Simple Christmas Baking Substitutions for a Healthy Holiday

christmas baking

By Kelly Nelson

I don’t know about you, but I love the holiday time!  From Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, I love everything from picking out the perfect tree to decorating the house to buying presents to the yummy cooking and Christmas baking!!!  I also know that the holidays can be a super hectic time of year.  Holiday parties, traveling to see friends and family, battling the malls, pictures with Santa, kids finishing up school and lots of other things crammed into such a short time frame.

So it’s easy to just cut corners when it comes to taking care of the most important thing…YOU!  I found myself in that spot today…I was finishing up some errands and the “it’s time to eat” alarm went off on my phone (yes, I have an alarm set every three hours to remind me to eat…try it!).  I was so tempted to stop by a drive-thru and pick something up so I could continue with my productive day when I got home.  Then I stopped and thought about what my priorities were.  I just started Les Mills COMBAT, I’m working to eat cleaner (with one open meal a week) and I know how fast food makes me feel (not productive, that’s for sure!).  So I came home and ate my clean food with Asher and felt so much better!  It’s all about keeping what’s important to you in mind as you cross each path of temptation.

Another example for ya…Asher and I LOVE muffins.  Every Sunday morning, we do our weekly grocery shopping at Whole Foods and before we start shopping, we’ll split a muffin and enjoy that Mommy/Asher time together!  And although we bought the muffin at Whole Foods, it still contained things like sugar, butter and milk – things we don’t eat on a regular basis and things that we hardly ever give to Asher.

So I started thinking that maybe I could make some muffins at home using the healthy ingredients I have on hand.  I googled pumpkin muffins (I told you I love holiday cooking and Christmas baking – have to take advantage of the pumpkin spice-y season while it’s still here!!) and found a pretty easy recipe.  I will say that I’m a lazy cook.  If a recipe has too many steps or ingredients, I’m out!!!  This one was simple, as you’ll see below, but there were still ingredients in it that I wasn’t crazy about…so I put on my mad scientist baking cap and started making simple, healthy substitutions.  Here is the recipe and the substitutions I made are in red:



  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil ⅓ cup canola oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 cup sugar 3 tsp liquid stevia
  • 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour 1 ½ cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin-pie spice I have one that’s salt-free
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt ½ tsp Himalayan sea salt
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips, plus more for sprinkling on top 90% dark chocolate bar


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a muffin tin, or line with paper.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together pumpkin puree, oil , eggs and sugar until well blended.
  3. In another bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda and salt. Add to the pumpkin mixture and whisk until just combined. Fold in the chocolate chips.
  4. Spoon batter into prepared muffin tin, filling each about 2/3 full. Sprinkle a few more chips on top of the muffins.
  5. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick, inserted in the middle of the muffin comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then remove to a rack.

A few notes about the substitutions…

a)I know, canola oil isn’t great either, but it’s what I had on hand (I had coconut oil too, but didn’t think to use it until after I made the muffins…next time!!).

b) I googled the stevia conversion and after making the muffins, next time I’ll use 2 tsp instead of 3 tsp – they have a little bit of that stevia aftertaste!

c) I had a 90% dark chocolate bar that I smashed up and dumped into the bowl!

With all the substitutions, I really wasn’t sure how it would turn out.  They were actually really tasty!  Asher loved them!!!

It goes to show that a little effort can make a big impact on how you’ll look and feel later.

I encourage you – and challenge you – to stop and think about the holiday meals you’re going to prepare. You’ll have to make a trip to the grocery store to get the supplies soon, so plan your shopping list NOW! What are one or two simple, healthy ingredients that you can swap out?  Believe me, your family will never know that you used low sodium chicken broth instead of bouillon cubes or brown rice instead of white rice or fresh pumpkin instead of pumpkin that’s been in a can pumped full of preservatives (you’re going to be pleasantly surprised at how this will revolutionize your Christmas baking and holiday feasts!!)!  You’ll know that you’re making a difference and sometimes, that’s the best gift of all…the gift of health!  You know the saying…”You Only Live Once” – take a minute to stop and think about how you can make that last a little bit longer – for you and the ones you love!

I would love to know some of your healthy holiday recipes.  Please stop by the Facebook page to let us know what you’re cookin’ up…we may just want to be part of your Quality Control Team!! (wink wink)

Wishing you the happiest and healthiest of holidays!

Kelly, Jimmy & Asher Nelson

Nelson Santa Pic 2012


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