As the holiday festivities begin, Sherri Skanes and Kristina Knight discuss balancing healthy choices with the culinary delights the season brings.
Sherri Skanes - The Sweetest Thing
Oh the holidays! This used to be my favorite time of the year to cook and bake and create large spreads of deliciousness for family and friends. Then I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. All of those delightful carbs and sugars are now my enemy. It’s really a buzz-kill attending holiday parties or dinners where I have to make choices and do math in my head to make sure I’m not going to spike my blood sugar through the roof and end up with a migraine or worse. Beyond that inconvenience, I am always afraid that the host or hostess might think I don’t like what they have served. That is usually never the case, but their perception of my behavior is an added stress I don’t need. It’s the holidays after all, a time of joy and cheer!.
All of this has forced me to get very creative over the past few years. Thankfully, because of modern advancements and my own experimentation/research, I have a reached a point where I am able to create low glycemic goodies without much of a strain on my brain. I often bring cookies or some other delectable treat as a hostess gift, and to assure there is something that I can consume without fear.
For me, this healthy baking style is all about substituting healthy ingredients without compromising flavor or texture. And I have discovered some wonderful replacements!
When it comes to sweeteners, there are several substitutions out there. Not all of them are conducive to baking though, especially when the recipe is relying on the sugar to provide some of the mass or bulk to the batter or dough. One has to read labels when doing this kind of shopping, and look for the fine print! My favorite is Erythritol. It has no impact on my blood sugar or ketone levels, and best of all it is a one-for-one equivalent in measuring and it’s heat index is perfect for baking! I also find it readily in most grocery stores, even here in the Midwest.
I haven’t had as many issues finding substitutions for wheat flour, as there are now many whole grain flours, reduced carb flours, and substitutions like Almond and Flax Meal readily available in most grocery stores. Red Mill offers a low-carb “Baking Mix” designed specifically to use for baked goods that is a combination of those I have already mentioned. It works well with savory and sweet recipes.
Recently I have had a few people ask for some simple recipes that didn’t necessarily require an investment in all new baking products they might never use again. Was there a goody they could make for their diabetic or diet conscious friends with ingredients they might have on hand, or could easily be purchased in small amounts for the recipe? And something so yummy even those not worried about their diet might enjoy? Well, it so happens I have come across a recipe for some wonderful nutty bars that are perfect for the holidays, and tick all of those boxes. A little sweet, a little salty, and oh so yummy! They go great with a coffee, tea, or hot chocolate… Even a toddy. Enjoy!
No Bake Coconut Cashew Bars
1 cup Almond Flour
1/4 cup Unsalted Butter (melted)
1/4 cup Sugar Free Maple Syrup
1 tsp. Cinnamon
1 pinch Salt
1/2 cup Cashews
1/4 cup Shredded Coconut
1. Combine melted butter and almond flour in a large bowl and combine.
2. To that, add cinnamon, salt, sugar free maple syrup and shredded coconut. Mix well.
3. Roughly chop 1/2 cup of cashews (you may use raw or roasted) and add it into your coconut cashew bar dough. Mix very well once again.
4. Line a baking dish with parchment paper and spread the coconut cashew bar dough in an even layer. Place them in the refrigerator and chill for minimum 2 hours. Once they have chilled, slice into bars.
5. Optional drizzle: Melted dark chocolate or sugar free chocolate chips.
(This makes a total of 8 servings of No Bake Coconut Cashew Bars. Each serving comes out to be 197.36 Calories, 18.39g Fats, 4.45g Net Carbs, and 4.55g Protein. Information provided by www.ruled.me, the creator of this recipe.)
Sherri is an aspiring romance writer, enthusiastic grandmother, and assistant editor for The Pink Heart Society. You can follow her on Twitter.
Kristina Knight - Holiday Moderation
Deprivation is the killer of many a diet. And it doesn’t work for the simplest of reasons: you feel deprived. Like you’re missing out. Like if you don’t have just one more chocolate-cherry ball you’re going to explode and then you find yourself hiding in the stairwell at your holiday party eating all of the chocolate-cherry balls and calling yourself names and saying, “Well, it was a good try, but my diet didn’t work. I’ll just take off the holiday season and re-start in January”. And of course, by the time January arrives, you’ve ballooned up another ten pounds and are talking negatively to yourself every day, and now you’re not just fighting the weight but your guilt, and all those negative things you’ve said to yourself over the past month.
This is why I’ve developed a three step method to surviving the holidays—all while also enjoying the holidays!
Step One: Drink water. Not only are the holidays rife with goodies and things you probably only eat once each year, but it’s also the change of seasons. That means, for many of us, heaters have kicked on. All that forced air can do a number on your skin and can even cause you to dehydrate a little. So make sure you’re getting at least eight eight-ounce glasses of water every day. The bonus to this: if you’re drinking all of your water, you won’t feel quite as hungry, which means when you grab a chocolate chip blondie from the office table, you’ll feel satisfied after one and not twenty-one.
Step Two: I keep up with my workouts. Holiday shopping, parties at work, school programs for the kids, family get-togethers. The holidays are filled with events we don’t normally have, and it can make for a hectic month in which the last thing you want to do is take 30 minutes out of your day to workout. The thing is, by continuing your workouts, you’re actually giving yourself a gift. You’re saying your needs are as important as that work party or your child’s school event. Sticking with a workout program also helps keep those extra cookies and drinks off your hips and waistline.
Step Three: I have a cookie, a drink, a special meal. If my mom has made her Red Velvet Cake—as she did over Thanksgiving—I let myself have a slice. The same with cookies, ham, Christmas Potatoes, waffles on Christmas Eve… You get the picture. No, I don’t eat the whole ham or all of the cakes and cookies, but by allowing myself to eat the things that I love, I don’t feel as if I’m missing out.
I’m a firm believer in moderation, especially at holiday time. Because the worst thing in the world is to have everyone at your office party indulging in Joan’s secret-family-recipe Chocolate Chip Blondies while you’re… Not.
So, keep up those workouts, and definitely add a few salads to the menu, but don’t forget to enjoy all of the tastes of the season.
Kristina Knight is a contemporary romance author, part-time swim-kid wrangler, and full-time Thin Mints enthusiast. You can find out more about Kristina on her website, and feel free to stalk/follow her on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
Do you have any healthy tips for surviving the holidays? Let us know in the comments or join the #HealthyHolidays discussion on our Social Media where you'll find yourself in very good (and supportive!) company.