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.
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.
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.
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.