diabetes, cancer, heart disease etc. (all of which can be caused or worsened due to sugar intake) I am wondering why Vani did not include something like stevia as a sweetening agent, which is most probably far better for one than is any form of sugar. (However, I have also read a few doctors who don’t think stevia is that great either).
NOW has a stevia that contains rebaudiana (apparently something other stevias remove in processing), is organic, and doesn’t have the bitter aftertaste some people experience. $18 for 8 ounces at Amazon too. This brand leaves white crystals around the rim of a dropper bottle, so it differs from others.
Stevia prevents and is used to treat Lyme disease, and there’s arguments about that of course..
I made pies for our early Christmas get together. To thicken the organic tart cherries, I used organic non GMO corn starch since it called for corn starch for thickening and of course the organic vanilla and a touch of organic almond extract as well. For my pecan pie I used organic maple syrup instead of the corn syrup, and I used organic coconut sugar instead of the brown sugar it called for. Both pies turned out delicious and my kids and grandkids liked the pecan pie better then normal pecan pies they have had because it was not SO sweet as some can get with regular brown sugar and corn syrup. It was perfect. I’m making a pecan pie to go to my husbands family gathering this weekend, so will do the same. I was asked to bring a corn casserole as well, and have everything organic and non GMO (corn, cheese, sour cream, the corn bread mix etc. but could not find a creamed corn in organic or non GMO so guess we will just have to tolerate the regular creamed corn in the casserole. Has anyone ever found organic non GMO creamed corn in stores?
Organic Valley is not a respected brand. Info on them is at Cornucopia.org. They say their cows are pasture-raised yet there are repeated photos where none of their cows are outdoors in pasture even during mild, warm weather for days on end. We have a local organic dairy not far from us where we can get raw dairy products and they are fantastic.
The best butter is Kerry Gold grass-fed butter from Ireland. Absolutely amazing product.
Thank you so much vani. I really enjoy learning from you how to eat healthier, also my body feels better haha. Thank you.
any alternatives to baking powder? this is a chemical that bothers me.
The swap for baking powder is: for 1 tsp baking powder, use 1/4 tsp baking soda and 1/2 tsp of either lemon juice or vinegar.
I’ve tried this with both the lemon juice and vinegar (using apple cider vinegar) and it has turned out fine with either. You also don’t have to get the measurements exact, if the directions are for something like 2/3 tsp baking powder and you’re having trouble converting.
Food babe please recommend a safe yeast to use when baking bread Etc
Great tips! Question, I used organic shortening for pie crust one year and the crust was terrible! Any ideas why? Thanks! Love all you do Food Babe!
I don’t know… If I were making a pie crust, I would just use a mix of butter and coconut oil 🙂