Healthy Baking Substitutions

‘Tis the season for a multitude of tempting desserts around every corner and at every get-together. Desserts can be incorporated into a healthy lifestyle, the key is moderation and balancing those sweets out with lean protein and plenty of vegetables and fruits.

That being said, there are a few tried-and-true ways to make your favorite sweet treats healthier. Healthy baking does not mean cutting out all of the sugar or fat. Those are what make them taste good! The goal is to decrease their amounts while maintaining the delicious taste and normal texture. Small substitutions can really add up to save you big calories, fat and sugar. Without further adieu, here are my tips for healthier baking:

1.) Halve your flours

Substitute half of the white flour with whole-wheat pastry flour. It has an airier texture compared to regular whole-wheat flour, keeping your baked goods nice and tender. Additionally, it adds nutrients and fiber without a noticeable change in texture or taste.

These Banana Oatmeal Cookies use whole-grain oat flour

2.) Replace the oil

Replacing the butter or oil with low-fat/fat-free yogurt or applesauce, cuts out nearly all of the fat. This works great for breads, brownies, and cakes.

3.) Flaxseed eggs

In addition to reducing calories, this is a great substitution for vegans or when you run out of eggs. For one “egg” simply combine 1 Tablespoon ground flaxseed with 3 Tablespoons water in a small bowl. Let stand for a couple minutes to allow it to gel then add to your recipe like you would a regular egg. Flaxseeds are an amazing source of omega-3 fatty acids, which promote smooth skin and healthy hair. Evidence also indicates that they may protect you from a multitude of diseases including some cancers.

4.) Cut down the sugar

More often than not, recipes call for much more sugar than is actually needed to obtain that sweet taste. Start by reducing the sugar by ¼, the first time. If that tastes good, try reducing it even more the next time by 1/3 or ½.

I reduced the sugar nearly in half in these Pumpkin Chocolate Chunk Muffins 

Pepperoni Pizza Quinoa

Today I have a fun recipe to share with you. It’s a quinoa casserole that tastes like your favorite pepperoni pizza! Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is a whole grain that is high in fiber AND protein. A mere one half-cup (cooked) provides 3 grams of fiber and 6 grams of protein.

Quinoa is one of the few grains considered a “complete” protein, meaning it contains all of the essential amino acids your body needs to function properly. Most complete proteins come in the form of animal products (meat and dairy). On the other hand, most other grains (rice, oats, bread, etc.) are classified as “incomplete” proteins. This means they must be paired with other foods in order to get all the amino acids our body needs. Thus, quinoa is a great protein source for vegetarians and those who do not consume much meat or dairy.

Ok, done with the nutrition lesson for the day! Make this recipe the next time your in the mood for pizza. You’ll save yourself money and calories without sacrificing taste.


Pepperoni Pizza Quinoa

Serves 6


1 C quinoa, uncooked

1 C water

1-24 oz. jar marinara sauce

½ C onion, diced

½ bell pepper, diced

4 oz. mushrooms, chopped

1 ¼ C shredded mozzarella cheese

18 turkey pepperonis

½ C black olives, diced


Preheat oven to 3750 F and spray an 8X8 casserole dish with cooking spray.

In a small bowl, combine quinoa, water, 1 C pizza sauce, onion, pepper and mushrooms. Add to casserole dish and bake for 45 minutes.

Remove from oven and top with mozzarella cheese, pepperonis and olives. Place back in the oven and bake for an additional 15 minutes. Top with extra marinara sauce if a more “saucy” pizza is desired and enjoy!


Getting Back On Track After You Fall Off the Health Wagon

We’ve all been there. We indulge in one too many cookies from the office break room, order carry out more than we cook healthy meals at home, say yes to that third margarita, or skip our scheduled workouts for days on end. Whether it’s life that gets in the way, a vacation or just plain laziness on our part, falling off the health wagon from time to time happens to the best of us. The important thing is getting back on it! Here are my top tips for doing so:

1.) Don’t restrict the next day

Number one, my most important tip is not to restrict your food intake the day after you eat or drink too much. This will only backfire. Your body is extremely smart and knows how to regulate itself. If you go the entire day without proper fuel, your body will compensate by making you ravenous that evening, prompting you to eat until you are stuffed and feel guilty once more. This therefore, restarts the whole cycle over again. Avoid this by eating healthy meals throughout the day, even if they are smaller than normal. And if you find yourself craving a little treat, allow yourself to have it, just keep it small (one drink or one piece of chocolate for example).  There’s always room for a little treat, even after an overindulgence!

All I wanted for lunch after a heavy dinner the night before was veg, veg and more veg!

2.) Eat a healthy breakfast

Starting the day with breakfast, even if you don’t feel hungry is very important for getting back on track. It not only jump starts your metabolism so you burn more calories throughout the day, but it also helps prevent you from eating too much later on. Even if it’s just something small, like a yogurt or piece of fruit, that little something is better than nothing at all and can have a big impact.


3.) Exercise

When in doubt, sweat it out. There’s nothing better than a great workout after a night, week or month of overindulgences. Not only does it make you feel good, it also contributes to our desire to make healthier choices in the future. Basically, killing two birds with one stone!

Squatting it out!

4.) Make a plan

Identify what caused you to fall off the wagon in the first place, then figure out solutions to prevent it from happening again. Maybe this includes meal prepping so you have healthy food ready to go. It may also include making yourself a workout schedule for the week so you have a plan to stick to. Whatever it is, use your setbacks as a learning experience to improve upon.

Roasting a big batch of veggies to have on hand
Roasting a big batch of veggies to have on hand throughout the week.

5.) Accept it & move on

Don’t beat yourself up or get down on yourself. Recognize that it will take a few days to get back into your old healthy habits (or even more if your starting new ones!). A healthy mentality is key to moving forward instead of falling back.

Wine tasting on a girl's weekend!
Wine tasting on a girl’s weekend!

Health Confessions of a *Soon-To-Be* Registered Dietitian

When I’m out to eat, I rarely substitute a side salad for fries

I love me a good French fry and although they aren’t the healthiest option, they sure are tasty. Since I don’t eat out too often, I order whatever I want when I do, including French fries. Plus, let’s be honest, although homemade baked “fries” are good, there’s no substitute for the original deep-fried version (doused in ketchup of course).

Fries with a side of sandwich please.
Fries with a side of sandwich please.

Some days, the most physical activity I get is walking to the bathroom and back

Although I love me a good sweat sesh and thrive off of regular workouts, sometimes a movie marathon on the weekend is exactly what the doctor ordered. Remember, rest days are necessary for muscle recovery!

 I only eat dessert if there’s lots of chocolate involved

Some people are satisfied with a piece of fruit or yogurt for dessert. I am not one of those people. If I get dessert, I go all out, and the more chocolate the better! My best friends know, I judge an ice cream shop based on whether or not they serve hot fudge and I go to the Cheesecake Factory every year for my birthday. Portion control goes out the window when I get dessert, because I just want to enjoy it. Strawberry shortcake? No. Triple chocolate decadence cake with extra whipped cream? HECK. YES.

Takeout chocolate cake to satisfy my choco craving

Sometimes I drink too much

Not in the alcoholic sense by any means, but in the sense that I love splitting a tasty bottle of wine with a good girlfriend or hitting the local bars every once and awhile. Sometimes this leads to a couple extra drinks (and a few hundred extra calories) that I don’t need, but the laughter and great memories are completely worth it to me. Even the rough morning the day after.

Extra large bottle of Pino was necessary while vacationing in Florida.
Extra large bottle of Pino was necessary while vacationing in Florida.

…And sometimes I eat food I regret later on as a result

AKA drunk food. Case in point: an entire small pepperoni pizza on homecoming a couple weeks ago. Stomach cramps for dayyys after that one.

An impressive feat.
An impressive feat.

Even I have negative body-image days

Despite the fact that I am at a healthy weight, even I have days where I feel bloated, soft or just plain BLAH! Whether it be from the aforementioned consumption of too much food or beverage, stress, lack of exercise or mother nature’s monthly gift, no one is immune to these, myself included.

The point of this post being, even I, a promoter of good health, am no health angel. Nor should you expect yourself to be one. Life is too short not to order that delicious spaghetti carbonara at your favorite Italian spot or to blow off drinks with friends to fit in your scheduled leg day workout. As long as you choose healthy choices most of the time, those indulgences completely balance out and make life SO much more enjoyable!